How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (2024)

There’s nothing so elegant as a centuries-old Paris apartment with wedding-cake ceilings, herringbone floors, and marble mantles. Ooh la la! Simply think of the words "Parisian décor," and you can likely summon in your mind’s eye a room with stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, a curvy sofa against a backdrop of luxuriously pooling drapes, and an ornate mirror above a mantel holding an artful arrangement of fresh flowers.

Such tableaux capture the essence of the Parisian design aesthetic that is dominating social media right now. We spoke with designers to better understand the key elements of Parisian décor and how to get the look in your home.

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Parisian Décor, Explained

We can’t even think of Parisian décor without first addressing the stunning architectural features that provide the backdrop. What we think of as the classic Parisian apartment dates back to the mid-1800s during a period known as the Haussmann Era, named for the architect Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. Haussmann was charged by Napoleon III with tearing down whole neighborhoods of cramped medieval buildings in Paris and building back in a grand European style. So, many of today's Paris apartments naturally have the elegant architectural details associated with this era.

"The hallmarks of a quintessential Parisian apartment are decorative applied molding on the walls, herringbone floors, marble fireplace mantel with a gilded mirror above, and usually a statement pendant or chandelier,” says Melissa Sanabria, founder and principal of Sanabria & Co., which specializes in historic home renovations.

But, the Parisian design aesthetic isn’t about living in a 19th-century time capsule. Rather, it’s about mastering a mix of traditional and modern minimalism. "When we're designing spaces with strong architectural features, we are always trying to strike a balance so that we let the architectural elements shine without making the space feel too heavy," says Sanabria. "Specifically, for a Parisian apartment look, we love to use creamy white paint on the walls and opt for furniture that has clean and simple lines and forms."

Adding a few small, budget-friendly touches can subtly define your space's look as well. "Including one or two small vintage French furniture pieces (like end tables) in the space can go a long way," Sanabria says. "Also, keeping fresh flowers in vintage vases can do wonders."

Key Parisian Style Elements to Bring Into Your Home

There are a couple of specific architectural and design elements that truly define the look. Parisian décor is minimalist, punctuated by a few unexpectedly audacious statements. For those of us who don’t live in a 19th-century home, Sanabria says decorating in a Parisian style will be more about bringing in character where it doesn’t already exist."You will definitely need to add these architectural elements," she says. "Then you can play with the furniture to round out the look."

Paneled Walls

While wall treatments such as board and batten are very on-trend today, Parisian apartments feature panels of painted wood molding. "I would say that applied molding is a requirement to really achieve the look," says Sanabria.

In Parisian fashion, try painting both walls and panels white—Sanabria prefers White Dove by Benjamin Moore.If white feels too bland for you, Sanabria says a very light pink could work as well. "White walls are typical, but you could stray a bit here and opt for blush for a fresh take,” she says. If real paneling is not possible, there are some wonderfully whimsical wallpapers that mimic the look for a cheeky take on the style.

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Ceiling Molding

How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (2)

Another key feature of Parisian décor is ornate ceiling molding, made of poured white plaster that’s been molded into a repeat design of leaves, fruits, and flowers. This lavish white trim against a white plaster ceiling is what gives ceilings the wedding cake look that’s such a fixture in the Parisian design aesthetic.

If your ceilings are currently devoid of ornamentation, you could splurge on real plaster decoration or opt for less expensive faux-plaster pieces. Even just adding some exuberant crown molding would lend itself well to the style.

Rosettes or Medallions

How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (3)

Parisian rooms often feature an ornate plaster rosette or medallion in the center of the ceiling with a stunning chandelier or modern light fixture hanging from it. Traditional plaster molding and ceiling medallions are available in building supply stores. But you can get the same look using ones made of lightweight, pliable material, such as vinyl or PVC, that are less expensive and much easier to DIY. Once they’re painted, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Marble Fireplace

How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (4)

Parisian apartments typically feature marble fireplaces. "Most of the existing ones you see in Paris go back to the 19th century," says Vicente Wolf, founder of Vicente Wolf Associates and VW Home by Vicente Wolf. "You will even see 18th-century ones in wonderful apartments on the Left Bank."

If you have a fireplace, update the facade using marble tile. "If it's in the budget, I would add a vintage marble mantel with a mirror above,” Sanabria says. Search for an antique marble mantel on sites like 1stDibs. If you don’t have a fireplace, a mantel alone will provide the right look and feel, even if it’s just decorative.

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Herringbone Floors

How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (5)

The French have been assembling small wood pieces to make patterned floors (parquet) since the 1600s. So herringbone, chevron, or similar flooring patterns are a feature of all Paris apartments.

“If you're starting from scratch and have hardwood floors, but they’re not in a herringbone pattern, that's not a dealbreaker,” says Sanabria. “Though, herringbone floors will really help you nail the look.”

Wrought-Iron Balconies

How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (6)

Ornate iron balconies are an architectural feature of so many buildings on the grand avenues of Paris. These wrought-iron balconies have withstood the elements, as well as the test of time.

If you don't have a balcony, you shouldn't let that stop you from embracing the wrought-iron look. Consider adding wrought-iron window guards to the facade of your home instead. Some designs balloon out like a Juliet balcony and you could add window boxes and grow flowers in them.

Ornate Mirrors

How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (7)

In Parisian décor, mirrors are very tall and were originally built-in above the fireplace. But you can get the same effect with a tall antique mirror hung above a mantel, a console table, or simply left leaning against a wall—the larger and more ornate, the better. "I especially love ornate gilt-framed mirrors against white walls," says Wolf.

Look for an ornate mirror as tall as the proportions of your room allow. You can paint the frame white or gold or even gild it with gold leaf. These are easy to find in thrift stores and at estate sales.

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How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (8)

While a crystal chandelier would have been typical in Haussman’s day, Parisians today are just as likely to choose a modern style. "We love an Italian mid-century light fixture paired with a plaster ceiling medallion," says Sanabria. "But they can be modern or ornate—folks can have fun with this one depending on their taste and style."

If the scale of a chandelier doesn’t work with your ceiling height, try a shorter pendant. A modern pendant in brushed gold with some horizontal lines and oversized bulbs will provide just the right amount of drama to contrast with more traditional features like paneled walls.

Antique Rugs

How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (9)

You may wonder why anyone would want to cover gorgeous wood herringbone floors—but adding the right area rug can help pull the space together. Rugs bring in texture and color, while also muffling sound and making a large room feel cozy. "Aubusson rugs are not the only type of antique rugs that can be used in a Parisian-style apartment," says Wolf. "Consider using tapestries or Persian rugs or, for a more modern approach, contemporary carpets. All bring a sense of warmth."

To get the Parisian look, shop for a Persian-, Moroccan-, or Egyptian-style rug for your living room. Just be sure the size and proportion are suitable to the dimensions of your room. If you already have one but find the colors too vibrant, flip it upside down and the colors will be muted like a tapestry.

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How to Bring the Parisian Design Trend Into Your Home, From Beautiful Trim to Ornate Mirrors (2024)


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