Famous French Wallpaper Designs

Updated April 17, 2017

Wallpaper became prevalent in France as a substitution for the fabric covered walls made popular by the aristocrats. By the end of the 1800s, with the industrial revolution, people used wallpaper as a cheaper way to cover their walls. Whether it is infused with linen, cut into squares or manufactured in long rolls, soon paper got printed with flowers, emblems and idyllic scenes of provincial country living. No longer a status symbol, these days any design-savvy individual can enjoy a famous colour-blocked French print on his walls.

French Baroque

Bold and ornate baroque prints are a staple design in French wallpaper. The Baroque era refers to a period of European history from 1600 to 1750. But French baroque still remains evident in contemporary decor; it has just been boiled down to a simplified, repetitive black and white motif. Easy to identify and famous in Parisian wallpaper prints, the French Baroque style is a never-ending pattern of thick intertwining vines bordering a stylised flower centrepiece---the focal point. The Baroque style is so synonymous with Parisian home furnishings that designers have it translated it from wallpaper to other decorative accessories, including plates, lamp shades, and bedding.


The "fleur-de-lis" is a simplified illustration of the lily flower--hence the name, which is its literal French translation. A signature of France and historically used as a sign of its monarchy, the flower emblem has been stamped, embossed and plastered on everything French, including its wallpaper. When used in home decor, the fleur-de-lis sits in the middle of the wallpaper's repetitive design like a crest, with all the other design elements bowing around it. There was a time where the symbol was used only in royal castles, courts and coats of arms, but these days it holds its ranks as a famous print in French wallpaper designs.

Country Toile

Black, blue or sometimes red etchings depicting country life--from pictorials to "botanicals"--defines France's famous toile wallpaper designs. Associated with country decor, the toile wallpaper is the more economical alternative to the heavy damask that flanked the walls of the quintessential pastoral chateaus. Today, toile wallpaper is used by design professionals to evoke the feeling of "shabby chic"--a home decor style that skilfully incorporates bits and pieces of French country furnishings. Simple versions of toile will depict "botanicals," which are etchings of flowers and plants native to the Aix-de-Provence region of France. More complicated designs can include figures of farmers engaged in everyday rural living prevalent in the 1800s.

Art Nouveau

Made popular in the early 1900s, art nouveau was an artistic movement translated to everything from Paris subway signs to commercial art, before trickling down into home furnishing and wallpaper. Parisian wallpaper adopted art nouveau's elegant and simplified floral designs, the most famous print being the iris. What made Art Nouveau eternal, and therefore famous, was its impact on French culture. It is as famous in French wallpaper designs as on the streets of Paris, and therefore holds its design weight when incorporated into modern decor Art nouveau wallpaper is evokes the spirit of the belle époque. For this reason it is a poignant expression of the time's romanticism that is still used in contemporary wall-furnishings.

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About the Author

B. Maté has been reporting on creative industries since 2007—covering everything from Fashion Week to the latest artist to wow the Parisian art scene. Her experience stems from a marketing background, with more than 12 years of experience consulting fashion-forward entrepreneurs.