French Home Decor
Formal french home decor, as mentioned on the French Country page, has roots dating back to the 1600s, with Paris taking an early lead as the cultural and cosmopolitan trend setter for the rest of France, most of the great furniture over the next 200 years was produced out of this area.
The formal French style, spanning the Renaissance and Classical periods, is much more lavish and luxurious as compared to French Country, and encompasses several distinct decorating themes throughout French history, from the early 1600s up through the 1800s under Napoleonic rule.
With at least five distinct styles during this period (primarily Louis XIV, Regency, Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Empire), some lasting only a few decades while others more than 60 years, the common traits portray a refined and formal elegance, colorful interiors, finely crafted furniture and massive portraits and wall hangings.
Colors typically used in French home decor, both formal and country, are exquisitely created from floral greens, bright to darker red shades, mustard yellows, lavender and sky blues. And like other color schemes, you can add or subtract dimension to the room, either making it appear larger with lighter color tones, or smaller and more intimate with darker shades.
As in the Country theme, going pure white is considered faux pas in French design, regardless of what is being painted. Instead, consider one of the many off-white choices, such as ivory lace or antique white.
The formal French theme carries a somewhat darker tone than the Country theme, due in large part to furniture and fabrics having a much larger and more dense quality, both in mass and with deeper colors and more complex patterns than their country counterparts.
Color cues in French home decor.
Deep shades of red, mustard and brown are found in furniture, upholstery, window dressing, rugs and wall color, and carries with it a luxurious and commanding tone, and are better suited for larger rooms.
Classical French home decor, with deep reds and mustards, heavy fabrics, wall sconces, dark woods and oil paintings.
For assistance selecting your theme colors, try these free online tools, the color wheel calculator (from Sessions School of Design) and thecolor visualizer (from Sherwin Williams).
When lush furnishings were introduced to sophisticated printing and synthetic fabric dyes, a whole new inspiration in French home decor was born. For roughly the last 300 years, French furniture and fabric design have developed into the Formal and Country styles, with formal described below.
Furniture in French home decor, is characteristically constructed of wood from ebony, palisander (a Brazilian rosewood), walnut, or mahogany, and is defined by its sheer mass, intricate moldings and sculptured finishes. This furniture is darkly stained or lacquered and upholstered with brown, black or red leather or fabric, and may include marble, ivory, brass or gilded inlays.
A luxurious French interior in this old world home, complete with Persian rug, classical French chairs and baroque fireplace.
Pieces in this style can include tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, clocks, bookshelves, wall mirrors, dining room sets, commodes (a low chest of drawers) and bedroom furniture.
With bun feet legs, elaborate spindles and carvings, the mood that these heavy and expensive pieces convey is one of aristocracy and statesmanship.
Silk, damask, velvet, fine tapestries and delicately embroidered linens are used in French home decor for wall hangings, bed dressings, upholstery and table cloths, and are usually English, Italian or Far East imported.
Tapestries, which first became widely used in the 15th century among the aristocracy and were used to insulate cool damp walls, are heavy textiles with pictorial designs and scenery woven into them, and today are used for curtains, upholstery and wall hangings.
French Home Decor Accessories
France, with its centuries old traditions in crafting furniture and artwork, offers many choices to the home decorator within these themes.
Some accessories translate quite well into both the Formal and Country themes, such as colorful, glazed majolica, or porcelain patterned bowls, which are used for dishes, vases, pots, planters, serving trays and tea sets. These ceramics often depict such things as fruit, vegetables and other Old World scenery.
The list below offers some suggestions specific to the formal style. See the French Country section for additional ideas to accessorize your home.
- Tall case standing grandfather clock
- Ornate gilt wood wall mirrors
- 3 - 4 panel screened room dividers
- Bronze, silver, alabaster or porcelain statues, sculptures and figurines
- Oil paintings in lavish gold frames
- Depictions of Paris on clocks, coasters, paintings and dishes
- Sterling silver flatware and crystal glassware
- Potted blooms of brightly colored flowers
- Persian rugs
- Crystal candle holders, vases and bowls
- Antique wall tapestries
- Leather-bound hardback books
- Antique table clocks
- Marble fixtures, such as columns on a mantel or fireplace
Lighting will complete the look of the French themes with antique bronze or wrought-iron table and floor lamps with soft frosted or stained glass. Copper, wrought-iron and brass candelabras, wall sconces, or crystal chandeliers can all be complemented by a roaring fireplace, offering intimate and cozy settings.
A brass chandelier with red shades and interesting reflections.
When lighting in a paneled room, keep in mind that side lighting from table or floor lamps is preferred, rather than lighting from the ceiling, such as from a chandelier.
See Also ...
Victorian Home Decor
French Country Decorating
Return to European Decorating from here
Importers of Fine French Home Decor and Antiques