18th-century Style French Furniture

The 18th century in France. An era of revolution, change of political ideologies, but also clashes in fashion, and design. The 18th century saw the rise and fall of Louis XIV’s reign and the lavish luxury trends it established. Throughout the following years, the country has prosperity and crisis to eventually transform. 

Once a vivid monarchy ruled by political absolutism and economic repression, by the end of 1789 royal grandeur, fashion, architecture, and art became bygone.

French interior design and furniture during the era are a result of the fascinating blend of the Sun King style, the Regence influence, followed by Rococo, Neoclassical style, and the rebellious directoire style. 

Furniture pieces created are splendid and exciting. Units demonstrate impressive craftsmanship, skills ,and devotion. French furniture during the 18th century sets fashion trends beyond French society but also throughout Europe. Modern fashion trends and french interior design have gone a long way but no other country in the world influenced cat walks and museums as France.

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Craft And Craftsmen of French Furniture

Styles and trends underwent constant change. Furnishing evolved. To be as a craftsman in the early 18th century meant dedication and years of practice. 

To be recognised by the Parisian guild for furniture makers also known as Corporation des Minuisiers, ine need no less than 6 straight years of tuition followed by firm guild standards and regulation.

Starting three years for initial apprenticeship and another three to prepare a masterpiece chef-d’œuvre and graduate. Only after completing this task with a divine work of art, one could progress from a journeyman to a master and open a furniture store. 

And that is where hard work starts. 

You had to always present and offer a finest and elegant product. A committee of elected members estimated each piece of furniture. If it had the desired comfort and aesthetics, a certification stamp made it eligible for sale. 

Committees were strict, demanding and if a bureau, a cabinet, a chair, and etc., didn’t meet high-end requirements, it became a property of the guild.

Famous Craftsmen of 18th Century French Furniture

A couple of groups of French furniture makers are active during the early and late 18th century.

A notable group is the one of the Menuisiers, whose work was to create large and ominous wood furniture. The ébénistes, more responsible for details, covered the furniture with a decorative layer of fine wood. Another group is the artisans Libres – mostly foreigners with imagination and avant garde ideas, who design and create freely, by themselves, not under the guild’s control and impact. We should also mention also the Royal Cabinetmakers. Their concepts were admired the royal court so they were given the chance to care for royal interior of the Palace, The Louvre.

The Age of Louis XIV The “Sun King” and The Regence

During his ruling, furnishing undergoes a change in having several uses to single-purpose pieces. It’s when artists like Andre Charles Boulle and Jean Charles Lebrun become popular.

The style of Louis XIV the Sun King is known for lavish use of high-quality wood such as walnut, ebony, and oak, also luxury alloys of gold, brass, silver, pewter, and more.

Aesthetics and lifestyle Gentlemen’s Zone shares that console tables, bureaus, desks, wall and ceiling decorations like chandeliers, ornament-rich mirrors and candle tree holders, chairs with “sabot de biche” legs grow in popularity. Rich decorations originate from motifs based on myths, nature, war, and of course the Sun. 

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A distinctive signature of the Regence is the use of adornments such as geometric figures, human-like heads, bats, monkeys, scallop shells, peacock feathers. Plants are essential for decoration, too. Common is the use of palm leaves and sunflowers.

Al this beauty is covered in bronze. An exquisite view in the palaces that sink in splendour. Furniture in the 18th century depicts the shift to a more intimate, comfortable, and elegant lifestyle.

The Asymmetry of Louis XV’s Monarchy

Louis XV’s reign is when French culture blooms. Excitement, feelings, pleasures prevail. As an addition, the artistic Rococo style arises in the design. Curved lines, asymmetry, unevenness are its main features. 

France, as a culture centre, welcomes resident and foreign furniture makers, like The Caffieris, Oeben, who craft comfortable, movable, and functional furnishing, yet still elegant and sophisticated. 

Demand for high-class wood such as oak, walnut, cherry, and others took woodworkery business to an art where the condition and growth factor of age defined how much a log piece can earn. New pieces of furniture such as chiffoniers, dressing tables, and escritoires for the ladies, are designed with complex serpentine lines and figures. 

During the Rococo era, decoration comes in first place with its exotic and oriental ornaments, floral and dolphin motifs, female faces. Marquetry as and additional form of decoration is widely used.

“In my view, you must either do away with ornament – or make ornament the essence. It’s not something you add. It’s not icing on a cake. It’s everything – or it’s nothing.” – Jean-Antoine Watteau.

Louis XVI and The Come Back of Classics

Compared to the one from the previous periods, the furniture during this era is more simple and plain and has subtle elegance. This is the time of many archaeological expeditions, travels to Italy, Greek – lands, rich of relics, treasures and monuments, that influence the new Louis XVI style, also called The Neoclassical style. 

It represents a return to classical antiquity and during this period craftsmen’s inspirations are ancient Rome and Athens. They go back to craft items with proportional, balanced, and aligned forms with clean shapes while decorating with flora, fauna, lacquer, showing that marquetry  lives. The famous creator Boulle and his work during Louis XIV’s reign is bright royal cabinetmaker. 

The Rococo’s sinuous and curving elements give place to straight lines, right angles, flat surfaces. Old and new materials come together, too. For instance, ebony is used anew for chairs with linear legs and mahogany dining tables with refined elements become more and more common.

According to Recliner Life luxury modern sofas, couches and similar seating was established from no other than French furniture designers.

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Directoire (1789–1805)

These are years of riots, despoliation, decadence. However, while the French revolution is at peek, but furniture making doesn’t stop. On the contrary, artisans receive countless orders. Quick execution is amongst the clients’ demands.

Still, the on-going situation causes a replacement of the past years’ sumptuousness and luxury with not so extravagant and luxury furnishing..So, the pieces of furniture are mainly meant to seat – chairs, settees, daybeds are clean, smooth, simple, not lavish. 

France – stylish taste and, a sense of chic and affection remain. All 18th century french furniture is worthy of admiration. It has a crucial role in modern Parisian apartment decor and French interior design.

Remarks,

The 18th-century french furniture time has undergone a huge diversity while at the same time has kept rustic and individual features and details. It is a reflection of the country’s state and its ups and downs. Regardless of French furniture crafted during the century is one of the most beautiful ever made and has influenced the beginning of many other remarkable movements throughout time.

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18th-century Style French Furniture
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18th-century Style French Furniture
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A brief history and overview of 18th century French style furniture with mentions of Louis XVI, Louis XV & Louis XIV lavish luxury French interior design
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Homes Direct 365
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