French Interior Design
There’s something romantic about French interior design. It reminds you of an era of nostalgic extravagance and exquisite glamor.
The elements embrace the unforgettable age of royalties, when kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, and sires and ladies of the court, smoothly glided within grand ballrooms with elaborately adorned ceilings, gilded wall panels of gold and expensive wood and tall engulfing arc windows.
We cannot let go of such a hauntingly beautiful past, so we go to great lengths to hold on to what is long gone, to recapture the things that made it inescapable and merge them as part of the present world. The timelessness of the design retains its appeal, withstands modern influences that might ruin it and acknowledges the ones that enhance it.
Unlike French palatial villas during the 14th to the 16th century, contemporary homes are not as massive and grandiose in architecture. They do not inspire awe with their low ceilings and straight structural lines and edges. In order for these homes to maintain a semblance of the rich and fancy interiors of that period, the intricacy of the details should be modified.
They must be carefully transformed according to the mold of modern architecture albeit incompletely so as not to lose their distinct allure. For this to be possible, the overwhelming details should be broken down and applied moderately in the interiors. A Baroque ceiling with trompe l’oeil paintings within large coffers and multiple cornices on the edges is a bit too much for a house with an 8-foot high ceiling.
You can create an adaptation of it by putting egg-and-dart moldings in a smaller scale crisscross pattern onto the flat surface of the ceiling. Instead of a padded lambrequin with floral design to cover the window opening, you can use an attractive arc-shaped valance to hide the top edge of the drapery and the curtain rod.
Infusing an adequate dose of French design elements in new residential houses can enliven the steely and impersonal atmosphere of their modern interiors. Three of the most dominant periods of French interior design are Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassic. They each have their own unique characteristics that can be applied in today’s modern interiors.
Simplifying exaggerated Baroque
The use of heavy wall paneling, classical architectural features such as arches and columns, and pompous and dark-colored furniture pieces characterize Baroque interiors. The design elements are generally perceived as massive and masculine. These overpowering features can be toned down in a modern interior. The use of columns with stylized designs should be minimal and bulky furniture pieces can be added, but the application of the design should stop there.
The rest of the interior should be light in structure. You can mix in clear glass partitions, and a neutral color palette should be integrated, so as to lessen the mass of the interior. The end-result will make the Baroque elements stand out therefore, creating an effective and appealing fusion of the old and the new.
If however, you are determined to have a strong dramatic period interior, then you can incorporate the design elements in the main indoor architecture such as the walls, floor and ceiling. You can have a shallow ceiling dome constructed with the dining area beneath it. An elaborate chandelier at the center can be an excellent focal point. Indulge yourself with rich dark oak paneling in natural finish for the walls and large marble slabs for the floors of your main salon or private library.
Distinctly Baroque sofas with detailed carvings and cabriole legs and matching coffee tables and console cabinets can be placed in the living room. The upholstery of the seating furniture pieces should make use of materials like damask, velvet and tapestry. The piping and trimmings of the time consisted of fringes, tassels and silver nail heads. Be comfortable with altering the details and materials of these furniture elements to adapt with the entire look of the interior.
Enhancing feminine Rococo
The emergence of the Rococo period left the heavy and masculine designs of the Baroque era and traded them with lighter and more feminine characteristics. The enormous rooms of the former period were replaced by smaller-size rooms thereby affecting the scale of all the other design elements. Femme arabesque patterns and delicately sinuous forms came forth. The color schemes favored light and earthy colors that exuded classic elegance.
Suddenly, everything became curved and rounded. You cannot see sharp edges in the furniture pieces and room corners were eliminated by semi-arc shapes. Perhaps this period retained its glory even to this day because the elements that define it are graceful and stylish.
Rococo furniture pieces are quite popular up to the present. Their contours embrace the feminine figure quite exquisitely. They provide comfort and luxury with their incredibly delicate form and voluptuous upholstery. The classy shape of their sofas and wing chairs with their floral-patterned seat cushion are staple accents in a posh living room of a large apartment and contemporary mansions have them in sets.
Their frames and cabriole legs are a feminine version of the Baroque ones with simpler carvings and flowing form. Dining tables were commonly round but simpler in design because they were almost completely covered by fabric. The free-standing cabinets and armoires of this period have genuine marble tops and bulging fronts called bombe which is again a tribute to the female form. They are valuable consoles for foyers and bedrooms, and as buffet cabinets for the elegant homes of the nouveau rich.
The Rococo period didn’t focus mainly on the French style. It also permitted the fusion of Oriental design in its interior structures such as the hand-painted wallpapers decorating the wall panels.
Furniture pieces adapted the designs of Chinese pagoda, ladders, mandarins and foliage in their chair backs and table stands. This development increased its global appeal. They are now reproduced by suppliers for hotels and restaurants all over the world.
The original ones are considered valuable antiques and are collected by art enthusiasts. A piece or two of these furniture pieces will work well with your French-inspired living room and they are awesome pieces to combine with any room with an eclectic theme.
Modernizing traditional Neoclassic
This particular period welcomed the revival of the classics. It introduced straight lines as an enhancement to the overly feminine forms of the Rococo period. Simplicity became apparent as a reaction to the detailed forms of the previous era. The columns and arches became dominant once again and extended their influence not only to the interior architecture but also in the furniture pieces.
The chair backs and legs manifested columnar designs and the curved cabriole legs were eliminated. Table and case furniture pieces had straight and rectangular wood or marble tops. Even the wall panels no longer used curved lines but became rather rectangular in their shapes. The ceilings were made simple by leaving them flat or hand-painted with clouds and azure skies.
Neoclassical designs initiated the adornments of walls with hung paintings, festoons, hunting paraphernalia, clocks, barometers, etc. The walls were painted light shades so they served as backgrounds for the wall ornaments.
These wall hangings are interesting details to be added to your living room. You can even personalize them by inserting your own pictures to the carved frames. They will merge the artistic creations of the past and unify them with the present.
Modifying the old to fit the new
The simple and inexpensive means to beautifying your home with the use of French design is to accessorize. A contemporary sofa with plain upholstery can be spiced up by throw pillows with floral patterns in coral pink and sunny yellow. You can add a curvilinear floor lamp and a modified bergere armchair with cabriole legs and damask upholstered seat to recreate the classy look of a Rococo-inspired living room.
A simplified version of plush over drapery with arabesque patterns and curvy swags in full-length windows is a delightful way to bring in a bit of romanticism to a simple dining room. Try looking around in antique shops and secondhand stores for oval-shaped mirrors with detailed carvings or wall decor of garlands and festoons to put at the top portion of your fireplace or your mini gallery.
A one-of-a-kind crystal chandelier in your foyer leading to the staircase is an interesting conversational piece for parties. Embrace the Neoclassic era with a sky mural in your den and install simple borders in your walls to make it seem like it has been detailed with paneling.