French styling is a labour of love

Stepping inside Carolyn Westbrook’s home, it’s impossible not to notice that romance is in the air.

Saturday, 7th September 2013, 5:00 pm
Undated Handout Photo of a dining room, featured in Through the French Door: Romantic Interiors Inspired By Classic French Style by Carolyn Westbrook, photography Keith Scott Morton, published by CICO Books, priced £19.99. See PA Feature INTERIORS French. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/CICO Books. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature INTERIORS French.

It’s not just the traditional scene-setters of soft lighting, candles, plumped cushions and vases filled with fragrant flowers. There’s also an abundance of gilding, sensually-curved furniture, mirrors with decorative detailing and luxurious fabrics, which provide the clues to the real passion of Westbrook’s life - French style.

“My love affair with France began long before I ever set foot in Paris,” says the designer, as she shows me around her beautiful 1800s plantation home, in Texas, America.

“I’ve always been drawn to the intricate detailing that’s evident from French furniture, and the way they decorate their homes with elaborate mouldings, aged objects and pieces that have become antique as they were passed down the line, from one generation to the next.”

It’s a decor approach she’s interpreted in her own distinctive way and which she reveals in her book, Through The French Door.

Her gorgeous home could be a template for Francophiles who want to replicate the nation’s sophisticated style this side of the Channel.

What makes Westbrook’s abode so interesting is that she embraces a variety of approaches, from the appeal of a grand salon through to French rustic and contemporary Paris chic.

Her airy entrance hall has walls decorated with a collection of oil paintings and antique transferware plates, all picked up on her frequent visits to French flea markets.

Formality is avoided - nothing should be too regulated or co-ordinating - with an eclectic mix of armchairs.

Clutter is tidied away in vintage suitcases, while potted palms and plants give what Westbrook regards as an essential injection of colour and interest.

“Many people are faced with a blank canvas when decorating their homes and all those white walls and empty spaces needing to be filled can be daunting,” she says.

“It’s often a good idea to break the space down into smaller areas, which will help warm up a room and make it more intimate and comfortable. Oil paintings and diverse collections create a layered effect, tell a story and make a room interesting.”

As she redecorates and experiments, she moves favourite pieces from room to room, to avoid the ‘look’ of each area stagnating.

Refreshingly, there’s no lack of surprises, because slavishly following a style is an anathema to Westbrook, who believes decor should continually evolve.