Raise the bar with these classics

Furniture

Raise the bar with these classics

Baroque and rococo furniture pieces, which include glass-door cabinets, elaborately-carved beds, bureaus, headboards and armoires, are flying off the shelves, thanks to their timeless appeal, observes Nivedita Choudhuri

You can now say oui to pretty French style for la boudoir. In the past few years, French furniture has become a very strong market. It is really on the upswing. Design is so sparse right now that the delightful frivolity of French furniture makes for a beautiful contrast.

Baroque and rococo furniture, in particular, are in vogue today and are flooding the market. The baroque style of furniture was first introduced during the reign of King Louis XIV in France. It was this king who introduced a new style of opulence in the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre. This new style was replicated by his followers and became known as baroque. King Louis XIV (1638-1715), who famously said ‘L ’etat c’est moi’ (‘I am the state’), was a powerful leader and consolidated France’s position in Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The furniture (baroque) that first made its appearance during this time copied the king’s power in style.

Baroque is a classical style and combines grandeur and impressive design styles with a sense of power and elegance. Any piece of baroque furniture automatically demands attention and evokes awe from people who are lucky enough to have it in their homes.

The style itself used great expressions and gestures and helped to create pieces of baroque furniture that produced drama, exuberance and tension on a grand scale. They were sturdy pieces that could withstand even the clumsiest of owners and this was developed to match the sturdiness of the king, but the drama and tension that were created by such pieces were to match everything that the king loved.

Some outstanding pieces of baroque furniture were created by well-known cabinetmaker and pioneer of marquetry André Charles Boulle (1642-1732) and they were a combination of unusual forms which were embellished with inlays made of combined metals, tortoise shell and ebony designs that reflected the beauty of the creative and imaginative ideas of the craftsman.

The furniture had beautifully gilded columnar legs that served as support for the tables, chairs and chests. The gilded carvings and the general presentation of the furniture made it look as if the basics of its construction were imported from Roman frescoes.

Glass-doored cabinets were popular items of furniture during King Louis XIV’s reign. Well-heeled patrons had them installed in their homes so that they could display their proudest trophies and treasured possessions. Baroque mirrors, decorated with magnificent and elaborate designs of foliage, and elaborately-carved beds were also admired.

Baroque furniture is very much in demand, as designing sturdy and striking but detailed furniture makes for timeless classics that will always have a following. It is not a style that can be matched with any home; it has a presence of its own and is certainly not for those who consider themselves to be fainthearted!

Rococo magic

Furniture from the era of King Louis XV (1715-1744) is known as the rococo style of furniture. The term rococo is a combination of the French word rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or baroque. The baroque style had flourished under the previous king, Louis XIV. It was characterised by strong, dramatic and symmetrical forms. With the change of monarch came a change of style.

The rococo style began to exhibit delicate and playful natural forms, particularly shell and wave-like motifs that were often seen on the legs of armoires (wardrobes), tables and chairs. It had earthy elements in its whimsical marquetry (the art of inlaying different pieces of wood and natural materials to create pictures). Seashells and foliage were also often carved onto beds and into the frames of mirrors. The designs were mostly framed with ‘ormolu’ (gilded bronze).

Rococo furniture was extremely comfortable and appealing. The designs were not too heavy in pattern or over the top. Inherent in the designs was a sense of class and grandeur.

Another characteristic was that the pieces of furniture could be moved easily. The furniture was made to be movable and was often employed even in outside assemblies. Some specific pieces of furniture included the fauteuil chair and the voyeuse chair.

Characteristics like detachable arms and detachable cushions were utilised which had never been encountered earlier. Likewise, for the first time, the furniture was not attached to walls. Mostly, solid mahogany wood was used as a visible material for the most part because of its strength and lasting ability.

The rococo style began to fall out of favour in the 1760s when influential figures such as the writer and philosopher Voltaire began to criticise it for being superficial and representing a degenerate society. By 1780, rococo had gone out of fashion in France.

Back in demand

Rococo furniture is again in demand in today’s society and this high demand has bred a group of specialist suppliers. Commodes, bureaus, headboards, chaise lounges (upholstered sofas), armoires, bombe chests (chests of drawers) are flying off the shelves. Now considered to be an investment, pieces of rococo furniture are intricately done and can form breathtaking centrepieces for any home whether that be a rococo chair or an extravagant rococo mirror.

To see rococo furniture, visit your local antique store or step in to a furniture store. This is a timeless piece of art and comfort that you will fall in love with. The romantic and whimsical designs will bring a lavish style of sophistication and elegance to your home decor.

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