How Louis XIV inspired a generation of furniture

Posted on 1st June 2011 in French Designers, Furniture Designers

Louis XVI, along with his wife Marie Antoinette, helped usher in a new period of furniture design called the Louis XVI style. What exactly what this modern furniture style and where did it originate? To start, you have to consider the design period prior to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was a more Rococo-influenced furniture design period.

Rococo, which is considered late Baroque, was even more heavily ornamented and full of overlays and intricate designs as royalty and nobility used these unique furniture designs to signify their wealth and the ostentatious displays were perfectly acceptable. This style was softer, more feminine, but also much more ornate. Chairs with solid carvings and rich fabrics overlaid on the seats. Tables with gold inlays and rich in marquetry dominated the time period. Rococo is described as whimsical, floral, unsymmetrical, off-balance, off-color and ornate, carved designs. By the time Louis XVI’s predecessor passed on the throne, modern furniture and interior designers had already taken a turn towards simpler furniture designs and only needed a slight nudge to continue in that direction.

The new king of France and his wife helped usher in a return to cleaner, simpler designs with basic ornamentation, but a stronger lack of ostentatious ornamental overlay on the tables and chairs. The duo readily lived the simpler life and regularly resisted fancier interior designs and ornate furnishings for their suite.

Much of the furniture was made out of wood and still had ornate hints such as fancy handles on a cabinet, but the cabinet was bare of intricate overlay. As generations were used to utilizing the emblem motif, this was a hard feature to relinquish. Furniture was made with straight tapered legs and mahogany was in high demand. Oval back chairs with material padding in the back and bottom were popular with curved arms extending out, attached to the base of the chair. Nice fabrics were popular here, but these chairs tended to be more for ornamentation than pure comfort (those these days they are made much more comfortable with modern technology).

Louis XVI brought furniture back to a realistic level that is still popular today and its rustic influence is still felt today in American designs and in wood designs around the world. Lines became straighter and what was once seen as a wonton expression of ornamentation became a cleaner, more modest look for modern home furniture design.

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