From the Design Desk: Parisian Inspirations

It’s no secret that many of us at Chronicle share a slight obsession with one very special city (Francophilic case in point: Paris). So, when I was given the privilege to work on the cover of Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart, I eagerly dove into the book in search of images that could convey the quintessentially Parisian je ne sais quoi. I quickly found myself with way more material than I could possibly use and started wondering: “How can you go beyond macarons and colorful café chairs to more effectively distill the sights, sounds, and spirit of Paris into a simple, everyday style statement?” I wanted to share a few of the inspirations I found inside this luscious book that make no reference to the Eiffel Tower or baguettes, but can still bring a bit of unmistakable Parisian flare to any day:

The color is in the details.
Living in San Francisco, it seems a bit odd to call Paris a “colorful” place. But there’s something about that moody grey sky and those white buildings that make the colors you do find in Paris seem so much more unexpected and rewarding. (In fact, Nichole Robertson has illuminated this fact beautifully in her Paris in Color series)

Stylish restraint.
Is it just me, or do trés chic polka dots and stripes in classic black and white just scream Parisian elegance?

At the market, at the café, at the boulangerie—not only are they typographic eye candy, they are evocative of a nostalgic “simpler time” spent leisurely wandering the arrondisements to find the freshest markets and most secret hideaways.

Old World meets New World.
With centuries-old buildings as a backdrop, Paris is a place in which an elderly man passing the afternoon alone with a cup of coffee seems just as stylish as trendy young fashionistas and street style photographers. Vintage is always in vogue and handmade, haute couture still drives the scene.

While I unfortunately don’t have any Parisian getaways planned for the foreseeable future, I found these pages to be a rich visual resource that can help inspire a bit of that inexplicable Parisian spirit in everyday life. Which brings me to my question: If you could reduce Paris to a few simple sights, sounds, or smells, what would they be? Or better yet, I would love to hear how you are already incorporating a Parisian flair into your home/wardrobe/daily life. Leave a comment sharing your inspiration and one person will be randomly selected to receive their very own copy of Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart.

Hillary Caudle
Lifestyle Design

All photographs © Janelle McCulloch and Chris Middleton

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  • Janel October 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I love making jewelry. One of my favorite color combinations is a faceted mint green bead paired with muted, gold-lined clear seed beads. I think it is subtle bead pairing, yet has just enough sparkle, that I could wear a necklace made from the beads on a stroll through Paris.


    • Hillary October 26, 2012 at 9:51 am

      That sounds like such a lovely, subtle combination, and so appropriate for a stroll through Paris. Even better, it sounds like something I would want to wear every day!


  • Annemarie October 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    The colors of Paris are still one of my favorite memories of the semester I lived in the city. The splashes of color amid the shades of grey are unexpected and striking, and somehow much more valuable. That same theme repeats in the chic fashion that we associate with the Parisians. I try to emulate that effortless style, focusing my outfits on a pop of burgundy or green, with shades of charcoal and black. Takes me back 🙂


  • Tegra October 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Working in retail, it's absolutely incredible how often you see Parisian and French influences in everything! Even though they make fitness wear, our company's design team always attends the runway shows in Paris as they're planning our collections for the next year. You can see the chic stripes and beautiful simplicity in everything from stretchy pants to highly technical run gear.

    When I think of Paris (from a non-local, never been there but dying to go perspective) I think of the smell of fresh baguettes, the sound of clicking high heels on cobble stone streets, and the look of bold striped eaves highlighting streets full of vendors (old and young) among architecturally drool-worthy buildings.

    Oh, and wine and cheese. Duh.


  • Kim October 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    What an inspiring post! I know what takes me straight back to Paris is a rainbow assortment of macarons!!




  • mirabelle October 22, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Fresh bread from the bakery after work – nothing takes me back better than that!


  • Swami October 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I don't know… At first, I thought that book 50 Shades of Grey was a reference to the colors of Paris. I mean, it may as well be for around 9 months of the year, No? Although, perhaps the best examples of color are those beautiful water lillies at the L'Orangerie… and the beautiful colors exemplified by the numerous flowers and gardens that pepper the Parisian landscape with a pastoral pattern, particularly in the month of May. That the Parisians can have such a diverse array of looks with black and grey is simply a testament to their terrific taste.


  • Julia October 22, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Classic black and white just emanates a Parisian feel! I love framing pictures in black and white with simple frames, and using artwork and fresh flowers to add pops of color in my small apartment. Simple, yet elegant.


  • matkeltri October 23, 2012 at 1:58 am

    My location and lifestyle could not be farther from Paris . . . but I love the Parisian style, and I love the photos featured in this post. I especially like the pink and peach roses amongst all the black and white. I have several silk flower arrangements in the same shades of pink and peach hanging here and there in our house.


  • Krissy @ Wordish October 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    For me, it would be the brightly coloured front doors that I've seen in photographs. What I wouldn't do for a red front door!


    • Hillary October 26, 2012 at 9:59 am

      Agreed! In college, my roommate and I attempted to paint our front door red – unfortunately, we were only able to get it to an off-pinkish color before we ran out of paint (and, on our student budgets, couldn't afford to replenish). Unsurprisingly, that pink front door became quite the conversation piece for our guests! It may not have been the most fashionable, but it certainly did have a bit of flare 🙂


  • Nari October 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Oh! I have a little necklace of the Eiffel Tour that I wear daily. I try to incorporate French life and style into my mundane life every chance I get, from eating baguette sandwiches, to sipping coffee at a cafe & people watching. I've even gone so far as to start planning for a French themed nursery. I am quite obsessed…


  • Lynda October 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    A fresh,warm croissant and a coffee at a local cafe on a brisk sunny morning. What joie de vivre!


  • Marissa October 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    For me, Paris is all about a classic black and white wardrobe, and macaroons of every color. My few short days there lived up to all of my expectations of what I thought the city would be – artsy and full of delicious food.


  • Eug October 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    The Ile de cite, with it’s trees, old apartments and cute little dogs


  • Hillary October 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Thank you to everyone for your lovely comments! You all have such wonderful, unique thoughts about Paris and it was so fun to read them. Our contest winner has been randomly selected and will be notified via email. To everyone else, thanks again for participating and sharing your wonderful Parisian inspirations!


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