The French people are famous for the finest things in life, from fine wine to fine furniture, from the Eiffel Tower to the fields of Provence, that spans hundreds of years of impeccable style.When identifying age old French furniture, it matters who was ruling France at that particular time.
The style of each king differentiated his reign from the others, and the French furniture design follows the time periods associated directly with the reign of a particular king, military leader or politician. Napoleon Bonaparte, for instance, ruled the French Empire (First French Empire) between 1804 and 1814. During his time, he let the furniture makers design the massive art elements to express the power and greatness of France. Most French Empire furniture had many pieces with big dimensions and plenty of decorative elements, which were included to make furniture look stunning and glorious.During the reign of the French kings between 1610 and 1792,
Louis XIII, XIV, XV and XVI, also known as the "Fab Four," had a huge influence on the arts and worlds of fashion and decor. Each King Louis had his own signature style of furnishings that defined his time and made its mark on the rest of the world. In general, you can identify the four Louis reigns by following a simple pattern:Louis XIII furnishings were a push to create more elaborate furniture than that of the Renaissance Era.Louis XIV furniture grew more elaborate.Louis XV furnishings were even more intricate than that of the Louis XIV reign.Louis XVI furniture designs became moderated and grew more conservative.
During King Louis XVI’s reign, between 1760 and 1789, tastes changed from the Rococo style, known for curved lines and heavy ornamentation, to clean, straight lines. Recognizing the styles, characteristics and motifs of Louis XVI era furniture will help you create an extraordinary classic space, either home decor or office space, that matches your aspiration and vision of the culture. We have identified the 15 characteristics of Louis XVI era furniture in this article.
1. The most popular of the Louis styles today, Louis XVI furniture emphasized on straighter lines and right angles, seriousness, logical design and more classically inspired motifs, complement contemporary interiors. The structure of Louis XVI furniture evolved into a more linear and rectangular style, giving up the ostentatious curves and bows of the previous Louis styles.
2. Instead of the cabriole leg of the Régence and Louis XV periods, a straight, tapered and often fluted leg was preferred. The legs were either being reeded, turned and fluted or turned and spiral.
3. Classicism returned. In contrary to the Rococo of Louis XV which came to be thought of as frivolous, the Louis XVI style offered fine and dainty appearance, and in many cases the pieces were smaller.4. Changed dramatically from the two previous periods, ornament became far more subtle. The depictions were of cherubs, nymphs, birds, nymphs and pastoral scenes.
5. Ornament – Ancient objects such as vases and urns, human faces, flora and fauna remained popular decorative motifs, as well as architectural motifs such as fluting and columns. Intricate floral designs and marquetry were banded by geometrical trims and surrounded by oval or round medallions. Moulding, painted wood, gold leaf and rosette carvings atop legs were common.
6. Bisymmetric balance returned.
7. Materials – Different materials such as oak, mahogany, walnut, ash, ebony, porcelain, copper, steel, marble, and bronze were used for Louis XVI furniture. Mahogany was the wood of preference.The preferred marble was white, gray or sometimes red with veining.Small and finely detailed bronze fittings were applied symmetrically as corner ornaments, shoes, handles and key plates to almost all Louis XVI furniture.
8. Colors – In an attempt to show their understanding of the resentment of the common French people, the rich people began to favor furniture that was less frivolous. Thus, the colors of Louis XVI furniture tended toward the pastels with lots of neutrals, which was different from the previous eras.
9. Furniture was often painted. Lacquer and Martin varnish were used. In fact, more furniture was painted during the Louis XVI era than any other period.
10. Tables – Mostly made from mahogany and fruitwood, tables were round, oval, square, rectangular, or kidney-shaped. The table legs are straight and often tapered, and the aprons are intricately decorated.
11. Chairs – Chairs of the period were made solely for decorative purposes rather than comfort or function. They mostly had straight legs that are often fluted and tapered. The backs of chairs were also straight and upright. They featured oval backs and square backs although lyre or vase shaped backs were also common. There is also ornamentation at the corners under the seat known as die joins which were usually carved with rosettes, flowers, painted or gilded.
12. Upholstery – As in the two previous eras, upholstery fabrics were mostly brocade but with smaller and quieter designs.
13. Desks – The two most common types of desk in this era were: The bureau plat: a flat-top desk featuring straight, often fluted legs and a rectangular top. The ornamentation typically featured copper or bronze moulding on the drawer panels and aprons.The secrétaires à abattant: fall-top secretaries which were tall, cabinet-like pieces that had a desk panel that pulled down.
14. Cabinets – Flat surfaces on cabinets were often framed by straight or parallel borders rather than ornament.15. Commodes and Chests – Similar to chairs, commodes and chests have clean, square edges and lines. The legs are straight and occasionally tapered. The fronts often feature bronze fittings while the ends are flat.
Final Thought The new decorative style among elites during King Louis XVI’s reign was to replace the fussy elegance of ceremonial rooms and town houses of large cities with small, rustic retreats. As the furniture was made with expensive materials and favored a more rustic feeling than previous eras, Louis XVI furniture is one of the best classic furnishings to express your high living standard in a more delicate and contemporary mean.