Hark and Osborne: French Fabulous

August 13, 2013

There is something very romantic and sophisticated about the French design sensibility. A modern French aesthetic brings with it a sense of extravagance and exquisite glamour from the past, but when merged with objects and furnishing of the present creates a timelessness that retains its appeal and withstands modern influences, actually enhancing the historical elements, and creating an eclectic living space. Living and working in Boston’s historically rich homes we find ourselves grappling with the question of what stays and what goes. At Hark+Osborne there is the ever-present conundrum of how to keep these relevant architectural elements in place while making a space functional and fashionable for our modern clientele.

In order to make a magical collision of days past and the ones to come, we always find ourselves looking to the uber-talented French designer, Christian Liaigre, for inspiration. His interiors are seamlessly infused with modern detail and classic elements. He often keeps the ever-present, French chevron wood flooring into his repertoire. It is truly timeless where the older it looks, the more sophisticated. The space is immediately infused with elegance, yet the patina brings with it a sense of comfort and grace. The furnishings he uses are modern and understated, allowing the spectacular art work and accessories be the focal point of the rooms. With a stroke of genius, he has masterfully merged the past using period pieces, and rich natural fabrics and light paint schemes creating spaces with effortless style.

Photo courtesy of Christian Liaigre

It is the French way to create a living space that is has strong historic architectural design elements paired with streamlined, modern furnishings and avante-gard accessories, often layered or clustered in groups. In order for these homes to maintain a semblance of the historically rich and fancy, the intricacy of the details need to be modified. In overly ornately detailed rooms we like to paint out the walls, trim, base and crown moulding the same tone to modernize the space while keeping the historical detail, allowing the furnishings an opportunity to stand out in the space. Another amazing French designer team, Gilles & Bossier do just that. This interior (pictured below) is incredibly rich with intricate mouldings and detailed paneling, however the overall look feels light and airy. The bones are old-world, the art is modern, resulting in a perfect mix of style. The gilt Rococo mirror is the backdrop for casually placed mixed media, creating a curated compilation of traditional and modern elements.  A mix of natural linen textiles and the sisal area rug tone down the moulding and panel detail. This room is oozing glamour and sophistication, but totally lacking pretense.

Photo courtesy of Gilles & Bossier


Another design element that we love to use is a vintage fireplace surround. We recently renovated a Back Bay manse, whose space was screaming for an infusion of French style. We were able to hunt down a vintage marble fireplace surround salvaged from a Parisian townhouse. We then replaced the missing traditional molding and architectural elements that had been removed in the building renovation. The heavily veined marble surround gives the perfect amount of texture and becomes the focal point of the room. Using restrained furnishings and adding deep contrast on the upholstered pieces grounds the room setting. Using varied textures such as wood, glass, and metal add interest and personality to round out the space. The addition of unique object d’art pulls the space together creating a curated look. These rooms have gravitas, yet are light and airy.

Photos courtesy of Hark + Osborne

-Hark + Osborne

For more information about Hark+Osborne Interior Design, please contact them through their website at hpluso.com.

Find A Resource

Search from hundreds of home services, products, destinations, and real estate opportunities.

View All Resources