To understand the French provincial style it pays to know about Louis XV and XVI. I’ll start with Louis XVI because I just love this era. To get a good feel for this style you have only to watch the wonderful Sofia Coppola movie Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst. I don’t buy many DVDs but had to have this one. And while on the subject of movies I bought the Lake House DVD and will buy the Kings Speech why? The wonderful interior design of course.
Louis XVI neoclassic, refined, sophisticated, delicate, symmetrical calm serene interiors
Now back to Louis XVI the style popular during the 1750s to 1790s in France had a great impact around the world. This era saw the revival of ancient Greek and Rome styles. The Neoclassicism period of this time was rich, symmetrical, delicate, refined and gracious. The interiors designed at the time were sophisticated and elegant. The style made rooms appear calm with a sense of serenity.
Acanthus scrolls, rosettes, swags, Greek key motifs,
Classical ornament and motifs of acanthus scrolls, rosettes, swags and Greek key dominated. High ceilings had central medallions and geometric cornices. False doors were placed opposite real doors to achieve symmetry. They were treated in the same way framed with classical orders, cornices and pediments.
Marble, parquet or terra cotta floors, geometric Savonnerie and Aubusson or oriental rugs
Floors were either parquet marble or terra cotta. Carpets were Savonnerie and Aubusson in geometric designs and delicate floral or oriental carpets. The chimneypiece, fireplace surrounds and mantel were understated and graceful. Windows often had shutters. Curtains were made up of rich fabrics, silks, damasks and velvets repeated in upholstery.
Silk wallpaper or boiserie walls
Wallpapers of hand painted silk replaced tapestries. Jean Baptiste Reveillon a French wallpaper manufacturer created vellum wallpaper in 1782 he was also famous for the Papier blue d’Angle terre wallpaper. Also popular was the ornate, intricately carved wood paneling called boiserie. The paneling would be left unpainted or painted or gilded moldings would be added.
Straight, fluted or reeded tapering sabot feet furniture legs
Furniture was slim and linear. Legs were straight fluted or reeded tapering to sabot feet (the gilt-bronze at the bottom of furniture legs). Chairs and sofas had gentle controlled curves with oval, medallion, rectangular or square backs. The seats were wide with timber frames of beech, ash or elm which were painted or gilded.
Furniture bureau a cylinder, bonheur de jour
Furniture was arranged to be in alignment with the walls to create a sense of formality and order. Cabinets and furniture was varied. The bureau a cylindre (roll top desk) and the bonheur de jour (ladies writing desk) were often additions to living rooms.
Commodes small oval square tables with marble tops. Marquetry ormolu decoration
Tables and commodes topped with marble in white or pastel colours with small oval or, square tables were used. The furniture was composed of floral or cube marquetry and ormolu or gilt-bronze mounts shaped as swags or classical figures used as decoration.
Mahogany most popular timber, wrought iron table legs
Mahogany was the most popular timber but satinwood, ebony and tulip woods among others were also used. Wrought iron legs were also used on tables and were often trimmed with steel and brass.
Gelato like pastel colours with white
The colours used during the Louis XVI era were bright pastels. Chandeliers were neoclassical in style designed with a water fall effect. Accessories were usually Grecian urns, gilded clocks with columns and pediments. Candle holders with caryatids (a carving of a draped female figure) were also popular.
If you would like a look at an example of a Louis XVI interior this video Le Petit Trianon Furniture & Interiors shows Marie Antoinette’s house. Note there are Louis VX chairs used with Louis XVI chairs. Also note the use of crisp white with bright pink, the boiserie walls, the shutters and curtains and the mirrors, clocks and candle sticks. Just click on this link http://youtu.be/MSaqhR5BLaQ
In the next blog we will look at the ever popular Louis XV.