The French influence on food, fashion and furniture is unmatched. From chateaus and castles to bijous apartments and villas, the history and romantic allure are hard to resist. We’ve escaped to the chateaux and now it is time to go regal and explore the antique furniture lineage that characterised the reigns of three iconic French Kings.
No matter how minimalist or simple your design personality may be, there is a deep longing in each of us to own a decadent piece of French antique furniture that is just a touch OTT and super-luxurious.
From the ornamental and cluttered interiors of Versailles, the reigns of Louis XIV, XV and XVI lasted from 1643 to 1793 (when Marie Antoinette lost her head), giving us a design legacy that speaks to French culture, imperialism and political power. Antique lovers are grateful that furniture design and influence from this period has lived on, gracing interiors.
“You can see the influence of the Kings Louis in Art Nouveau, Art Deco, multiple Victorian revivals and even in 20th-century designs.” – Dennis Harrington, head of Sotheby’s English and European Furniture Department.
When it comes to the three Louis’, it is all about the chairs. So let’s familiarise ourselves with the basics of their signature styles and explore exactly what makes antique furniture chairs and sofas, named after these kings, so desirable:
Louis XIV – The Sun King
Louis XIV-style antique chair designs are a reflection of the Sun KIng’s obsession with power, influence and style. The chairs are grand in scale, sumptuous and symmetrical. Even with the addition of upholstery, they are quite masculine and throne-like. Louis XIV’s reign is referred to as “Le Grand Siècle” (the Great Century), and the high linear backs, rectangular designs, elaborate carvings and strong arms and legs are associated with a monarch who favoured absolute power.
If you are able to get your hands on an antique Louis XIV chair, add some opulent drama by letting it take pride of place as a head dining room chair or a gentleman’s chair in a study or whisky room.
Louis XV – The Beloved
Instead of power, Louis the XV pursued pleasure. He moved his court from Versailles to Paris and the chair designs reflected the more intimate social settings of the nobility.
The scale of the chairs was much smaller and the designs more fluid with gently curved lines and slightly asymmetrical and decorative meandering floral carvings, mouldings, gilding and s-shaped cabriole legs. To satisfy the Nobility’s craving for comfort and upholstery, seat springs were added and upholstery had a lighter, feminine charm. The romance and comfort of a Louis XV chair is a delightful addition to any boudoir or sitting room.
Louis XVI – The Restorer
Louis XVI-style antique chairs celebrate neoclassical style. As the French were influenced by the Enlightenment, they started venturing beyond Paris and frivolity was set aside.
Furniture styles of this era started mirroring neoclassical architecture, emphasizing straight lines, geometric forms and classical motifs. Chairs still retained the smaller scale of Louis XV’s influence, but the backs of Canapé sofa settees evolved into controlled arcs instead of the voluptuous curves from the previous era. Chair legs were tapered and fluted in the style of a Roman column, and Greek palmettes replaced carved flowers.
The clean aesthetic and elegant pared-back ornamentation of Louis XVI chairs and sofas fit any interior design narrative. Your home deserves a few of these beautiful accent statement pieces.
The Crown Collection – The royal treatment
There is no doubt as to the enduring appeal of any of the Louis-style chairs. As an Antique furniture lover, it is worth it to say you own one.
For those who love and appreciate all things French-inspired, sourcing quality antique furniture, tapestries, chandeliers and objet d’art is literally on your South African online doorstep at the Crown Collection.
Visit us in-store at 20 Ballyclare Drive Bryanston or shop online and have your order delivered to your door.