A Brief History of French Furniture

French Furniture Timeline

1000 - 1500   Middle Ages
1515 - 1560   Renaissance 
1560 - 1643   Louis XIII  
1643 - 1715   Louis XIV   
1715 - 1723   Regence  
1723 - 1774   Louis XV (Rococo)  
1774 - 1792   Louis XVI 
1793 - 1804   Directoire 
1804 - 1814   Empire
1814 - 1830   Charles
1830 - 1848   Louis Philippe (Sleigh)
1848 - 1870   Second Empire
1870 - 1890   Revival
1890 - 1920   Art Nouveau
1920 - 1940   Art Deco  

At Love French Interiors we love french reproduction furniture. Here we offer our customers a brief historical background into the french furniture styles found in our collections.

Rococo Furniture / Louis XV / Louis Quinze

The name ‘rococo’ is generally accepted as being a combination of the French word ‘rocaille’ (meaning stone) and ‘coquilles’ (meaning shell) due to the reliance on these items as decorative motifs. It may also be derived from the Italian word ‘barocco’ (meaning Baroque) as it is not dissimilar from the popular Baroque style furniture which preceded it.

Characterised by delicate, curved outlines, rock and scallop shell decorations and with asymmetrical details Rococo differs from Baroque which leaned more towards symmetrical details. Rococo furniture is often seen as being in harmony with the excesses seen during the reign of Louis XV. During this period furniture became more ornately decorated and extravagant with wood being painted, enamelled, gilded and carved.

Rococo furniture featured motifs and themes inspired by nature including fish, birds, rocks, shells, waves, wheat, flowers etc although the Rococo style featured more heavily in paintings and architecture than it did in furnishings.

The Rococo period was from 1730-1760  although in its later years it became perhaps too decadent with little or no symmetry and extensive decoration. The discovery of the ancient city of Pompeii in 1748 led to a classical revival and more simple designs which led to the decline of the Rococo style.

However, the Rococo furniture style is once again very popular today. As each piece is intricately carved from solid wood (ours are all mahogany) Rococo furniture is often rightly seen as an investment that will last a lifetime. Whether you choose a Rococo bed or Rococo mirror or Rococo armoire or Rococo dressing table/hall table you are always assured of having a stunning focal point.  

Louis XVI

Louis XVI furniture is characterised by simple construction and design with flowing scrolls and rectangular spaces. This period was notable for the return of symmetry, straight lines and classical ornamentation. Gone were the ornate mouldings of the Rococo era although gilding and enamel finished were still popular.

The increasing desire for luxury during the Louis XVI era led to new decorative finishes. The most exclusive pieces incorporated panels of Chinese or Japanese lacquer or were mounted with decorative panels produced by the royal porcelain factory.  

Sleigh Furniture

Originally known in France as a “lit bateaux” Sleigh beds bear more than a passing resemblance to a horse drawn sleigh – hence their name today. Sleigh beds are ornate beds of various sizes (single, double, king and queen sized) featuring curved headboards and footboards which may be of differing heights.

Popularised by Louis Philippe in 18th Century France the sleigh style soon spread around Europe and then across to America. Originally sleigh beds were primarily owned by the upper classes as they were very ornate and therefore expensive. Traditionally made from wood, sleigh beds are made today from iron, steel, aluminium, leather, upholstery or wood and can feature taller headboards and shorter footboards if required.

Before this period furniture had always been sold as individual pieces but with the Industrial Revolution came the desire for furniture sets for the bedroom and dining room. As machine tools became more widespread the ‘rounded corner’ design and ‘rounded shape’ became a more popular style that lasted for many years. The style of this period took influences from all the designs of the past and made them functional to suit the bourgeois class lifestyles.

Our sleigh beds are based on traditional styles and are hand carved from solid mahogany. Our range of sleigh furniture complements the bed and completes the bedroom. Our sleigh furniture collection includes sleigh bedside cabinets and chests, sleigh wardrobes/armoires and sleigh dressing tables.

Country French Style

The Country French style refers more to a way of life than it does a historical period. It is influenced by all the past eras and represents relaxed country living – thses designs are found in country homes throughout France from the North to the South. Typical examples are large farm tables with ladderback chairs, cabinets, sideboards and armoires - all in various finishes.

This style is so well loved throughout France that it never goes out of style. As long as the style emits warmth and comfort it will continue to be a practical and visual delight.

The above covers the general characteristics of the furniture styles in our collections but, of course, many styles overlapped. Furniture designs were first developed in Paris and then filtered down to various regions country wide, sometimes not arriving until many years later. Different provinces had their own individual styles as well. One example being Alsace which favoured painted ornate furniture. Designs were also influenced by the climate, types of wood locally available and economic factors but they all had one thing in common – an original influence by the Royal court at Paris.

Whatever your taste in French furniture, Love French Interiors offers collections that are all stunningly beautiful, are created by hand to traditional styles and are built to last a lifetime. We hope you enjoy browsing our french furniture collections!