A look at the 4 most popular furniture styles/2019-08-28/0 Comments
From French to Contemporary and From Classic to Industrial – a look at the 4 most popular furniture styles
It’s fair to say that furniture styles have changed over the centuries; from the ornate, hand-carved, gilded pieces from the reigns of the King Louis’, to the post-war need to cut away the excess in life (and indeed furniture), opting for a more refined and sleek style, sourcing materials for practicality rather than decadence.
In this blog, we’ll be running through the main features and design differences between arguably the 4 most popular styles in furniture.
The French furniture style is one of the most recognisable styles in the world, but is also the most evolved, too. The French furniture style has changed drastically since its rise to prominence in the 16th century, with thanks to ever-changing socio-political movements of the kings, the revolutionaries and the emperors.
During the reigns of both King Louis XIII and before him, his father, King Henry IV, was when the typical French furniture style was born. Opting for a more architectural and geometric look with thicker and bigger motifs, unlike the style that would be to follow. The austere economic situation of France at this time was mirrored in its furniture style using materials such as oak, pine, walnut and metal.
Looking for a definition of decadence and opulence? Look no further than the Palace of Versailles. The person responsible for this – King Louis XIV. Referring himself as the Sun King, he spared no expense in cementing his position as France’s leader by birth right. This is probably most relevant in the style of furniture in his 72-year reign. Unlike his father and grandfather, Louis XIV wanted his furniture to flaunt his wealth, favouring ornamental motifs from mythology, war and nature. Materials included pewter; ebony; silver; tortoise-shell; and mother-of-pearl. We can thank Louis XIV for the commode and the console table.
Let’s skip a few periods now to take a look at the Directoire style. This style came about from the collapse of the French monarchy, focussing on Neoclassical styles, taking inspiration from the Roman Republic to mirror the country’s new turn towards democracy. What better way to influence the new French democratic government than by adorning their parliamentary buildings with furniture inspired by the greatest era of democracy? This style takes design influence from the columns and balustrades of the Roman forum, with less ornate decorations to compliment the political climate. Materials used for this furniture style range from beech and walnut, to copper and brass.
In the late 19th century, French furniture went back to its roots. Famous designers such as Gaudi, Mucha and Bugatti began designing furniture with inspiration drawn from nature, such as vines, branches and insects to name a few, but with a contemporary twist. This style is now known as Art Nouveau. Commonly made from hardwoods such as walnut, oak and teak, often using decorative inlays of other hardwoods to make eye-catching designs, Art Nouveau furniture was the first style of French furniture to be produced in quantity in factories, using what we would now call ‘normal’ methods.
The last major French furniture design style is no other than Art Deco. Originating in Paris in 1925, the style lends its name to Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, from which it was first exhibited as a representation of Modernism turned into fashion. Designed as a way to show off wealth and sophistication as per its predecessors, this time opting for a sleeker and streamlined composition with geometric shapes incorporated throughout, using materials such as Bakelite, moulded glass, jade, ebony and obsidian. Some often view Art Deco as an advancement from Art Nouveau. But in fact, much like the styles of Louis XIV, Art Deco took inspiration from the ancient Egyptians, Native Americans and nature. As is often seen in Art Deco style furniture and sculptures, the interpretation of sun rays is prevalent in many pieces such as the lobby relief in the Empire State Building.