5 Differences Between Parisian and American Homes That Might Just Surprise You

An American interior designer in Paris explains how US homes compare to those in this design destination, and what it helps us learn about channeling Parisian chic

a kitchen behind a room divider
(Image credit: Heidi Jean Feldman. Design: Lichelle Silvestry)

Parisian style is celebrated worldwide, and we're not just talking about its fashion. In interiors, the French capital has the same renown for effortless chic — that je ne sais quoi that the city's interior designers utilize to make spaces that feel magical.

So what makes French style so special? And how does it differ from how we decorate in the US. If there was anyone I knew would have the answer, it was interior designer Lichelle Silvestry.

'As an American designer with over a decade of experience crafting Parisian homes, I've developed a profound appreciation for the nuanced distinctions between French Parisian residences and American dwellings,' Lichelle ells e. 'While this juxtaposition encompasses numerous differences, the following highlights merely scratch the surface of this fascinating cultural contrast.'

From the tenets of Parisian interior design to how homes in France differ in their practical nature from US properties, Lichelle's knowledge of design on both sides of the Atlantic might just be the secret to embracing real French style in your home.

Lichelle Silvestry
Lichelle Silvestry

Lichelle Silvestry is an American designer based in Paris. She has created beautifully curated spaces in the French capital for over a decade. Lichelle is the founder and Creative Director of  her interior design studio, specializing in designing and decorating Pieds-à-terre and residential projects. Her positive attitude, elevated standards, and multicultural experience make her studio the go-to choice for a distinctly personal and seamless design experience in the City of Lights.

1. Space and storage

doors in a parisian apartment

(Image credit: Heidi Jean Feldman. Design: Lichelle Silvestry)

It'll be no surprise that many of the differences between city dwellings in Paris and American homes is down to how much space you have, and how it's used. 'One of the most striking disparities lies in space utilization,' Lichelle confirms. 'While Americans often bemoan the minimal storage in French homes, the French prioritize quality over quantity, seldom requiring walk-in closets, laundry rooms, or large pantries.'

While these spaces are desirables in the US (undoubtedly in some places considered a minimum standard), spaces like the laundry room aren't on the cards for homes in Paris.

'Laundry spaces offer insights into Parisian daily life,' Lichelle says. 'While many French homes feature modest washing machines, drying clothes on racks epitomizes the resourcefulness of Parisian living. In contrast, American homes prioritize expansive laundry rooms with state-of-the-art appliances and ample storage.'

2. "Modern Comforts"

When you're dealing with the types of Parisian homes you'd picture as the epitome of timeless style, you're often dealing with spaces with history, compared to the relatively modern homes of the US. With age also comes an understanding that not every amenity can be incorporated into a home.

'The absence of air conditioning and sometimes elevators in Parisian apartments starkly contrasts with standard amenities in American homes,' Lichelle says. 'Retrofitting centuries-old buildings for modern comforts requires a delicate balance between historical preservation and contemporary expectations.'

3. Open concept

a modern kitchen in a parisian apartment

(Image credit: Heidi Jean Feldman. Design: Lichelle Silvestry)

The atypical modern kitchen in the US is large and open concept, serving as a social space for the family to congregate. However, you'll often find this isn't the case in Parisian homes.

'Cultural disparities in layout are particularly evident in the kitchen, the heart of the home,' Lichelle explains. 'Traditional layouts of Haussmannian apartments often segregate the kitchen from living spaces, treating it as purely functional.'

In this respect, it seems that Parisian designer may be starting to take inspiration from American layouts. 'Recent trends reflect a shift towards integrating the kitchen into living areas, fostering a convivial atmosphere akin to American homes, where the kitchen serves as the hub for both cooking and socializing,' Lichelle notes. 'Notably, too, compact refrigerators in French homes underscore their commitment to fresh, seasonal ingredients,' she adds.

4. WCs

The kitchen isn't the only space where Parisian homes shy away from open concept, either. You may also find that it applies to bathrooms in these houses and apartments.

'A notable divergence lies in toilet placement — a seemingly mundane detail reflecting deeper cultural values,' Lichelle says. 'Parisian apartments often have toilets tucked away in separate rooms, a rarity in the modern bathrooms of American homes.'

5. Classic French style

a pink day bed in a parisian apartment

(Image credit: Heidi Jean Feldman. Design: Lichelle Silvestry)

Well, of course, you might think, Parisian homes are going to be the ones that embrace the classics of French design — however, Lichelle suggests that for the city's contemporary designers, the opposite may be true.

'While young French embrace modernity in interiors, American clients often seek to infuse their Parisian homes with antiques, vintage, and classic French style,' the designer says. 'This reversal of roles reflects a growing appreciation for French design’s timeless elegance among American homeowners.'

'These differences provide a glimpse into Parisian living. As a designer, I bridge cultural gaps, crafting spaces that honor tradition while embracing modernity,' Lichelle says. 'Through meticulous attention to detail and appreciation for cultural nuances, I create homes that reflect inhabitants’ unique personalities and lifestyles.'

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Luke Arthur Wells
Freelancer writer

Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.