Restaurant Decor Ideas for a French Bistro


Capture the chatter and romance of a Parisian bistro in your restaurant with pieces that mix chic and casual. Bistros are typically characterized by a focus on simple foods, beef bourguignon and roasted chickens, but also serve wine in addition to espressos. Despite its humble origins as a basement business, the bistro has enjoyed a resurgence.


  • Pick tables that evoke old world style, and select them based on their area of use. Outside space is important and one of the original features of a French bistro—room was limited and many diners took their meals on the sidewalks. Consider using a number of bistro tables, usually small and round, that are simple in design. Avoid furnishings that are large or overwrought. Install striped awnings if permanent cover is not available and create a welcoming space with planters, vases and white paper tablecloths. Inside, opt for small square or rectangular tables and set tables closer together to create the proper intimate ambiance.


  • Classic bistro chairs are made of wood with rattan or wicker backs and/or seats. Incorporating the restaurant's colors works well—for an example see the "Marly" cafe chair cited in the Reference section. Similarly, banquette seating maximizes space and keeps customers in a convivial mood. For an example, check out the L-shaped booth banquette cited in the Reference section. Avoid vinyl at all costs; heavy fabric (a jacquard, for instance) is better. Use tall bistro tables and chairs in the bar area.


  • In a bistro, charm is in the details. Use tin ceiling tiles stamped with a pattern. They make for a subtle impact without overwhelming the space. To get an idea, visit Tin Roof Bistro's photo galleries (link in Reference section). Hardwood floors are a good choice, imparting a sense of homeyness and old world appeal.

    Between the tin, hardwood floors and spare furnishings, sound can be an issue. A lively, chatty environment is what you're looking for, but if it becomes too loud, use textiles to absorb the noise. Heavy cafe curtains work, and yellow or red warms a restaurant. On the walls, hang paintings or decorative trim reminiscent of Paris. These should not be overstated (i.e. an assortment of Eiffel Towers) but serve as suggestions. Take your inspiration from the great French artists. Toulouse-Lautrec works are iconic, energetic and unforced. See the link to a Toulouse-Lautrec gallery below for visuals. Gilded antique frames and mirrors add a touch of understated elegance. Install an open kitchen to reflect the "en famille" aspect of a classic bistro, and print off simple menus on heavy card stock.

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  • Photo Credit terrace image by Melissa Schalke from
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