Orlando Sentinel - - STYLE & HOME -

Phillips is telling me over the phone from her Dal­las home. “Armed with ed­u­cated eyes, unerring taste and amaz­ing con­fi­dence, the French have long held the de­sign world in their thrall. Their in­flu­ence knows no bounds.”

“But French looks seem so, well, eter­nal,” I say. “How have they changed?”

She tells me how. Over the last three to five years, as Phillips (and her dis­cern­ing eye) have gone to Paris on shop­ping trips for her de­sign clients (an­other job I wish I had), she says she’s no­ticed a shift. Premier ho­tel after premier ho­tel — Hô­tel de Cril­lon, Hô­tel Ritz, Le Meurice and Hô­tel Plaza Athénée — had ren­o­vated and were “gleam­ing with pared­down so­phis­ti­ca­tion, and a no­tice­ably cleaner look.”

When the French shift, the de­sign world tilts on its axis. Phillips took note and cap­tured the new lean­ings in words and pic­tures.

“So what’s dif­fer­ent?” I want to know.

“More is more no longer works,” she says. “Today’s top French de­signs re­flect a dis­creet ca­chet. Icy for­mal­ity, or­nate fussi­ness and op­u­lence, are passé. Clean, not stuffy, reflects our cul­ture and the times.

Ex­trav­a­gance rarely

sug­gests el­e­gance any­more. Sim­plic­ity is the new lux­ury.”

Sounds like a breath of fresh air to me.

Though “French Re­freshed” fo­cuses on French de­sign, it’s up­dated con­cepts can ap­ply to any style dé­cor, she says. The key take­away: You don’t have to start over. Refresh doesn’t mean re­place. But it does mean move on with the times.

Then she listed for us the sig­na­ture char­ac­ter­is­tics of re­freshed French style:

• A mix of new and

vin­tage. In­ject­ing a mod­ern piece into a room of an­tiques up­lifts the whole space. “In a noted shift, Mid­cen­tury and mod­ern­day pieces wor­thy of stand­ing ova­tions are not only el­e­vat­ing looks but also play­ing star­ring roles,” she writes.

• Off the wall. Rather than line the walls, fur­ni­ture in today’s re­freshed in­te­ri­ors floats in rooms, even in smaller quar­ters.

• Work the an­gles.

Fur­ni­ture set on an an­gle opens up rooms, adds a sense of ease and makes rooms feel more invit­ing, Phillips says.

• Asym­me­try reigns.

Nei­ther sym­me­try nor mir­ror im­agery dic­tates fur­ni­ture place­ment any­more, mean­ing looks feel less for­mal.

• More glass and glim­mer.

For in­stance, in be­tween chairs, a bar cart re­places the skirted ta­ble. • Sim­pler win­dow

treat­ments. Today’s draperies just brush the floor. Those that pool or pud­dle are out, as are swags and other or­na­men­ta­tion.

• Mod­ern art. Con­tem­po­rary and mod­ern in­ject a fresh feel. “The terms mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art are often used in­ter­change­ably but shouldn’t be,” she says. “Mod­ern art refers to works pro­duced from the 1880s to the 1960s. Con­tem­po­rary art fol­lowed.”

• State­ment-mak­ing

pen­dants. Stream­line pen­dant light fix­tures are re­plac­ing chan­de­liers while pro­ject­ing a French ’40s flair.

• A softer palette. “The French have long grav­i­tated to sand and gray as a base,” Phillips says. “That hasn’t changed, but now they’re lay­er­ing in soft pas­tels — soft pink, light laven­der and pale blue — in lieu of bright color.”

Syn­di­cated colum­nist Marni Jameson is the au­thor of five home and life­style books, in­clud­ing Down­siz­ing the Fam­ily Home – What to Save, What to Let Go and com­ing out Dec. 3, Down­siz­ing the Blended Home – When Two House­holds Be­come One (Ster­ling Pub­lish­ing). You may reach her at www.marni­jame­son.com.


Move over painstak­ingly carved ar­moires, gen­er­ously scaled chests and Louis IV chairs. French style today is sim­pler, sleeker and cleaner, says au­thor Betty Lou Phillips.

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