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.
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.”
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.