France has long been a nation of art, culture, and style. For just as long, French style has been imitated and sought after. Today, France continues to be thought of as a leading force in fashion and the arts, but perhaps one area that France has influenced more than any other is residential furnishings. French furniture has been admired for centuries for its ornate carving, variety of finishes, and versatility.
When considering French furniture, one should recognize the term encompasses many different periods, emphases, and styles. French furniture can refer to the rich, elaborate styles that characterized the monarchial residences of Paris and the country retreat at the Palace of Versailles, but it also includes the more simple stylings of “French Country”, which came from the rural towns that still dot the French landscape and continue to influence home furnishings in countries throughout the world.
French furniture is a study in contrasts.
The Kingly styles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are intricately carved, with concentration on details, embroidery, and beadwork. Veneers are vital to the royal style of French furniture, featuring softer woods and ivories that yield more easily to various carving tools and and detailing. Hunting and pastoral scenes are popular motifs for the carvings that are featured on overlays, frames, and tapestries. Though in the eighteenth century, palaces and royal residences featured room after room of this opulent style, many of today’s collectors and admirers choose to use the ornate pieces as focal points amidst a room of more simple styles.
French country furniture is less assuming, with clean lines, softer edges, and mellowed finishes.
French country furniture often features painted finishes, rather than highly polished wood veneers, like its French cousin described above. These finishes have mildly weathered or distresses look, and are serviceable in the most heavily used areas of the home, such as family rooms and kitchens.
Today’s decorating rules have changed, allowing a more eclectic approach to interior design that allows for both form and function. Accordingly, French furniture styles can be blended to allow for a beautifully appointed home.
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