French Antique Furniture

France is one of those countries that can brag about a long and rich art history. This includes the decorative art of furniture making. Different furniture styles were influenced by many different styles of Europe, but there was also a distinct French style to antique French furniture. One of the things that influenced these styles and designs were the taste of the king reigning at the time, and also political influences.

During the middle ages it is safe to say that French furniture was relatively large and crude. This was also the case much through out Europe. The designs of these furniture’s reflected the Gothic style which happened between the 13th and 15th centuries. The various designs became more elegant as time went by without losing the geometry of Gothic style furniture.

It was during this time that floral and animal based designs became popular. It was not until the renaissance period that furniture design seems to have really taken off. This happened after the 15th century. This is when artisans took relatively plain looking furniture and turned them into pieces of art.

Not only that, they started to make them bigger. The idea was to create furniture that was both very ornamental as well as more practical to use. They used carvings to make them look ornamental. Another major influence in ornamentation was the use of Greek and Roman art on the furniture. You start to see more and more mythological characters being added to them. Italian artists were also a big influence. Decorations such as carvings of leaves and vines became prominent. You will also find the colors to be more pastel influenced.

It was during this time when craftsmen became more selective with the woods they used. Oak, ebony and walnut became the preferred woods. In the 17th century, perhaps the greatest influence on French furniture was Louis 14th. His style was very opulent in nature. The ornamentation became very rich and complex. He was after all the “sun king” therefore the main decoration became the sun. Innovations such as the bureau plat and commode came about during this time.

Next came the so called the Regence style of furniture. This started to happen in the beginning of the 18th century. The most distinguishing features of French furniture during this time are the fluidity of design. The polished or guilt bronze leftover from Louis 14th era was abundantly used. Precious wood veneer was also widely used. Classic floral motifs became more stylized.

This type of furniture dominated French house holds for the rest of 18th century. During this time furniture making was very productive and being as creative as possible was the norm. Gold also became a popular paint color and newer lacquer techniques were also introduced during this time. The 19th century saw the rise of Directoire style of furniture. The main difference of this style compared to its predecessors, was its simplicity. Again it was political influences that influenced this style, namely the French revolution. The design became more geometric and rectilinear. The ornamentation also became more simplistic but retained the previous influence of floral and wreath patterns. During this time more exotic wood from various French colonies started to be used such as teak and mahogany.

The end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, we see art Nouveau being introduced into French furniture design. With these, natural forms and styles made a comeback. Furniture such as chairs, tables and benches became more artistic. The designer was free to let lose his imagination when creating these articles. This is also when art deco became an alternative to art nouveau. The style tended to be straight lines rather than curves.

Buying French antique furniture is not too difficult, provided one does proper research before doing so. The internet is full of websites that claim to have authentic antique furniture. This is not something one buys readily over the internet; therefore one must do proper homework before going forward with something like this.