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Merging French and British interior design

french and british interior design

The design trend for 2014 is that of creating distinctive interiors by the merging of several different themes. This could mean mixing traditional with modern styles, or simply mixing a wide variety of materials. It is important, however, not to take this jumbling of styles too far as that can end up creating a design disaster. One of my favourite current looks is to combine French and British interior design styles.

French interior design

French interior design has a reputation for being elegant. It also has a reputation for being old. In this instance, old does not mean worn out, but means instead recognition that vintage items still have a purpose and a place in a contemporary room set. French style could best be defined as comfort mixed with old world glamour. So, deep and shabby looking sofas would sit alongside ornate gilt framed mirrors; highly patterned wallpaper such as Toile de Jouy and Fleur de Lys would sit alongside plain painted window frames and door jambs.

British interior design

British interior design seems to incorporate a wide range of styles, such as Victorian, Arts and Crafts, and Contemporary, to name just a few, and the British seem to embrace other countries design styles more wholeheartedly than the French, for example, Scandinavian style. More often than not, thanks to the design concept of Cool Britannia, designing a British interior means application of red, white and blue. However, this, especially when used in the form of the national flag, is a very bold design statement, and the Union Jack should be used only sparingly.

Mixing the two

Fortunately, as long as the correct balance is achieved there are very few styles that cannot be improved by mixing them. In design terms, this roughly means an 80/20 balance, with 80% of the room demonstrating a unity of design, and the remaining 20% providing an opportunity to add some different items. So, for example, a contemporary, predominantly British, interior could use a vintage French rocking chair or even a magnificent rococo style bed, as a statement or accent piece. Conversely, a bedroom designed in a French vintage style could have a cushion cover featuring the inevitable Union Jack flag, or an elegant French drawing room displaying a 1950s leather armchair. When it comes to the walls, a French, elegantly patterned wallpaper, from perhaps the late 19th or early 20th century, could be matched with contemporary British furniture.

Other mixing

Not just styles are ripe for experimentation in this way. Colors and textures are another way to create an individual style. For example, mahogany, cherry wood and oak are materials that have been popular, at intervals, for at least the last 150 years. Used sparingly, particularly in the case of mahogany and cherry wood, they can have an impressive impact today. Oak, unsurprisingly, has held its appeal throughout the ages, thanks to its attractive grain, its ability to blend in with almost any surrounding, and its durability. So much so, that many pieces of contemporary furniture are being crafted in oak and with elements of traditional design, examples of which can be viewed from here. In regards to textures, shiny metallic wallpapers can be mixed with linen and cotton upholstery, and silks with embroidery.

See our interview with the Queen of French Style: Annie Sloan

More on incorporating  French style into your home 

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