When it comes to redecorating, we’re all about small and affordable updates that really do make an impact. Seriously, there’s no need to list all your furniture for sale online or rip every piece of art off the wall when you want a new look. The secret is in the styling, especially if it’s an effortless-looking, Parisian-inspired home you crave. A few thoughtful additions can truly make all the difference in the look of your home (the French are all about subtlety, after all). Below are nine of our favorite French girl-approved styling tricks that can make your space look chic and sophisticated—without needing to start the decorating process from scratch.
1. Upgrade your coffee table with a chic tray
Everyone needs a great tray for corralling things like magazines, remotes, and coasters on the coffee table. Bonus: it can also be used to serve drinks in the backyard or enjoy breakfast in bed. Treat yourself to a stylish, sizable piece that you’ll be excited to use whether you’re gearing up for a weekend Netflix binge or setting up appetizers for happy hour on the patio. Choose one made of a timeless material like marble or rattan for a French-girl staple that will always be en vogue.
2. Use ashtrays to house candles
Not a smoker? Neither am I, but I have quite the extensive ashtray collection. Here’s why: I find that vintage crystal ashtrays look absolutely adorable holding candles. I love to keep these on my nightstand, desk, coffee table—you name it. This simple addition takes an average candle display to the next level and makes any nook chic. I find most of my ashtrays on Etsy, at thrift stores, or while browsing flea markets. They’re also perfect for stashing rings and earrings overnight!
3. Toss those paper coasters and order a matching set
Sure, those paper coasters that adorn your coffee table may remind you of nights out with friends at your favorite dive bar, but they don’t exactly scream très chic. While you don’t have to say goodbye to them forever (you can always keep a few in a memory box with other fun mementos), a matching coaster set is a much-needed upgrade. You’ll thank us when your partner’s parents decide to stop by for an after-dinner drink.
4. Display matchbooks as decor
Add that well-traveled, French-girl vibe to your apartment by building and showcasing a matchbook collection. Don’t have any on hand at the moment? Not to worry. The next time you’re out to dinner at a cute spot, simply stop by the host stand on the way out and ask if you can take a matchbook home with you. Repeat over the course of several months and then set out your finds in a cute trinket dish. Talk about a fabulous conversation starter when friends come by.
5. Use julep cups for storage
Cute julep cups aren’t just for Derby Day. They’re a gorgeous alternative for holding pens or makeup brushes when normal jars just don’t fit your aesthetic. And you can easily find them at party supply stores on the cheap. It’s the perfect way to make the ordinary a little more stylish.
6. Lean art on an easel
Leaning art is key to that French-girl “I’m trying but not actually trying” kind of look. And as a renter, I’ll take any chance I can get to avoid hammering another hole into the wall. To ensure that my beloved pieces don’t fall over when propped up on my bookshelf or mantel, I place them on mini easels for a more elevated look.
7. Snag some cute hand towels
File this under the little luxuries category of the French-girl style handbook. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make any other changes to your bathroom—a set of charming hand towels can truly go a long way. Why towels? You’ll get so much use out of these on your own and won’t be embarrassed when guests need to use your loo during parties. Plus, you can find some great sets for less than you’d spend at Chipotle.
8. Revamp an old lamp with a patterned shade
Patterned lampshades are having a major moment right now thanks to the popularity of the grandmillennial design aesthetic. If you have a table or floor lamp that could use a little refresh, consider replacing the shade with something pleated and printed. Etsy is one of my favorite resources for sourcing designer-worthy shades that don’t break the bank.
9. Buy some original art (inexpensively)
No French girl’s home would be complete without some original art. While there’s nothing wrong with building a gallery wall using various prints, adding a one-of-a-kind piece to the mix makes it even more special. To source some original art without wrecking your entire budget, try visiting local flea markets, vintage stores, and student-run exhibitions. You may just find the oversized abstract piece of your dreams or a portrait that reminds you of your grandmother. Finding a piece that makes your heart flutter or has a special story behind it is always worthwhile, even if it takes some time to secure.