Parisian Decorating Style – 7 steps to achieve this look

Black, white and grey are perennial favourites in the decorating stakes and the basis for a classic Parisian decorating style.  Sophisticated and elegant, this look, which belongs to the salons of one of the world's most beautiful cities, is timeless.  The appeal of Parisian style is that if you get the basics right you can then make it look more traditional or contemporary depending upon your personal taste.  Let me show you how to recreate this look in your home.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look
Image: Apartment No 4

Parisian Decorating Style – My 7 steps to achieve this

1) Colour

Like so many styles, the colour palette is the foundation to get the look right.  The good news is when it comes to achieving a Parisian decorating style, the rules are fairly simple.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

Whites should contain some grey.  To get the right degree of elegance and sophistication you need a ‘dirty' white rather than a brilliant white or a more approachable creamy white.

Related: How to find the right white

Grey plays a large role in Parisian style.  The good news is that this can be a way to introduce some understated colour to your scheme.  Blue greys in particular are a mainstay of this look.  Or a soft pale grey can be introduced on the walls and panelling or for architraves and doors.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

Black is another key component.  In some place in your scheme you must include some black to get the Parisian look right.  Whether it is a piece of furniture, an occasional chair or a mirror, without it you won't achieve the style.

Related: Monochromatic colour schemes – Black and White

Accent colour also plays a role, even if it is minor.  A chic introduction of a pink velvet chair or an emerald green lounge is certainly not out of place.  It just needs to be an accent.  This is not a style for a jumble of wonderful colour.  The success is in the restraint and with bold one-off pieces, you often get more of a colour punch.

A Parisian colour palette


Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

2) Flooring

There really is only one type of flooring suitable for this look and it is real timber.  Parquet flooring laid in a herringbone pattern is the best way to recreate this style in your home.

Parisian Style - My 7 steps to achieve this
Image: This Glamorous Girl

However, don't despair if you love this look but have a tiled floor as you can use rugs to zone areas.  Either something that is neutral with a subtle pattern or a plain finish.  If you are starting from scratch and don't like timber floors then a pale grey tile would be my choice.

Related: How to choose engineered oak flooring

3) Window treatments

A typical Parisian style apartment would have generous, tall windows.  Unless of course you have a cosy attic space looking out onto the rooftops.

For most of us though, this is just a romantic dream and our homes are likely to have standard size windows.  If you live in a heritage townhouse in the inner city you may have windows where you could install panelled shutters but generally a standard window is probably what most of us are dealing with.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

The trick is to hang simple drapes for a Parisian decorating style and to position them as close to the ceiling as you can.  This way you create the illusion of height and grandness so at home with this style.

Related: Don't design your curtains without this one thing

4) Crystal

A Parisian style calls out for a touch of glamour.  This really isn't a laid-back provincial style but one that is very sophisticated and a touch of crystal is usually evident.  Add it to a room in small elements, like candlesticks or glasses or in an elegant understated chandelier or table lamp.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look
Image: Bungalow Classic

Good quality is the key to this look so buy the best that you can afford and introduce it judiciously.

5) Wall Panelling

Floor to ceiling wall panelling is typical in a classic Parisian apartment, but of course this can be hard to recreate.  Some more modest Parisian apartments will have panelling to 1200 high which is easier to achieve.  If panelling is too hard to install in your home, I recommend considering the internal doors that you use and opting for ones with some panelling.    Certainly, a flush door does not look right for this style.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look
Image: House of Valentina

If you do have a home with high ceilings in a classic style then you may be able to include some floor to ceiling wall panelling.  This is also a really good way to introduce some understated greyed down colour.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

Related: How to choose interior wall panelling

6) Furniture

Understated, elegant simplicity is at the heart of a Parisian style.  Pieces should be curated carefully rather than all crammed in together.  A contemporary sofa, perhaps in a stunning bright accent colour, can sit happily next to an antique piece of furniture.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look
Image: One Kings Lane

Don't be tempted to buy furniture that all matches.  A simple black metal console table with a marble top can sit happily with a black coffee table and an antique sideboard.

In terms of sofas and occasional chairs there is no hard and fast rule.  Basically, you can create a Parisian decorating style with more contemporary seating or a very classic style.  You do need to follow all the elements above but you can make the look more traditional or modern to suit your tastes.  The key is to incorporate some individual well-thought through pieces rather than matching a whole style.

7) Accessories

Parisian Style relies so much on the beautiful architecture of Paris for the basis of the look.  Apartments are often large with grand wall panelling with ornate detailing.  This is usually not something that can be recreated however you can introduce some ornate elements with accessories.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

Mirrors, in particular, can bring an ornate element to a space and add a touch of understated glamour.  As noted above, crystal is part of a Parisian decorating style and table lamps are a great way to introduce some elements of this.  Ornate metal and glass side tables will also complete the look.

Parisian Style - 7 steps to achieve this

A final word on Parisian Decorating Style

You may love this style but are possibly disheartened as you can't see how this can be translated to your suburban home.  Don't be.  Take elements of the look to recreate an elegant, pared back, carefully thought out scheme.  The main elements to remember are:

  • A foundation colour palette of black, cool whites and grey
  • Timber flooring
  • Simple curtains hung above the top of the window, close to the ceiling
  • Judicious touches of crystal
  • Panelled internal doors with generous architraves and skirting boards
  • Elegant non-matching furniture with occasional antique items
  • A touch of Paris in your accessories – mirrors are the key here.

Before creating any look for your home, it is wise to put together a mood board.  This way you can pin down the exact style that you like and that suits your home and way of living.  I have a guide to putting together a mood board in my FREE Resource Library.  You can download it for free here.

Parisian Decorating Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

Are you a lover of French style but feel that you prefer a more relaxed look?  In which case you may be interested in My Guide to French Provincial Style.

This post was first published in March 2020 and has since been updated.

4 thoughts on “Parisian Decorating Style – 7 steps to achieve this look

  1. Lidia says:

    Hi Samantha, I always love reading your posts and look forward to receiving your email updates. Your choice of images are always beautiful and you really know how to explain everything so well. I really appreciate your great work!

  2. Sarah says:

    Hi! I agree with Lidia! I think people often confuse French provincial style with Parisian style and I like how you broke everything down AND acknowledged that a lot of Parisian elements are from the architectural design itself.

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