So you’ve bought your dream house. Signed the contract, got the keys. It’s all perfect. But you’re just not sure how to style your new home on the French Riviera. Are you starting from scratch, or building on the existing décor? Bringing your furniture from your former home, or buying specifically for the new place?
Some of us have a very clear idea of what we want and what will work. Others prefer to bring in someone to take on the task of making our house a home. In either case, a few guiding principles will help.
What’s the space used for?
Every interior designer agrees: the key is knowing what the function of the space is. As Ilse Crawford says “interior design is not simply a case of matching furniture with an overall design concept, but rather it’s about how a person will experience a room and its surrounding environment”. This goes for you, and your guests. So beware of letting the aesthetic overpower the functionality. The result will perhaps be pleasing to the eye, but not inviting. You’re not creating an art gallery or museum; you’re founding a space to call home.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it
Did someone say space? Chances are your new pad is pretty spacious. Great, that oversize sofa you’ve been coveting can be added to the armchairs you’ve already got. The XX size Bibliotheque you inherited from your Great Aunt will finally have a place. But watch out for the temptation to just pack more in because you’ve got the space.
Space – and the appreciation of it – is the ultimate luxury. Every Japanese person knows this. The trend of rigorously applying Feng Shui minimalist and no clutter principles to our environments may be a bit passé, but in Japan, space rhymes with prestige and luxury. So choose wisely – and sparingly – how you furnish and accessorise your rooms.
Go with the Flow
Having just knocked back Feng Shui, it’s worth remembering that its key principles still hold value, particularly the principle of ‘flow’. In this case, we mean how spaces flow from one to the other to make for a natural and harmonious living environment and prevent blocking space and light and avoiding jarring movement.
Not only should the spaces themselves flow freely and ergonomically from one to the next – the juxtaposition of dining and cooking spaces, sleeping and bathing spaces, etc. – but the flow of the space within each room should be optimal and pleasant. If you can’t easily slide into your sofa without negotiating the designer coffee table, there’s a problem. You’d be amazed at how often people block a doorway with the end of a piece of too-large-for-the-space furniture, or place a desk and massive lamp in front of a French window, blocking the view and access to the space outside. A good rule of thumb is that once you have positioned your furniture, have a walk around. It should feel like gliding on a dance floor. If it jars, reposition.
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Putting on the Style
Another point of alert is considering what style you are conveying, and whether it is harmonious with the overall architecture of the place. We often forget about this harmony, because we stick to a preference for the interior which we’ve used in former homes. But that doesn’t mean it will always work. For example, country and rural styling, using stone, copper, wood and rattan, may be delicious and appropriate in a Provencal mas or farmhouse, but less appealing in a Penthouse in Cannes where steel, glass and leather might be more in keeping.
While it’s true that contrasts can work – a modern interior in an 18th-century Haussmannien style town house might be fantastic – that approach needs to be done with great care to avoid an uncomfortable and inappropriate sensation and should be done with sensitivity to harmonising the marriage between original and new.
Also be careful not to make your home into a parody of a theme park. Just because you like and collect French antiques, for example, doesn’t mean your living room should be a mini Salle des Miroirs of Versailles.
Don’t Go Over the Top
Speaking of Versailles, too much bling can be a bad thing. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid being too ostentatious. There’s no need to go for Gatsby style opulence and ostentation. That could be a little over the top, and while it might suit some people, it’s not for everyone. That sort of style might not rhyme with comfort and family living.
By all means, indulge in your love of gold and glitter but keep it classy and up-to-date. Dallas and Dynasty belong to another era.
In fact, no…..steer clear of trends. This might seem to be the opposite of what you might expect, but the danger of fads is that 1) it soon becomes outdated, and 2) everyone’s doing it.
It might be moody blacks and blues this year and popping pink and yellow next, so every year would be a new decorating challenge. You’re not creating a showroom. We might all aspire to have our homes feature in Elle Decoration, but we won’t do that by being formulaic.
However, you could add something ‘trendy’ to keep up to date; colours, textures, accessories, but get your foundations right, and make them timeless. That doesn’t have to mean classic, if classic isn’t your thing; it could be Passion dining chairs by Philippe Starck, or a set of Liquefy low tables by Patricia Urquoila – both designers with a timeless approach, but then you marry that with something ‘of the moment’ which takes your fancy.
What’s your thing?
Finally, decide what you’re going for. Is it elegance and sophistication? Drama and passion? Rock and roll? Zen and serenity? Or Bohemian and eclectic? Figure it out, and then take it down a notch to avoid cliché, and voila – you’ll have the home that’s a real reflection of you.
Need some help?
Below is a selection of luxury interior designers who can help turn your new canvas in the place of dreams:
All of the images featured in this article show French Riviera properties for sale. Get in touch to arrange a viewing.