Know your Louis Furniture

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For nearly two centuries, the four Louis’s ruled the courts of France and the worlds of fashion and décor. During his respective reign, each king cultivated a signature style of furnishings and decorative arts reflecting the ever-changing tastes and politics that defined his time.

Louis Furniture

Louis XIII
Ruled 1610 – 1643

The Times

It was a tumultuous period that produced the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and The Three Musketeers. France was moving against its neighbors to become the dominant force in Europe. From the writings of Descartes to the brushstrokes of Poussin, philosophy and art became part of the national conversation.

The Style

Taking its cue from the fading Mannerist style, Louis XIII furniture was sturdy and heavy compared to what was to come. The all-important cabinet was modified with a fall front. Armoires were often decorated with geometric moldings and carved swags like those from Flanders. Chairs were boxy with elaborately turned legs and stretchers. French designers were moving away from the Italian Renaissance to establish a style of their own.


Ballard Trip to Paris

Louis XIV
Ruled 1643 – 1715

The Times

To keep his thumb on the treacherous aristocracy, Louis XIV built the magnificent palace at Versailles and forced his entire court to live there with him. His power was absolute and extended to every corner and nuance of French life, from manners to fashion. Aided by his chief minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis set out to glorify France through the arts.

The Style

Versailles became the centerpiece of Louis XIV’s strategy to make France the center of the cultural universe. Led by artist, Charles Le Brun, Paris furniture makers created pieces that were sumptuous, symmetrical and grandly scaled. Curves were modest, straight lines prominent, and layered details reigned supreme. Armchairs were more like thrones with elaborate carvings and rich upholstery. Because the furniture was so costly, very few pieces were produced.


Louis XV
Ruled 1715 – 1774

The Times

For this Louis, the pursuit of power gave way to the pursuit of pleasure. He removed the court from Versailles to Paris, allowing his nobles to live in their own sumptuous townhouses. Led by Louis’ celebrated mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and Madame de Barry, society retreated to the salon where intimately sized rooms called for comfort and less formality. The smooth, sinuous and sometimes playful, Rococo style was born.

The Style

The forms were fluid, with chairs, tables and the popular commode chests of the period set apart by the signature “S” shaped cabriole leg. Flowers became a popular motif, carved into crest rails, aprons and the knees of cabriole legs. Chairs became smaller and springs were added, satisfying the salon society’s craving for comfort. Colors were lighter, adding to the charm of what some consider the most approachable period in French furniture design.


Ballard Trip to Paris

Louis XVI
Ruled 1774 – 1792

The Times

After years spent in gossipy salons, society was ready to venture beyond the confines of the Paris court. Trips to ancient ruins became all the rage and led to a rediscovery and appreciation for classical motifs. It was the dawning of the Enlightenment when the writings of Rousseau and reasoning overcame the frivolity and emotion of the past.

The Style

Mirroring the philosophies of the day, the Louis XVI style emphasized straight lines, geometric forms and classically inspired, decorative motifs. Chair and settee backs evolved into controlled arcs, leaving behind the voluptuous curves of Rococo period. Chair and table legs were tapered and fluted in the style of a Roman column. Greek keys and palmettes replaced carved flowers on crests and aprons. It was, for many, the golden age of cabinet making.

 

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.

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13 Comments

  1. Reply

    Ballard Designs

    March 25, 2011
     

    Maryann: If you go to the website and type in table bases – Surprise! There are a variety of bases to choose from. Hope you find one you love!
    The Style Studio Team

  2. Reply

    Maryann

    March 23, 2011
     

    I purchased a table base from your catalog back when your company was very new. I found rush seated French chairs to go with it and a glass table top Everyone loved it! You had mostly table bases then. I am disappointed that I don’t see any in the years since. Is there a chance that you might bring back some of the plaster ones..like the swan base one or the one I bought..a square design with rose detail on it? I sold mine but am downsizing and would love to have one again.

  3. Reply

    Ballard Designs

    January 18, 2011
     

    Brenda: Mixing furniture styles is what Ballard is all about! We love blending French with Tuscan! Most traditional furniture works well with accent pieces of different periods. So don’t be afraid to use your creative genius!
    The Style Studio Team

  4. Reply

    Brenda King

    January 13, 2011
     

    Thanks for the education on Louis Furniture. I love decorating, but I feel very anxious when it’s time to make a final decision on a purchase. Is it okay to mix French and Tuscan with traditional furnishings?

  5. Reply

    Ballard Designs

    July 20, 2010
     

    Kris: The person who pulls our catalog together is Jill Sharp Brinson. She is the stylist and creative director here at Ballard. You can read more about her in Behind the Scenes in “All About Jill”. It is a truly creative job and a lot of hard work. To become a Stylist, your best option is to major in interior design with some courses in photographic styling. Hope this helps and good luck!
    The Style Studio Team

  6. Reply

    Kris

    July 19, 2010
     

    Hello, I always look forward to going thru your catalog the day it arrives. Even if I’ve seen most of merchadise before. Its a fun escape for this design junkie. I have a question regarding who puts the sets together to be photographed for the catalog? Is that called a set designer, studio designer. Just seems like a fun job and I was curious how one goes about a career in that 🙂

  7. Reply

    blanca

    January 23, 2010
     

    I have a formal dinning room with lacqud chairs and i need 2 louis XV chairs for the living room area do i have to use lacqed chairs for the living room also.

    • Reply

      Ballard Designs

      January 27, 2010
       

      Blanca: We love the idea of the Louis XV chairs for your living room and NO they do not have to be laquered. If you look through our catalog, you will notice that part of the charm is that we mix different finishes. It can really add personality – so go for it!
      The Style Studio Team

  8. Reply

    Pauline

    December 2, 2009
     

    Hi,

    I no longer can find these chairs in your catalog. Have they been discontinued? Please let me know if they are coming back.

    Thank you,
    Pauline

    • Reply

      jwood

      December 3, 2009
       

      Dear Pauline: The Louis Chair Collection is still available. In fact, it is on page 77 of the new catalog. You can also go to our website and type in Louis Chairs and you will see all our Louis Chairs. Let us know if we can be of any further assistance.
      Sincerely,
      The Style Studio Team

  9. Reply

    Suzy

    November 11, 2009
     

    Perfect! I can always figure out Louis XV and XVI things, but ask me to identify or date anything earlier, I come up Baroque, I mean broke. (Ooh that was bad!). Anyway, I am printing this out for my own reference. Thanks.

  10. Reply

    Joyce Van Buskirk

    November 1, 2009
     

    I wish you would show each style period of furniture. That would help a lot. Thanx.

    • Reply

      jwood

      November 2, 2009
       

      Dear Joyce: We are working on a furniture period style piece to be published sometime in the spring, so keep checking!
      The Style Studio Team

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