Undeniably, a quintessential Paris apartment is the perfect starting point for interiors in Parisian Modern style. High ceilings, marble fireplaces, ornate moldings and herringbone parquet are ultra desirable assets.
But the Parisian Modern style adored by many of us doesn’t require an address on the lofty, grand and sought-after second floor of a Haussmann building. It’s a point proved by Parisian interior decorators living on the higher and less architecturally blessed floors, including the unglamorous attic level, as well as those who dwell in boxier and more modern buildings.
And even if your address is far from the city of light, the Parisian Modern look can bring easy elegance and a confident, timeless style to your interiors. Read on to discover the features of Parisian Modern and how to introduce it your home.
See: Interior design trends – top looks for the year ahead
What is Parisian Modern?
We’ve said that you don’t need tall windows, high ceilings, grand fireplaces and ornate detail, but it is true to say that Parisian modern does celebrate all these fabulous features found in the 19th century apartments. The lofty proportions of the space are emphasized, natural light is maximized, and original features from moldings to fireplaces are celebrated rather than removed in pursuit of blank canvas-style beginnings.
In order that these features shine, negative space is important in Parisian Modern style. These interiors are airy and uncrowded so focal points have the room to stand out rather than competing with a cluster of other objects.
Rich detail in Parisian Modern schemes comes from original moldings, decorative plasterwork and ceiling medallions, parquet flooring in geometric patterns, and shapely suspension lighting. Ornate over-mantel mirrors, often gilded and sizeable in proportions, are also typical of the look.
A white backdrop is also key to the style. Elegant features, furniture and accessories are showcased against walls that are clean and pristine. They also reflect maximum light from the tall windows adding to the airy feel.
5 ways to get the Parisian modern look
Parisian Modern furniture is a mixture of the antique or pre-loved and the modern. Older pieces can be very traditional in style and the patina of age and the marks of use are to be cherished. Contemporary pieces, meanwhile, provide, simpler lines which may be soft and curvaceous or angular and streamlined.
1. Choose parquet flooring
The Parisian apartment we dream of already has a parquet floor, of course, but laying a beautiful wood floor is an easy way to introduce an important element of the look to any home. The wood adds a natural warmth that balances the coolness of white walls and the overall impression is one of grandeur.
Herringbone parquet is the signature floor style, but consider other geometric patterns such as chevron or other more ornate parquet designs. Mid tones of wood are typical. A very dark parquet, while dramatic, won’t reflect the light adequately, while pale finishes would create a more Scandi look. Choose a wood finish that brings out the natural beauty and grain of the wood and doesn’t conceal its character.
As we mentioned, creating in-between space is crucial for Parisian Modern style, and with clear areas around the furniture plenty of the floor should be on show, so any room decorated in this style will feel spacious and uncluttered. The layout will also allow the pattern of the parquet to be appreciated.
Area rugs may be a feature of Parisian Modern style, too. Consider one to zone a seating area in front of a fireplace, for example, or lay one beneath a dining table. Neutral or darker tones and plains are typical for area rugs, rather than brights and patterns, to create the look.
See: Living room ideas – clever ways to decorate living spaces
2. Celebrate ornate walls and ceilings
Moldings on walls and ceilings and paneling are architectural detail to be treasured in Parisian modern. These features are never sacrificed in favor of easy-to-paint straight lines and square corners.
The elaborate plasterwork, as with the rest of the walls, is white, and baseboards finished in the same color. Wood panels may be left in a natural tone, or also white in finish. It’s the same for ceilings and ceiling medallions with white preferred.
In a home without the same bare bones as a Parisian apartment, it is possible to give walls the look using trompe l’oeil wallpaper, murals and panels in the Haussmann style. More ornate designs are best kept for areas with high ceilings and generous proportions, while smaller spaces work better with simpler versions.
Swerve clusters of artworks to get the look, as well, although a single canvas might be hung and kept in proportion to the height and length of the wall.
3. Mix furniture with confidence
A Parisian Modern scheme should feature furniture that comes from different eras. While older pieces might be treasured antiques, follow the lead of Parisian decorators with designs picked up from markets and secondhand stores. These needn’t have pristine finishes, either; the marks of long use and the patina of age are part of the look not blemishes to be restored.
Period furniture is often ornate in design, but in Parisian Modern this is showcased in a way that gives the piece room to breathe and makes it a focal point. It might be combined with mid-century designs with cleaner lines, and along with contemporary furnishings both curvaceous and more angular. Selecting individual pieces that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional is the key to the look rather than matching.
See: Bathroom ideas – stylish decor ideas for all bathrooms
4. Pick overhead lighting
Pay attention to overhead lighting to get a Parisian Modern look. As with furniture, modern or traditional selections are possible in the form of a contemporary suspension light or a classic chandelier. Either way, though, the lighting should be a statement piece designed and scaled to be a feature of the room rather than a subtle source of illumination.
If suspension lighting is teamed with a ceiling medallion, a long flex is preferable so that both features can be appreciated individually.
Floor lights and table lamps should also be part of a Parisian Modern scheme to allow changes of mood as well as permit practical tasks to be carried out, but, once again, mix with confidence rather than matching.
See: Kitchen ideas – decor and decorating ideas for all kitchens
5. Select Parisian modern accessories
Above the mantel an ornate 19th mirror with a gilt finish is the real deal, and modern lookalikes an alternative for authentic Parisian Modern style. But accessories such as vases and ceramics, sculptures, and other decorative pieces can strike a more relaxed note because this is a contemporary rather than reproduction interior.
Keep the look lived-in, too, rather than over tidy and formal. Bookshelves can be filled with books stacked both horizontally and vertically and with both old and brand-new titles mixed. Try piles of books on the mantel, coffee and side tables, too.
But while this isn’t a minimalist look with bare surfaces, it is important to maintain the spacious feel when selecting accessories. While individual areas might display groups and single treasured objects, avoid over-dressing every surface and maintain the airy atmosphere.
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Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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