The Essential Elements of Authentic French Style

In France, personal style is revered. Rich, textual elements abound through motley accessories, such as architectural elements, dress forms, furnishings used for generations and souvenirs with words on them. The style is not obvious, with Eiffel tower and fleur de lis emblems on every piece, but rather authentic objects that have a history. Sharing the same principle as giving one great gift as opposed to lots of little ones, there is an emphasis on quality of an abundance of things.

Kathleen Delgado, the proprietress of Vintageweave, is a true Francophile. She often travels to the country on buying trips and has an eye for their quality of design. Here are some of her design secrets to achieve a look authentically French.

Essential Elements of Authentic French Style
Instead of reproduced signs with the words “France” or “Paris”, Kathleen opts for well-used antiques with French phrases.

What does it take to create a French look?

An important element is traveling to France frequently to capture the “essence.” Far too often, my eye is disappointed by those trying to create the look with an obvious lack of travel to the country to view her people and history. I always steer clear of anything that actually spells out Paris or France and prefer authentic vintage road signs written in French with hues of true French blue or red.

Romantic French Table Setting
From food to floral arrangements, when it comes to French style, the key word is “fresh.”

What do you serve that is simple yet memorable?

A healthy salad of greens from the local Farmers’ Market, homemade fig and walnut balsamic dressing, freshly baked pastries and a favorite bottle of Bordeaux complete the perfect lunch for friends. Laughter and smiles are a must.

Romantic French Vignette
One boulangerie’s old sausage sign is another woman’s authentic French piece.

What pieces do you look for to create your vignettes?

The French are rather simple and take great care with textiles handed down through the generations. A tablecloth with a hole would simply have the addition of a grandmother’s hem. These older textiles with their well-loved “bumps and bruises and repairs” are the perfect beginning for any tablescape vignette. Layering antique dishes that are not “so perfect”—a chip here and stain there—add to the richness of history.

Written and Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel

Photography by Bret Gum

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