The Styles of
French Country Furniture

French Country Furniture exemplifies relaxed yet sophisticated living, referring to a lifestyle rather than a specific period in French history. The style is a mix of antiques drawing from different time periods in France, but more so from the 18th century during the reign of the three King Louis', when country french furniture design was strongly influenced by the courts of Versailles.

The roosters and farm animals, whimsical motifs and functional French country furniture with rough finishes, dates right back to the more primitive time of King Louis XIII and the peasant farmers in Provence and rural France.
Country French Furniture
Antique Shop in Provence, France

Life for the rurals was far simpler and more difficult compared to their affluent countrymen up north closer to the capital of Paris. When France's Golden Age arrived in the 18th century, the peasant farmer's lifestyle remained relatively unchanged, even after the revolution in 1789.


Style Influence Of The Three King Louis'

Let's take a brief look at the various furniture designs which influenced French Country the most during the 18th century and reign of the three kings Louis'.

Baroque

During the reign of Louis the XIV (1643-1715), known today as the Baroque period, the court of Versailles started setting the style for all Europe, and France's golden age of culture and enlightment was born.

Furniture was very masculine, often large, elaborately carved, gilded and decorated.

French Country Furniture

Rococo

Following was Louis XV (1715-1774), known today as the Rococo period. Furniture and interiors were influenced by Louis' mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Salons were softened with fabrics and rounded furniture, as it became fashionable to recline rather than sit bolt upright in a chair. Wood and paneling was lightened with gold embellishments which reflected in mirrors and chandeliers.

Soft pastels were much loved by the beautiful mistress, including damasks and velvets, along with curvy furniture made for comfort, as hospitality and entertaining was of supreme importance to her.


The Rococo period is the most popular today due to its easy style and charm, translating well into modern day interiors.


Louis XVI furniture

Neoclassical

The last reigning king of pre-revolutionary France was Louis XVI (1774-1789). Known today known as the Neoclassical period, furniture from this era is very symmetrical with scaled proportions and geometrical trims.

Styles were also influenced by the popularity of Greco-Roman antiquities due to the discovery of the ancient city of Pompei.

The Golden Age and French Country Furniture

The 18th century was France's golden era, a time when Paris and the courts of Versailles became the leaders of style, manufacturing and exporting furniture throughout Europe. The country towns up north thrived on the commerce of the local industries, resulting in a new up-and-coming wealthier middle class.


It was therefore inevitable that chateau style living would eventually filter down to the middle class - it was here where the pared down furniture of the country would meet the fine embellishments of the chateau.


When furniture seen in Paris was copied by local craftsmen in the rural Provinces of France, mainly Normandy and Bordeaux, a unique and honest country style developed.


Country French furniture was more practical, pared down and less ornate, but still had tremendous style and flair. The ladder back dining room chair is a good example. Although simple in design with its rush seating, it still has a certain air of elegance about it.



The surrounding forests supplied ample timber for artisans who were apprenticed for 6-8 years, resulting in skilled craftsmanship and quality French Country furniture being produced. Included were ladder back chairs, large farm tables, sideboards, carved oak hutches and armoires.


Furniture from woods like beech, walnut, fruit tree and oak were either left natural, in comparison to the highly polished imported mahogany pieces of Paris, or completed in a soft satin finish. Other pieces were either painted in soft pastel colors with stencil motives, limed or color washed.

Designed to fit into the country home, from seating to storage, French country furniture is timeless and just as popular today as it was in the past. Today classic pieces are still being produced by skilled craftsmen in France using the same techniques passed down from generations before.

Modern French Country Furniture

Painted Armoire
Reproduction Armoire from Layla Grace



Many French Country furniture pieces are quite versatile and can be used for various functions in the home. Think of the iconic French Armoire, which can be used in any room from the bedroom, to kitchen and living room.


In the French country home, furniture is chosen with care and never looks as though it has just been placed there, for lack of a better place. The French know how to arrange furniture, giving the impression that each piece was made especially to serve its current funtion and has been standing in its place forever and a day, even though that may not be so.


The French always use their furniture in a functional and relaxed way. Mixing heirloom antiques with new furniture is what they do best, and there is no barrier between the two. Groupings are purposely mismatched as not to define any particular period or style.


The magic of French Country lies in mixing and matching and it is this combination that makes the style so appealing and versatile. Because all antiques are functional, used in a relaxed manner and blended in with new pieces, the style does not feel 'antique' like some traditional styles do, allowing one to create a modern twist as well as a traditional look.


Not all of us are fortunate enough to own antiques, but there is some great reproduction French Country furniture available, like the stunning blue armoire in the image above. Reproduction pieces may not have the history of their authentic antique cousins, but they sure give just as much pleasure.



Introducing the French Country Look:

  • Number one on the list is definitely the versatile Armoire - this spells French Country more than any other piece.
  • Choose simplistic furniture with good lines and curvy, or sensuous legs. Don't go too ornate though.
  • Mix old and new.
  • Lightly distressed furniture gives a 'gently worn with time' look.
  • Keep a sense of harmony and scale.
  • It's easier to mix and match with a neutral palette. Use French Country painted furniture in soft chalky colors or color washes. This way you could still include other pieces in their natural wood state and introduce more color with accessories. This is where the 'feel' of French Country comes in to play more than rules.
  • If painting furniture to create a French Country look, don't paint in a glossy finish but rather a matt sheen or eggshell finish.

P.S.

Bombe Chest

If you are looking to purchase furniture, it may help to know that One Kings Lane offer authentic and unique 'Vintage and Market Finds' online, where I have seen some fabulous pieces on offer.

Go sign up and take a peek to see for yourself, and if you do not find something today, do check again as new arrivals are listed daily.


You can also take a look at some of Amazon's fine examples of French Country reproduction furniture here as seen in the image below.

French country furniture



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