It has to be said that the French really have mastered the art of style and elegance, and they’ve done so in an array of areas of life. From fine cuisine and delectable wines to exquisite fashion and of course glorious art and architecture, it’s a culture that compels you to indulge your senses.
The senses can also be indulged when it comes to French inspired interior design. Style seems to naturally radiate from the French home, where striking furnishings adorned with highly decorative and creative features make for magnificent focal points.
The wonderful thing about French interior style is how it spanned several generations, with each period boasting its own distinctive look.
If you are looking to create a French inspired look in your home, you may find it useful to familiarise yourself with the various different periods so that you can understand and pick out the particular styles that appeal most to your tastes. Our French furniture history timeline that follows will help you do just that.
Medieval Period: 10th – 15th Centuries
Whether you call them the Gothic years, or Romanesque times, this was a pretty dire period for most. Furniture was purposely simple and large and made of solid woods such as oak so as to ward off thieves. Deep hand carvings adorned some pieces and reflected the architecture of the religious buildings.
French Renaissance Period: 1515 – 1560
Renaissance furniture typically oozes Roman and Greek influences. Gifted French cabinetmakers would show off their skills by deeply carving ornate designs and creating works of art that resembled architectural features like balustrades and columns evocative of coliseums and temples.
Louis XIII Period: 1560 – 1643
We’re well known for our writings about Louis XIV and Louis XV, now it’s the turn of Louis XIII. This was really the beginning of the emerging middle class, and it was a movement that was beginning to demand more elaborate styles of furniture. In the country, people were demanding rustic, practical furnishings, but they wanted the style of the city. And so French Country style was born.
Louis XIV Period: 1643 – 1715
Louis XIV: the most eminent King of France. His renowned Palace of Versailles to this day illustrates his passion for the arts, and as you would expect, the furniture of this period is just as illustrious as the King himself. Gold leaf, scalloped shells, intricate marquetry, elaborate carvings, lordly lions and rays of sunshine are all amongst the tell-tale symbolism that depicts the furniture of this era.
Regency Period: 1715 – 1723
As the tight reins of Louis XIV style subsided, so the influence of his predecessor took precedence, much to the delight of French craftsmen who were now much freer and open in their design work. Dragons, shells and flowers were the carvings of preference, and mythological and oriental themes became popular. It was a light-hearted, romantic period and the furniture soon gathered popularity across Europe. Regency furniture to this day remains a favourite amongst antique style aficionados.
Louis XV Period: 1723 – 1774
The empowerment of women during this time led to furniture gaining a more feminine form. Intriguing secret compartments and drawers, roll-top desks and nature inspired motifs were all notable features of this period. Oriental lacquers, hand painting, striking wood veneers and marquetry all took their place and the lavishness of the ornamentation was cranked up several notches.
Louis XVI Period: 1774 – 1792
The features of this period really are very standout. The marquetry became even more intricate. Sculptures would depict dolphins and eagles as well as rams’ heads. Trims were geometrical in style, but the feminine feel was still very much apparent. Floral adornments and dainty, ornate carvings emanated a distinctly ladylike quality.
Do you love French furniture as much as we do? Are you looking to replicate one of the most popular historic styles? If so, why not take a look at our French furniture collections at Casa Unique?