By author: Betty Lou Phillips
Product Code: 50807
Gibbs Smith, publisher 2001
Betty Lou Phillips is the author of the award-winning Villa Décor, plus The French Room, Inspirations from France and Italy, The French Connection, Secrets of French Design, Unmistakably French, French Influences, French by Design, and Provençal Interiors. A professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers, her work has appeared in Southern Accents, Traditional Home, Decorating, Bedroom & Bath, Window & Wall, Paint Décor, and more. Additionally, she has appeared on the Christopher Lowell Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show. She lives in Dallas, Texas.
Mention the French and most minds overflow with symbols of their panache: sensuous velvets, leopard prints, toile, silk taffeta curtains, deep bullion trim, and eighteenth-century furnishings. The truth is, it is difficult not to fall under the influence of the French, whose uncommon grace is inherent in everything they do.
Following on the heels of Provençal Interiors: French Country Style in America and French by Design, in French Influences, Betty Lou Phillips delves into the world of design français once again, illustrating through lavish color photography how, room by room, French elegance remains the crème de la crème.
From living rooms to kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms, media rooms, gardens, and baths, French Influences reveals the means for creating French-style rooms in the home. Furniture, linens, floor coverings, window treatments, accessories, color palettes, lighting fixtures, and antiques inspired by their rich cultural heritage, including rock-crystal chandeliers, Aubusson rugs, exquisite tapestries, feather-filled armchairs, and painstakingly carved armoires are all part of this style. And the resource guide makes it possible for anyone to locate these objets d’art and decorate à la français, creating a gracious mingling of old-world charm and ease.
Author of Provençal Interiors: French Country Style in America and French by Design, Betty Lou Phillips is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Her design work has appeared in such publications as Southern Accents, Bedroom, Bath & Wall, and Decorating, and has also graced many magazine covers. Additionally, her design talents were featured in an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She lives in Dallas, Texas.
Table Of Contents : Contents-Acknowledgments-Introduction-Making a World of Difference-The American Way with French Style- Reflections of Good Taste – Fluent French- French Class- Unmistakably French- Vive la France!- Garden Shows- designer’s Notebook
EXTRAIT (p. 55 et s.)
Historic French Style
The 18th century is thought by some to be the most elegant era in European history, with French furniture from this period singled out for praise. Oblivious to the political and social turmoil that once surrounded it, French furniture radiates luxury and commands a loyal following among antique dealers, decorators, and collectors who appreciate fine craftsmanship and have the means to buy it.
At the century’s beginning, Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil (the Sun King), ruled France from the Palace of Versailles, built in the mid-17th century and awe-inspiring in its magnificence. In homage to this showhouse, the king’s maître ébéniste (chief cabinetmaker) Andre-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) laboriously fashioned the finest woods into regal inlaid furniture, baroque in its elaborateness.
As if exhibiting proof of the court’s unassailable wealth and authority, intricate ivory, tortoise shell, and brass, or mother of pearl was veneered into marquetry patterns. Rich ormolu, or gilded bronze moldings and medallions, further defined elegance, offering bold standards for royal palaces throughout Europe while enticing the French aristocracy to mirror the king’s extravagances.
One needed a title, however, to appreciate the majesty of the tall, ostentatious chairs with upholstered, haughty-looking backs and stretchers reinforcing the legs. Because only the self-indulgent king was allowed to sit in a fauteuil, or armchair, there was an abundance of lowly stools and benches — all covered in regal fabrics: velvets, damasks, gold-threaded brocades, and embroidered silk Famed Gobelin tapestries made in Paris and carpets from Aubusson, Beauvais, and the merged Savonnerie and Gobelin factories added layers of splendor to rooms.
With all of Europe watching, ceilings and walls ablaze with frescoes shamelessly begged to be noticed. Elaborately carved woodwork and paneling called boiseries, often gilded or spiced with gold leaf, replaced solid wood trim. At Versailles, the Hall of Mirrors reflected the Sun King’s lavishness. Consequently, baroque-style furnishings became known on the continent as Louis XIV.
New King, New Fashion
When Louis XIV died in 1715, his five-year-old great-grandson, whose parents and brother had passed away earlier, became King Louis XV (1710-74). Because of the new king’s youth, his uncle, Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans, was appointed regent, or temporary governor, of France until the king attained legal majority in February 1723.
Accordingly, the transitional period between the opulent baroque period and the less formal rococo era of Louis XV became known as French Régence, or Regency.
Offended by the unrestrained ancien régime and put off by the pageantry of Versailles, the duke moved the royal court to Paris where courtiers lived in hôtel particuliers, or private residences suited to a less pompous way of life without great fanfare. Perhaps predictably, intimate petit salons ushered in an era of furniture lighter and more graceful than the heavily carved baroque pieces of Louis XIV.
Shapely cabriole legs replaced straight ones on chairs, clocks, and case pieces — armoires, bookcases, and writing desks that were designed as storage. Sweeping curves and refined flourishes, including foliage and delicate bouquets wrapped with ribbons and bows, adorned the upper sections of armoires.
Master cabinetmakers fashioned a low chest of drawers called a commode, which differed from the bureau commode, or large table with drawers, that was crafted in the baroque period. Then, with a puffed chest and plump sides, the bombé, or convex commode, made a grand entrance. Beautiful wall paneling with softly curved corners also became a hallmark of the French Régence era.
Furthermore, there was an increasing fascination with the Far East that began in 1670 when the Trianon de Porcelaine at Versailles was built for one of Louis XIV’s mistresses.
When demand for all things Asian — from silk screens and lacquered cabinets with gleaming varnished finishes to blue-and-white porcelain vases and embroidered hangings — outstripped supply, French craftsmen copied these richly decorated pieces, then added showy flourishes of their own.
The look brought together Far Eastern inspiration and Western craftsmanship, creating the foundation for the style known as chinoiserie, which is still popular today.
The Régence era pointed the way for the more beguiling rococo period — 1730 to 1760 — when Louis XV and his official mistress (maîtresse en titre) Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, or Madame de Pompadour, had great influence on the decorative arts.
Though public reception rooms retained their sense of glamour and grandeur, family apartments were refashioned into less formal settings where strong colors were replaced with the pastels favored by Madame de Pompadour. With a new reserve embracing comfort, Louis XV sought inviting chairs, rather than stools, and fluid furniture arrangements conducive to talk.
As a result, the King’s menuisier (chairmaker), Jean-Baptiste Tilliard, sculpted a perfectly proportioned, low, curved armchair with an exposed-wood frame, far lighter and less regal looking than earlier chairs.
On the seat rail of the bergère, he carved a basket of flowers. On its back, he shaped shells and cartouches, or fanciful scrolls, which communicated that this chair was not meant to stiffly line the wall but rather to be moved about for impromptu use.
As Parisian chair makers began adopting Tillard’s designs, the frames of both caned and Louis XV bergère chairs were at times gilded or painted. Upholstered arms were moved back from the length of the seat so fashionable crinolines would not be crushed. When hoop skirts were no longer in vogue, they would again extend forward, but the soft, loose pillows still rested on fabric-covered platforms and curvaceous legs remained stretcher-free.
Even centuries later, the rich damasks and velvets favored for upholstery would be seen as the height of chic. Meanwhile, the chaise longue emerged as did the escritoire, a small desk with drawers and cubicles, also called a secretary.
Painstaking carvings on many wood pieces were drawn from nature, including shells, fish, waves, birds, vines, flowers, rocks, and serpents. Also, designs were commonly rooted in farming motifs such as corn and wheat. Ribbons with streamers and hearts became fashionable, too.
By the second quarter of the century, dwellings in Paris flaunted brilliant crystal chandeliers and small, exquisitely carved marble mantels with large mirror panels, or painted overmantels called trumeaus. Wood floors were arranged in marquetry patterns or in large Versailles-like parquet designs, then laid with alluring Aubusson or Savonnerie rugs.
Whereas the baroque style exuded a passion for symmetry, firmly holding that any chair, room, or chateau divided vertically should be a precise mirrored-image half, rococo once again endorsed the asymmetry born in the Régence era.