Ah, French furniture styles. Who doesn't love them? From the classic lines of Louis XIV to the bold and modern pieces of today, they always seem to be in vogue. But do you ever wonder where these timeless designs come from and how they came to be so popular? Well, if you want to impress your friends with your knowledge on French furniture styles, then this article is for you! We'll take a look at some of the most iconic styles throughout history that are still in use today and bring a touch of French flair to many homes worldwide. So grab a cup of café au lait and let's explore the world of French furniture together!
Louis XIV (1643-1715): This is one of the oldest and most recognizable styles of French furniture. The most striking example of the Louis XIV style is the magnificent Palace of Versailles. Originally a hunting lodge, it was skillfully transformed during the reign of the Louis XIV into a great architectural statement designed for the glorification of France. Below, the Green Room at Versailles demonstrates the characteristics of this style, with ornate, heavily-carved furniture that includes gold accents, as well as rich fabrics. Walls were usually adorned with large tapestries or paintings in heavy frames.
Furniture featured gilded woodwork, intricate carvings, upholstery with fine fabric like silk and velvet and elaborate decorations such as scrolls or arabesques on both legs and armrests. There was a heavy emphasis on golds, yellows and reds—colors often associated with royalty at that time.
Rococo (1730s-1760s): Rococo is an 18th century style characterized by curved lines and light colors like pastel pinks and greens combined with decorative elements such as shells or flowers. It stands out from other classical designs thanks to its softer color palette, which gives it a more romantic feel than earlier periods. Below, a drawing room at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild located in St-Jean-Cap Ferrat, France is done in the Rococo style.
Asymmetrical shapes were common in Rococo pieces which include chairs (fauteuils), tables (consoles) sofas (canapés). The walls were often adorned with delicate floral patterns or painted in soft pastel shades. Mirrors with elaborate frames and wall sconces provided a sparkle of sophistication, while gilded accents added opulence. Chandeliers dripping with crystals and playful sculptures added to the drama!
Louis XVI (1754-1793) An extension of the Rococo style, Louis XVI style celebrated the king's reign by taking inspiration from classical antiquity. The main characteristics of this furniture were curved lines, delicate carvings and the use of lighter woods such as mahogany. This elegant and luxurious look was in stark contrast to earlier French styles such as Baroque and Regency, which featured heavy ornamentation with dark woods like walnut or ebony. Walls were covered in wallpaper that often depicted scenes from mythology while elaborate chandeliers hung overhead. Paintings depicting historical figures also adorned the walls as well as mirrors in elaborate gold frames. Statues of gods and goddesses could be found throughout the home. Below, a photo of Louis XVI style settee and armchairs at Prideaux Place, a charming historic house in Cornwall, England.
Louis XVI furniture was highly influenced by ancient Greek and Roman designs, featuring neoclassical motifs such as urns, wreaths, swags and laurel leaves. Some pieces also featured classical columns or pilasters for added decoration. Upholstery often used fabric from silk damask to velvet brocade. Colors ranged from pastels to bold shades like red or blue. Louis XVI furniture is still very popular today due to its timeless appeal and elegance.
Directoire (1795–99): Directoire refers to a period after the Revolution when Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor of France until he was deposed in 1814-15. This era saw neoclassical design become popular again but without any excessive ornamentation or decoration—instead using straight lines for structure while keeping comfort in mind.
Upholstered pieces like chaises longues were particularly popular during this time along with mahogany furnishings featuring bronze details such as handles or feet accents.
Empire Style (1804-1814): The Empire style also drew inspiration from the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. The style emerged around 1800 during Napoleon’s rule when he wanted everything grandiose, including his interiors. Platform beds were especially sought after during this era where they could be found adorned with carvings depicting scenes from antiquity. Shown below, the bedroom of Napoleon in the Rohan Palace in Strasbourg, France.
Furniture in the Empire style featured ornate, neoclassical motifs such as eagles, laurel wreaths, and sunbursts. These motifs were also included in wall decorations, draperies, fabrics, and accessories. Large scale pieces crafted from solid mahogany wood combined with luxurious textiles such as velvet make up the Empire look.
Art Nouveau (1890–1910): Developed towards end 19th century/beginning 20th century, Art Nouveau brought about new ideas regarding aesthetics which focused on organic forms rather than traditional geometric ones. Curves were favored and decorative motifs were inspired by nature such as flowers, plants, insects and animals.
Interiors were often decorated with stained glass windows, ceramic tiles with floral patterns and hand-painted wallpapers featuring romantic landscapes. Furniture was made from carved wood with floral designs or curved shapes but also featured use of metals like brass or bronze for added texture and visual interest. Bold colors such as green, purple and blue were typical for this style. Wicker items were used throughout seating areas, providing great contrast against the dark woods usually seen elsewhere throughout these designs.
In conclusion, whether it's the ornate Baroque style, the playful Rococo style, the classical elegance of Louis XVI, or the fluid lines of Art Nouveau, French furniture is renowned for its timeless beauty and elegant designs. Now that you've read this article, you can impress your friends with an encyclopedic knowledge of French furniture styles! From the ornate Louis XIV to the more modern Art Noveau movement, you'll be able to identify different pieces in your own home and appreciate their unique beauty. So go out there and show off your newfound expertise - bonne chance! Don't forget to sign up below so we can keep you in the loop on all our launch, news, blogs, updates!