Being French, I often hear about the style French people naturally have (that I find funny as not EVERY French person has style, to be honest). My personal explanation on this is the fact that as a culture, Frenchies search for beauty everywhere: walk into a supermarket and you will notice how beautiful even water bottles are. So let's face it: when beauty is everywhere you look at growing up, I think you naturally develop a sense of aesthetic for the rest of your life.
Then you get the chance to live in Paris, one of those few cities in the world that benefits from a special aura: its streets and monuments appear in so many movies that everyone has been at least once (in reality or in their dreams). And again: everywhere you look, it is simply beautiful - which is probably why designers of all disciplines gravitate towards that city for inspiration. In term of interior design, due to its architecture and light, one can easily recognize a Parisian apartment from a New York one: ornate plaster work with all white walls and herringbone floors - and this is often why people feel they cannot even try to achieve this look. This is where I think people get it wrong: below is a list of what I think can contribute to achieving a Parisian chic in New York City:
1- Wall color: Paris is a very dense and compact city which means a lot of apartment are pretty dark, to begin with. Plus, gray sky and rain are actually pretty common compared to New York City, that's why most Parisian apartments are painted white to capture as much light as possible. Painting fully white in New York means your space will easily look washed out (see our color consultation story here). The solution? Add an undertone to your white paint to mute a little bit the light of your walls while keeping the chic of a Parisian interior.
2- Moldings, trims and nooks: let's be honest on this one: if your apartment is brand new, adding fake roses on your ceiling will just look like what it is: fake. So do not even bother. Instead, consider what the New York architecture has on offer: former tenement buildings, pre-wars or brownstones offer fantastic moldings on walls, even woodwork that can not be found anywhere else. I have noticed New Yorkers tend to view nooks as wasted storage space - if you belong to that category of people, think again: how you would view those nooks should they be in your hotel room in Paris? You would most likely think there are charming and cute, deserving to be displayed to everyone. Apply the same rule to your own interior and use them to show off something you like.
3- Floor: very few apartments in New York offer herringbone floors and honestly, nice parquet floors can be noisy - that is why Parisian tend to cover it with rugs, which can help you too, achieve a more Parisian look. Go for Persian or Morrocan rugs (lovely selection by Apartment Therapy here) that grow old really well and work with each and every style.
4- Using iron: as charming as there are, let's be frank: Parisian balconies are useless. But the iron work around it is so special that it does not matter. Same goes for the elevator door in the hallway: you can barely fit in with your grocery shopping but they add an incredible je-ne-sais-quoi. In New York City, you have fire escape but forget about the metal work quality: I would not step on most of them (especially as I have no idea how to actually reach the bottom... Jump?). Instead, our recommendation is to get some little iron accents in your interior: cute little chairs in your kitchen (like the ice-cream parlor ones you can easily find in the US), small accent tables - possibilities are endless.
5- Antiques, vintage pieces, and modern mix: before the era of mass-consumerism started, French people used to invest in very expensive furniture that future generations eventually inherited. That is why the general style of Parisian apartments is often a mix and match of styles, combining family heirlooms with brand new, modern stuff. Students in France do not necessarily rush to Ikea when they move to University: they often collect and re-purpose stuff given by family members and this is where their story with design begins (if not before). If you have not inherited from anyone, flea markets are a great opportunity to search for antiques and vintage stuff and build your own collection (if you do not already know it, check out the Brooklyn Flea Market). Do not try to get things to match (like wooden shades for instance): get one item in dark wood, another in light wood, a nice golden frame - you get the idea.
6- Exhibit your books: probably due to the fact books are pretty cheap in France, books and bookshelves are frequently the starting point of room designs. Even small apartment owners or renters figure out storage solution that gives easy access to their collection: in living rooms, bedrooms, entryways - in each or all areas depending on how many books you own. French paperbacks often come with white spines which also facilitates arranging them (but does not offer the color arrangement possibility that was so trendy last year). So go on, show off your books!
7- Freshness: this one is more of a concept than an actual thing. France is known for the baguette and people often buy their own every day (you can buy only one half) - which means there is always something fresh in the kitchen on a daily basis. I know it would be difficult for New Yorkers to pick up that habit - especially if it involves making a big detour to get one. Instead, I would recommend trying to grow your own herbs on your kitchen counter - if you do not have green thumbs, getting flowers on Thursdays or Fridays so you can enjoy the scent and beautiful sight of fresh flowers when coming home on the weekend. It will give your interior a renewed fresh touch at all times - and pick red roses can be viewed as a subliminal message from the city of Love. <3
Lastly, if you need help adding touches of Paris in your home, do contact us to discuss.