19 Things I Learned About Home Decoration From Amélie

a still from the film amelie showing actress audrey tatou

I’m not sure that I moved to Paris because of Amélie, but I’m not sure I didn’t, either. I saw it for the first time at just the right time. I loved it. And as much as it’s an homage to the past — all pasts, everywhere — it is also, of course, a love letter to Paris, and Paris’s own immutability.

There’s plenty not to like about that, really: Paris can be terribly stuck in its ways. The good news is, of course, that those ways are beautiful, and elegant, and exceptional. Less stick-in-mud, if you will, than stick-in-marble.

We publish two great newsletters: Sign up for a weekly dispatch about travel and Paris — or for our new weekly email about shopping (mostly French brands but a mix of everything!)

I always wondered if I’d have an apartment like Amélie. I nearly did at one point: I had a red-and-black-and-white tile-floored kitchen, and a gigantic pink bathtub, and a massive window with an iron balustrade that would have overlooked the Eiffel Tower except for one incredibly annoying building directly across the street from me.

I definitely do not live in an Amélie-style apartment now: My apartment, in a 17th century building, is newly and wholly refurbished. I am not allowed to put nails in the wall. I am definitely not allowed to glue flocked wallpaper to the walls. (After the cable technician did a perfectly reasonable job of running the cable along the ceiling, my landlord took one look at the (utterly blemish-free) wall and said: “We’ll have to redo this from scratch.”) Some day, I will buy my own, and I will do all of the things, I will have wallpaper and nails and, God willing, herringbone floors. (A girl can dream.) Until then, I will take notes, and I will take notes beginning with Amélie’s cluttered, beautiful, jewel-box (ruby!) apartment. The movie’s production design was by Aline Bonetto, who’s French (unsurprisingly, given her long association with Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and is also working on the Wonder Woman sequel.

Click on the images for a larger version, with more details.

#1: And also I will buy a slip to wear while applying my face oil from a beautiful vintage bottle. What else? (Besides the Petit Bateau cotton T-shirts that I wear every night and should definitely be replaced in favor of the slip?

Lesson #1: Decant all decantable liquids into vintage perfume bottles, stat.
Lesson #2: Sleep in lovely slips, not T-shirts. 

amelie bathroom

#2: Now: Note above her right shoulder, the vintage medicine cabinet. Love. Like these — Etsy is a good place to find them.

Deco note #3: Consider vintage medicine cabinet. 

amelie bathroom

3. Note the amazing turquoise and cream tiled floor, and the vintage bottle. I’m going to come home from the flea market tomorrow with a lot of vintage bottles.

Deco note #4: Tiled floors? Can you do a tiled floor?

3A. Amélie has at least three different ornate red wallpapers in her apartment. This is my favorite. (Also love that slip!!!)

Deco note #5: Nothing immediately gives a room character and depth like an over-the-top baroque wallpaper, like this one. 

amelie bedding

4. And what an amazing bedding set-up: a single sheet, a square quilt, and two square pillows — noting the red-and-gold color combination, which matches her red walls. My linen is entirely white, so this is a paradigm shift.

Deco note #6: Not all Euro beds are duvet-only. IDK, I can’t with the red sheets, but they do contribute to a powerful color story. 

amelie neighbor

5. The clutter! There’s an anchor, fans, embroidery sample, dancing doll, daffodils, two fabric-covered lamps, and above her shoulder, what looks like an embroidery of a buffalo walking into a snowy meadow. At least there’s wine.

Deco note #7: I’m not doing this many knickknacks, but … it’s a look. 

6. A better look inside Mme. Wallace’s space, with the painting (needlepoint?) of the Saint Bernard. So many curtains in this movie.

Deco note #8: Kitschy art of animals (like the Saint Bernard) can be fun, and is usually cheap. 

amelie kitchen

7. Amélie’s kitchen, which she has dressed to match: red cabinets, a red colander. Note the glass decanter (there’s another one, with wine in it, in a later scene with her dad) and that familiar red-and-blue-and-white dish, which is common here and is seen toward the end, with M. Bredoteau and his grandkid.

I have a lot of those decanters in my little shop and at this point I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have one.

And look! She’s growing basil on her windowsill.

Deco note #9: Cheerful kitchenalia is usually not much more expensive than depressing white dishes, and should be explored. 

Deco note #10: Grow own herbs whenever possible. 

amelie tv

8. I absolutely could not live with red walls or a green TV (and matching accessories) — but talk about building a depth of color and textures!

amelie sofa

9. Amélie watches TV: what an explosion of colors (well, color, plus blue) and textures. Is everything in this image velvet? Certainly the pillows, certainly the sofa, and possibly the walls. Possibly the lamp shade. Possibly her sweater!

Deco note #11: There is a place for a triple-velvet experience, even if it will hopefully never be my own personal house. 

amelie decanter

10. Mostly I’m looking at the decanter. There is no better way to drink, anything. I wish I could decant Diet Coke. (Could I?) I would buy wine just to put it in a decanter.

Deco note #12: Vintage decanters, always and forever. 

11. Everyone in this movie has fabric-covered lamps. I will never have a fabric-covered lamp. I would rather have a bare bulb.

More important: Here we see two pieces by the German illustrator Michael Sowa! (This may or may not be a website with which he is affiliated.) In unmatched vintages frames.

Also: her gold quilt, more square pillows (previously white, now green), her cat, and a different sleeping-tank.

Deco note #13: Find the right artist and buy all the work you can afford. 

12. A closer look at the wallpaper, and another Michael Sowa.

michael sowa

13. A closer look at the other Michael Sowas, and their unmatched frames.  I like how the bird in the pearl necklace also got the fancy frame.

Deco note #14: Framing is expensive, so whenever possible, find appropriate vintage frames, and don’t worry if they don’t match. 

14. I know our attention here should be on the pig lamp, but I’m staring at the clock.

Deco note #15: A vintage clock is a million times better than a digital one. 

amelie clock

15. Here’s a different alarm clock, in M. Collignan’s bedroom.

amelie curtains

16. Note the beaded curtains there. So many curtains in this movie, of all kinds.

Deco note #16: I actually thought about beaded curtains one, but I can’t. Cannot. 

amelie curtains

17. Like we were saying about the curtains. Everyone I know in Paris either has no curtains, or an apartment entirely made of curtains.

Deco note #17: Ditto this layer of curtains. I’m one of those people with no curtains except where 100 percent necessary, and I do not regret it. 

amelie more pillows

18. A return to the sofa from image #9, with the blue light off. That is pillow heaven, in that that sofa might be where pillows go to die. For me, that is too many pillows.

Deco note #18: Ditto this level of pillows. 

19. The dishes of happiness!

Deco note #19: Buy happy dishes. 

20. Watch Amélie!

Sign up for the Faraway Places newsletter!

My weekly newsletter shares the best things I've found from around the world (mostly in France). It always includes a free, downloadable map of a lovely city from around the world (like this one).

Filed under: decor


Avatar for Diana

Hi, I'm Diana. I've written about travel for The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed, The Cut, Travel + Leisure, Outside, and lots of other places. This is my blog.