How to add a little French chic to your life

It’s hard not to be a little envious of the French, especially right now.

There are cooler and more creative places on earth, but when it comes to effortless style and chic no one matches the French. Even their politicians are more glamorous and elegant than ours, though frankly that’s not hard.

They do sophistication insanely well, especially if you have enough cash to swan around Cap D’Antibes, mooring your superyacht off Juan Les Pins and arriving at the Eden Roc for dinner by boat. However, fortunately for most of us, they also do simple elegance bloody well too.

Here are ten ways to get some French elegance into your life this July and bring a little Paris to Putney, Peckham or Pimlico.

The Breton Shirt

Some would say that the humble Breton shirt is making a comeback, others would say it never went away, in fact this is a constant source of arguments in our household. Whatever, they are pretty hot right now with those perky blue stripes all over our July Pinterest board. The absolute Daddies of the Breton shirt are Saint James who are based in the commune of Saint-James near Mont St Michel. Rather brilliantly they have just produced a range for J Crew and so are a little closer to hand than Lower Normandy, time to stock up.

Give us our daily bread

What is it with the French and bread? For us bread is made of plastic and is used to stop Marmite taking the roof off your mouth. For the French, bread is an art form. So much so that we have pretty much given up and left London baking to the burgeoning French population. Our absolute favourite is Olivier’s Bakery which is a kind of Franglais hybrid in that the resolutely Breton Olivier bakes French artisan breads with great British ingredients. Find them at Borough Market, Primrose Hill Market and at farmers markets across London.

Bin your bread bin

Great bread is usually devoured in no time but if you need to keep it in decent condition for a little longer walk away from bread bins (you put rubbish in the bin not fresh bread) and use a French-style linen bread bag. Our dove grey bread bags are made by The Linen Works, they look scrummy and keep your bread scrummy too.

Wake up and smell the coffee

George Clooney may think he is French but he isn’t and neither is that coffee contraption he peddles. Nothing says France quite like a stove-top espresso maker and the smell and sound of the coffee as it bubbles up to the top. We love the 9090 designed by Richard Sapper and made by Alessi but in some ways you can’t beat the brilliantly basic Bialetti Moka. Ok, both of these brands are Italian but the coffee from both will make you feel like you are on the set of Betty Blue.

A match made in heaven

The single cheapest way to bring a soupçon of French style into your life is to light your candles with our exquisite Bleak House French matches. They look so damn good you’ll leave them out on display next to the Diptyque candle you’ve just lit. Incidentally Diptyque may be quintessentially French, born at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain, but they got their break by designing wallpaper for London institutions, Liberty and Sanderson.

A bag for life, or just the summer

So there you are in your Breton shirt and shades, tripping home from the market with a bag full of fresh bread, fresh flowers and fresh coffee. Gorgeous, but what’s the bag? French summer chic demands a basket bag made of rattan or sea grass. We love Bembien for summer bags; they have a great carry all but the little rattan Rose Bag is the one we have fallen for, though you’ll be lucky to fit more than your shades and a purse in one, let alone a loaf of rustic French bread.

You can never have enough bags

Forest Bound are from New England and so have bugger all to do with France. But their canvas weekend ‘escape’ bag looks awesome on our July Pinterest board and would look awesome as you get off the Eurostar at Gare du Nord or the EasyJet in Nice, so we had to include it.

Buy a Riva

The Riva Aquarama is without doubt the single most glamorous mode of transport known to man. With its sleek lines and polished woodwork it’s a thing of aching beauty. If you are wallowing in cash the Yacht Market have a stunner for two million Euros. But fear not the Conran Shop has a dinky little model for the knock down price of £1,495. Bargain.

Invite Poirot into your life

Sure he is Belgian but then so is Stella Artois and literally everyone thinks that’s French too. Besides The Murder on the Links is a Poirot story set in the fictional French resort of Merlinville-sur-Mer, based loosely on the once highly fashionable Deauville. Open it up to read with your freshly brewed coffee and you are immediately transported to 1920’s France, all one-piece bathing suits and blue and white changing huts.

And so to bed

I’m not suggesting for a moment that the French know more about going to bed than anyone else but great bed linen is a must if you are channeling a more sophisticated life. Fittingly our Draper London 300 count cotton bed linen comes with nautical navy piping that gives it a little Riviera vibe.

Sweet dreams.

See our July inspiration board on Pinterest here.

If you like this, you might also like our guide to Columbia Road flower market


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