The History of French Furniture is as Rich as a French King
Throughout your life, your taste in furniture has probably changed and evolved in as many extremes as your tastes in your romantic partners or a great bottle of fine wine. With French furniture as your new passion in furniture and home décor, you are no doubt interested in learning some of the histories of this unique and classic style. We consider French furniture to be the finest of the “fine wines” in furniture styles, and its rich history definitely backs up that claim.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of French furniture from the middle ages to present-day. It’s quite a fascinating little ride!
French Furniture in Medieval Times – 10th – 15th Centuries
The French furniture of this time directly addressed people’s core needs. In order to shoe away from the cold weather, the people of this time would hang robust and warm draperies on their walls. Most of the French furniture was big and simple. The furniture was mostly made of Oak because of the woods heavyweight – thieves were very common in this time, and the weight of the furniture made it difficult to steal. Another important aspect of this era was the deep and intricate hand carving in much of the furniture.
The Renaissance Period – 1515 – 1560
During this period of history, the skilled French craftsman produced furniture with beautifully carved designs that echoed the Roman stylings of the time. Many of the hand-crafted cabinets would make to look like buildings, with ornate columns and panels.
Louis XIII – 1560 – 1643
This is when the French country furniture era started. The pieces from this era reflect a “city life”, but were crafted for county living.
Louis XIV – 1643 – 1715
The styles of this era reflect luxury. Very heavy carving was popular at this time, including lions, shells, golden leaves, and the sun.
The Time of Regence – 1715 – 1723
Mythological themes from the Orient were the style of this time. Regence French furniture is a still at the top of the list for many collectors.
Louis XV – 1723 – 1774
This was the time that the Martin brothers emerged as innovators. The ornamentation of the Regence time was taken to the next extreme through the use of many extravagancies.
Louis XVI – 1774 – 1792
In this period, eagles, ram’s heads, and dolphins were commonly integrated into the furniture. Also, this was when chairs started to be produced for decorative functions.
Directoire Style – 1793 – 1804
This was the time that Egyptian motifs first emerged in French furniture. It became common to include detailed carvings of sphinxes on beautiful bronze hardware.
French Empire – 1804 – 1814
During the time of Napoleon, French furniture was crafted from heavy very woods (mostly ebony and mahogany) and finished with deep and rich dark finishes. Marble tops started to become very popular, and the Egyptian motifs continued from the previous era.
Restoration Period – 1814 – 1830
After the fall of Napoleon began the “softer” version of the previously mentioned Empire stylings. French furniture makers of the time starting using whimsical and fantasy-based stylings, although they continued to incorporate robust geometry into the furniture.
Louis Phillipe – 1830 -1848
This era sparked the creation of furniture that was in line with the Industrial Revolution. Through more “mass-production” practices, the stylings of the furniture were a bit simpler than previous eras – but it was also very attractive and functional.
As you can see, the history of French furniture is as rich as the beautiful French mahogany end table sitting in your living room. When you continue to dive deeper into the hundreds of years of styles and craftsmanship, we’re sure your collection of fine French furniture will keep growing.
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