When anyone talks about France, Paris gets all the love. But all of those celebrities lounging in the sun at the Cannes Film Festival every year must be onto something, too.
The French Riviera is as dreamy as it gets: Think picturesque beaches, cool breezes, and a laid-back style that makes anyone want to pull up a chair at the local café and order a glass of Perrier.
“French Riviera style is … classic and timeless,” explains Julie Assenberg, owner of Julie Assenberg Interior Design, in Salt Lake City. “This type of design is trending in outdoor spaces because people want to escape their everyday life and experience the beauty and sophistication of the Riviera, even for a little while. Sounds like a dream, right?”
In order to create your own Côte d’Azur oasis, here’s what you’ll need. Just get ready for your guests to exclaim, “tres chic!” when they stop by.
1. Ramp up the rattan
Step 1 in your Riviera dream: getting the right furniture to match the look you’re after. Rattan and wicker bistro or lounge chairs—complete with woven plastic seats—will transport you instantly to the Mediterranean coast.
And luckily, stores are stocking up on these materials for the season, Assenberg says.
Seek out the right color cushions to give you the most authentic feel.
“You may want to consider a vibrant blue, which echos the color seen from patios overlooking the Mediterranean Sea because the French Riviera is nicknamed Côte d’Azur or the azure coast due to its picture-perfect water,” Assenberg says.
What to buy: Riviera armchair, Serena & Lily, $338
2. Boost the vibe with some bougainvillea
Here’s another must-have item for a Riviera-style outdoor space: an overhead element where beautiful flowers bloom.
“When I think outdoors on the French Riviera, I envision rustic and charming patios with an overhead trellis covered and dripping with wisteria or bougainvillea,” Assenberg says. “And overhead hangs a candelabra or a plethora of string lights.”
Bougainvillea is considered “the signature plant” of the Riviera, according to Pablo Solomon, a designer and artist in Austin, TX. The plant can be grown just about anywhere.
“If you live in a subtropical climate where it doesn’t dip below freezing, you can plant them in the ground and they will grow for decades,” Solomon explains. “Otherwise, put them in increasingly bigger pots over the years and take them inside for freezing weather.”
Don’t want to invest in a trellis? A blue-and-white-striped umbrella will do instead, Assenberg says—and still give you the shade you crave on hot, Mediterranean-like days.
3. Tear it up with terra cotta
Fresh flowers, plants, and herbs are everywhere in the French Riviera, mainly because the climate is ideal for growing them.
For your own Mediterranean-style patio, try planting your favorites (and whatever grows well seasonally in your area) in terra-cotta pots and line them around the rim of your patio space, Assenberg recommends.
If your climate can sustain it, plant flowers and herbs such as lavender, mimosa flowers, roses, violets, and jasmine, recommends Bronwen Smith of B Floral, in New York City. Trust us—your outdoor space will smell intoxicating.
Bonus: Planting lots of herbs de Provence might even inspire you to cook a beautiful pot of bouillabaisse or compose a salade niçoise instead of your usual summer grilling fare.
What to buy: Terra-cotta pots, Amazon, $19 for 6
4. Add alfresco dining
Food and wine are a huge part of French culture. So to truly get the Cannes vibe, you’ll need a place where friends and family can gather outside to share a meal.
For your Riviera-style patio, Assenberg recommends a classic iron or wooden table. Line it with votive candles come nighttime. Set it up underneath your trellis or arbor for a beautiful space where everyone will want to gather, or leave it out in the open if you crave sunshine.
Don’t feel like cooking when the weather heats up?
“Consider serving your guests cheese and baguettes on china with real silverware,” Assenberg suggests. “And don’t forget a bottle of good wine served in classic French stemware!”
What to buy: Extendable solid wood dining table, Wayfair, $449