What is French Empire?

French Empire refers to a grand, ornate design style that emerged in the early 19th century during the First French Empire.


French Empire is an influential design style that epitomizes the grandeur and opulence of the Napoleonic era. Originating in the early 19th century, this style was heavily inspired by the Roman Empire, reflecting Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s ambition to revive and emulate Roman grandiosity. The style is characterized by its grand scale, symmetry, and use of luxurious materials such as mahogany, gold, and rich fabrics.

Key elements include ornate decorations, heavy furniture with classical motifs, and an emphasis on the symbolic, including eagles, bees, and laurel wreaths, which were Napoleon’s symbols of power. Rooms designed in the French Empire style convey a sense of imperial power and sophistication, with a strong focus on achieving a majestic and stately appearance. The use of color and patterns, elaborate wall treatments and finishes, and opulent decorative objects play significant roles in this design style.

While the French Empire style is rooted in historic significance, it continues to influence modern interior design through its bold expression of luxury and power. It offers timeless appeal to spaces that aim for a statement of elegance and grandeur, making it a favorite among those seeking to incorporate historical themes with a touch of regality.


The French Empire style is typically applied in formal settings such as luxurious living rooms, grand dining halls, and opulent bedrooms. It’s also commonly seen in upscale hotels, historic homes, and institutions that wish to convey a sense of prestige and opulence. Public buildings, such as museums and libraries, often incorporate elements of French Empire design to add a layer of historical richness.


  • How is French Empire different from other historic design styles?

    French Empire distinguishes itself through its unique combination of Roman-inspired elements, use of luxurious materials, and symbols of power unique to the Napoleonic era. Unlike other styles, it focuses on conveying imperial majesty and opulence.

  • Can French Empire style be incorporated into modern homes?

    Yes, elements of the French Empire style can be integrated into modern homes to add a sense of elegance and history. This can be achieved through selective use of ornate furniture, decorative objects, and color and patterns that reflect the style’s grandeur.

  • What are the key materials used in French Empire design?

    Key materials include mahogany for furniture, gold for accents and decorations, and luxurious fabrics such as silk and velvet for upholstery and drapery.

Practical Application

To introduce the French Empire style into your space, start with bold statement pieces of furniture that feature classic motifs and rich materials. Accentuate these with gold decorative elements and luxurious fabrics for upholstery or window treatments. A balanced approach, incorporating modern touches with these opulent elements, can create a harmonious blend of historic grandeur and contemporary living.