Vintage finds and retro handmade--a sweet mix I know you'll love.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Trend Watch: Old French Chic

A very popular influence in interior decorating these days is the French style.  From the decadence of Louis XIV's court to the rustic simplicity of the French countryside,  we are seeing the French influence everywhere--French writing on everything from clothing and furniture to kitchen utensils, pastels and white with silver or gold flourishes, the eminence of the fleur-de-lis, lavender sachets and barn wood with old-country appliqued embellishments, and elaborate crystal and mirrors paired with engraved aged silver and gold.

There are several branches of the French trend you might have spotted.  French country has rustic peasant-style influences, reminiscent of sunny southern France, with its fields of lavender, vineyards, and white-washed cottages.  Then there is French Classical/Traditional, which definitely reminds you of the gilded, crystal, and white palaces of the French court and Versailles. Finally, there is a sort of French shabby chic trend, which uses worn, tarnished, or peeling elements of the traditional style in such a way that it resembles relics of a glitzier past.

Whatever your taste, you will probably find something you like in the French style.  It is airy, delicate, and bright, which might make it a perfect fit for dim spaces or rooms that seem too open and spare.  Do you like French style decorating but don't know how to get started in your own home?  If so, I sincerely hope this French style vignette will get those interior design juices flowing!

 I once watched a travel show that toured the palace of Versailles.  I especially remember a ballroom and a hallway that were lined with mirrors from floor to high ceiling.  The walls were decorated with tons of flourishes, each painted in gold leaf or off-set in white or bold shades of  brown, yellow, green, or blue.  There were also silver and crystal candelabras and chandeliers, which must have made the whole mirrored space glitter when they were lit.

I looked through all of my vintage finds and put together a few things that reminded me of this shimmering elegance, but in an ironic twist, most of the "French" things I have are actually British or German.

While the peasants lived rustically, the court of the "Sun king" sparkled with opulence, now a bit faded.   The style of the French nobles at the turn of the 19th century gave way to the Rococo and Romantic style of Napoleon's day.  Both eras are combined in modern French decor.

Porcelain cameo paintings were popular gifts in the French court and later during the era of Napoleon. 

The frames on these vintage framed cameos seem as gilded as Versailles itself. I can imagine these two British ladies (yes, they are British!) would have smiled pleasantly over a cup of tea while listening to the latest fashion news from France.

When I was putting this vignette together, I realized it could be easy to have two competing color schemes if you aren't careful.  Mine ended up being a combination of white and cranberry red, with gold, silver, and crystal accents.

To avoid a stark, washed-out room, add some dark splashes of color.  Tie it all together with a few statement pieces with all the colors of your decorating scheme.

I didn't happen to have any hanging crystal chandeliers on hand, so I tried adding some old lead crystal candlesticks and a tiny pitcher-shaped crystal toothpick holder for a little sparkle.  A few well-placed pieces of crystal can catch the light and really brighten up a space.

I happened to have some white figurines (actually, they are Avon bottles) that seemed to go well with the airy feeling I was going for.  Bo Peep looked perfectly period for this vignette.

The French court, and later the court of Napoleon, were fans of Greco-Roman mythology, particularly the pastoral scenes of shepherd boys and shepherdesses in the Elysian fields.

Another important element is definitely the mirrored pieces.  I happened to have a mirrored dresser tray.  You could also try arranging several old mirrors in gilded frames on one wall.  I've even heard of hanging full-length mirrors near the floor to open up the whole space, like that ballroom in Versailles.  If you don't have mirrors, use polished silver accents.  I have heard that a light layer of wax, even car wax, can slow the tarnishing process on silver--if that is what you desire.  Just don't apply it to anything that will have contact with food!

Finally, you can't have French classical without some pearls, silk, and lace in your decor.  

I used a sprinkling of small white cut-lace doilies, and a silk scarf with French writing on it.  You could do something similar with lace or chiffon curtains, decorative lampshades, or decorative table runners.

By the way, this strange bird is an example of the "marriages" that happen to old things sometimes.  The head is from the bird of paradise Avon bottle, but the body is from their American turkey bottle.  I still think it looks interesting.

About half of the things in these photos are for sale in my online stores.  The dresser tray, the clock, the pile of books under the scarf, the jewelry, and the table are all personal belongings I'm not going to part with.  The rest of it is either already available online, or photographed and ready to list as soon as possible--maybe even tomorrow if I can.  If you are curious, follow the links:
 << Bo Peep Avon Bottle, circa 1976.

Avon White Cat perfume bottle, from the 60s. >>>

 << Gilded Lettuce leaf shaped candle holders and handled bowl.

These and more French things are available in my ArtFire studio.

For other French style decor, I also have a couple of things available in my Etsy store:
Shabby chic jewelry box, like something a French noblewoman might acquire>>

<< Lovely Gorham silver pedestal bowl, to capture the whole room in one curving surface.

Hope you liked this French-style vignette.  I have more planned in the coming weeks.  I just got a better camera, which means I might be getting these up on this blog more often.  Thanks for reading!  Feel free to drop me a comment to tell me what you think about it.

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