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Parisian Living Room Ideas for a French-Inspired Look

By: Joanne Derrick |

So what is it that makes a living room Parisian? A traditional French Pied-à-terre would have high ceilings, white walls, hardwood floors with traditional velvet or brocade furniture and gilt-edged mirrors and frames. 

Sounds divine? If this classic look appeals to you, there are key notes you can use to recreate Parisian chic. You don’t have to have all of those elements but picking one or two and styling with a little panache can give you the romantic feel of Paris in your own home.

Classic Parisian Look

An ornate mantel in white is the epitome of the Parisian look. Dressed with a simple gilt mirror and luxurious furniture, this will give guests to your home a real ‘wow’ reaction.

To recreate this beautiful style, check antique stores for intricate fire surrounds. You can paint the surface in a satin sheen white paint. 

It is also possible to buy a new fire surround, though you might want to paint this to make it look more authentic. Also you could pick a plain mantel and add your own molding for the same result. 

You don’t have to have a chimney and open fireplace to get the same effect. You can use the center of a plain wall and build your own fire surround.

Herringbone Floor

Herringbone floors are very on trend, taking the classic and making it right up to the moment. So if you have this kind of floor, or if you are about to install a new floor, you might like to think about this chevron design.

It is possible to buy vinyl and laminate hardwood-look floor planks if you are starting from scratch. You could lay them yourself to save on budget. You may also try sourcing reclaimed wood and lay it in a herringbone pattern.

Walls should be white and crisp. Accessories in natural tones work well alongside the requisite antique gold framed mirror. For French chic, make styling uncluttered and look like it’s effortless. 

Use symmetry but subtly. For example, place a large vase on the mantel but balance it with a floor lamp on the opposite side of the fire surround. You can put sofas facing each other but not matching to achieve the je ne sais quoi

Swing from the Chandelier

A crystal chandelier is a beautiful accompaniment to a Parisian design scheme. Hung in the center of the room, the focus should be on the crystal rather than anything too elaborate. This will give a sparkle over a beautifully furnished room.

Decoration is minimal, perhaps a couple of sprigs from your favorite shrub or tree. Plain sculpture and simple art prints work well.

Furniture can add warmth in rich velvet textures but not too dark. Mid-green and dusky pink contrast wonderfully in a classic design. Trendy gold touches work well as they are associated with the Art Deco movement of the early 20th century and align with this theme.

For your bookcase arrangement, pick books with pale colored spines. You could also try facing the spine to the back of the shelf and so you will have the creamy colored pages facing outward. Though some booklovers may not condone such behavior to their beloved paperbacks!

Gaze at the Ceiling

A Parisian living room will have high ceilings, but what makes them truly elegant is the cornicing at the top. 

That is the ornate trim that goes between the wall and the ceiling around the room, and the decorative molding on the ceiling that you sometimes find above a light fitting. This is something you can add yourself. Even a plain cornice will give you that period look. 

A dark sofa can look good against white walls if other accessories subtly match. A King Louis style chair with a stripe has a regal look. And a glass coffee table with the perfect large art or photography books will show off your good taste.

Three Tone Perfection

For some warmth, but still the pared back French look, try three color tones. White is of course the foundation color and necessary for walls and ceilings for this theme.

A charcoal or black can be used for framing and in a scattering of soft furnishings. The gorgeous natural parquet wood floor’s shade can be picked up in an unusual orange chair and in the mantel.

This look needn’t be too angular if you select a spherical chandelier light fitting. You can soften edges around the room with a little foliage in vases and a simple white floral arrangement.

Faded Beauty

If you don’t have high ceilings then finishing the edges with cornice will feel Parisian, as will installing French doors or sash windows. 

You can finish tall windows with white translucent voile panels. Think of them gently blowing in the breeze as you relax with a glass of sauvignon blanc in your chic apartment.

A large velvet sofa in a pale blue, in an almost faded, antique look is elegant against a herringbone floor. If you want to introduce modern touches then a cane light fitting in proportion to the room, and a lattice rug will tone in effectively. 

Mirror Mirror

A large, gold gilt mirror says Parisian style, so you could buy one from a second hand store or source one new. If you have the right kind of design on an old mirror, you could spray paint the frame with a bronze or antique gold color.

Wood paneling is very fashionable and will look fabulous in this type of room. Also if you have wall lighting, then candle style sconces will be a lovely finishing touch.

A plush brown sofa looks gorgeous against a wood floor, and shades of it can be echoed with simple monotone flowers. 

Modern Touch

To experiment with a more contemporary look, keep furniture velvet and large but choose a more boxy shape and add modern design pillows in bright colors. 

As the walls are so plain, they can take a brightly colored artwork and also unusual shaped coffee tables in the center. The mantel should reflect the calm with few ornaments and simple blooms.

Retro Chic

For a mid-century twist on the Pasrisian look then try adding a retro light fitting in white, in a simple design plus some groovy furniture.

Soft tones and textures are important but you can try some earthy sculptural furniture in classic materials like marble or in a heavy wood, smooth and polished. 

An arched shape at the top of built-in shelves will nod to the 19th century architecture of this Parisian living room theme.

Modern Romance

For a living room that’s both classic Parisian and modern, keep the tones pale with white walls and gentle curtains at a large window.

Furniture can be simple in shape and soft in texture. But what makes the room look modern is the hanging of a collection of framed pictures on the wall. Choose simple monochrome art or photography.

A rug will add some warmth on your feet on the wood floor, but keep it plain and simple in design so that the style of the floor is emphasized.

Parisian Nook

If you have a plain room you could create a fancy nook with an ornate chair or chaise longue. A reading corner with beautiful gilt touches would feel most decadent.

If you like this corner sanctuary then you may find you get the Parisian bug and can use all these tips to create your own stylish living room.

In Summary

There are some basic elements you should use to recreate your own Parisian living room. Be sure to keep the walls clean and white but add some paneling or molding. Perhaps you could try some ornate cornicing at the top of the walls, or install a fire surround with intricate molding.

Furniture should preferably be velvet and in faded colors or rich mid-tones to enhance the hue of the wooden floor. Herringbone speaks of a French apartment and there are good modern options like laminate and vinyl available in this design.

For accessories, keep them plain and make the styling look effortless, perhaps simple foliage or monotone blooms. Keep displays uncluttered and add warmth with soft textures.

If you prefer a modern look then you can try a contemporary style sofa or some bold patterned pillows against plain walls and a little original art. Whether you like old or new, there is a scheme for everyone who likes elegant, romantic Parisian style.