French Bedside Tables
Bringing a unique and prestigious range of French provincial furniture items, Mahogany By Hand is spreading beauty and elegance throughout the domestic and commercial properties in Perth, Sydney and the rest of Melbourne! We also have an extensive range of French reproduction furniture including French style bedside tables, French beds and French Reproduction furniture.
Everything you need to know about French provincial furniture
The origins of French provincial furniture
French provincial furniture originated in the provincial centres of France during the 17th and 18th century under the reign of King Louis XIV, King Louis XV and King Louis XVI, the final three monarchs of France before the revolution.
Historically there were three main types of French furniture:
● Imperial furniture (also known as court furniture or royal furniture) was very high end, and only royalty or the very wealthy owned it. This is the sort of furniture you see in museums. It is intricately created and usually gilded, with an ornate finish.
Regal styled imperial furniture
● Parisian furniture was the stylish middle/upper class furniture found in urban centres. Like most hubs of fashion, the styles and trends here changed rapidly.
This was still luxury furniture and only quite wealthy families could afford it.
More ornate styled parisian furniture
● Provincial furniture was found in the countryside and melded a rustic, farmhouse style with the trends of Paris. Of course, there was quite a delay before Parisian styles filtered down to the provinces, sometimes taking decades to appear in provincial furniture. Provincial furniture was less ostentatious, more simple, and more affordable. It was a downplayed version of the more urban styles, though still found in manor houses not in the farm houses of the poor.
French provincial furniture
Characteristics of French provincial furniture
French provincial furniture can be described as classic, luxurious, warm and soothing. It is extremely sophisticated and very well made, built to last as well as to decorate the home. Some of the most distinctive features of French provincial furniture include:
Colour and finish
While imperial furniture and Parisian furniture often came in more colours and exotic finishes, country furniture focused on core colours. There is a lot of variation, but French provincial furniture is often painted white, in shades of grey, or in different pastel colours. Many of these pieces were refinished repeatedly and then worn down with use, grime and cleaning over time, creating a layered look as colours from the past peek through. Many luxury pieces also feature a hand gilded finish.
Carvings and moulding
French provincial furniture typically features intricate moulding and carvings, with careful attention paid to every detail. Keep an eye out for parquetry and detailed carved pieces and trim. Carvings often featured wheat, barley and other designs relevant to country living.
Ornate carving styles for french mahogany furniture
Arms and Legs
Cabriole legs are a very common feature of French provincial furniture. This is a distinctive curved leg design used on all sorts of furniture including tables, chairs, cabinets, desks and other pieces. The arms of chairs were often similarly curved.
Styling French provincial decor today
The antiques community loves french provincial furniture Australia wide (and beyond!) in whatever form they can get it. Both genuine antiques and newly made replicas are very popular, and people are sourcing French provincial furniture wholesale and directly from cabinetmakers. This raises an interesting question: how should French provincial furniture be styled today? Not many people are able to create detailed replicas of provincial homes to achieve the full look, so how can key pieces of furniture be incorporated into a contemporary home?
Because French provincial furniture is all about carvings, layers and texture, it goes perfectly with other natural textures. Think luxurious textiles and fabrics (in the form of curtains, rugs, cushions and throws), timber (furniture, floorboards), stone (floors, walls, features), glass (lighting, vases) and metal. Since provincial pieces are usually in a neutral colour scheme of greys or pastels, they work well with a similar palette throughout the home to create a clean, sophisticated look. Of course, they can also be a great background for pops of colour to bring a modern touch to things.
Example of a modern french provincial styled kitchen
French provincial furniture was designed for country living, so it goes perfectly with some greenery or flowers. Whether you make the most of large windows and natural light to bring the outdoors in or you literally bring the outdoors in with houseplants, a little life will really set off your furniture.
Example of a modern living room styled with a french provincial touch
What to look for in modern french provincial furniture
Genuine French provincial furniture is built to last, with high quality timber and sound structural integrity. The best quality modern French provincial furniture is made with the same materials, techniques and structural principles as was used in the past to ensure consistent quality and construction. If you’re looking to purchase reproduction French provincial furniture, make sure you ask questions about the creator’s history, knowledge and experience and the techniques they use. At Mahogany by Hand, for example, we refuse to take shortcuts through modern methods. Everything is cut from solid block mahogany timber, all joints are hand cut and every piece is finished exactly as it would have been 250 years ago, right down to pure 23.5 carat water gilding. This is the way it should be done, and any shortcuts show.
Beware of people who try to pass shabby chic furniture off as authentic French provincial. The popular shabby chic furniture trend borrows heavily from French provincial style and has some similarities, but is far from the real deal. Shabby chic is a trendy, modern way of finishing cheap furniture to mimic French provincial style or create a sort of cheap French provincial furniture. This usually involves finding a piece of furniture at an opshop, painting it, and sanding it back in places to simulate the look of years of wear and tear.
Example of a manufactured ‘shabby chic’ look
This gained popularity thanks in part to the beauty of its French influence and in part due to how cheap and easy the process is for people without the need for any real furniture knowledge or skill. While shabby chic can be done well and look fine, it’s not authentic French provincial furniture. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy furniture to avoid paying for a quality that is not being delivered.
Some examples of classic pieces
There are some items of furniture that are made in quintessential French provincial styles. Some examples include:
The most popular style for a French provincial dining table is a parquetry top, stretcher base table, where the top is inlaid with opposing bricks of timber and a surrounding border. This sort of timber pattern looks similar to a brick pathway. One of the most common versions of this is the Versailles pattern. Other dining tables that are typical of french provincial style include cabriole legs and carved skirts.
There are many different styles of french dining chairs. Traditionally most were simple ladderback chairs with woven rush seats, but in the city or wealthier areas you would see more high back dining seats with upholstered backs and seats, cabriole legs and carvings or simpler reeded and turned legs. This partly depended whether the chairs were meant for the kitchen area or a formal dining room in a manor house. Common chair back shapes included the kidney shaped back (popular during the era of Louis XV) and oval back (popular in the Louis XVI period).
Example french provincial dining room
French provincial kitchen
French provincial kitchen furniture includes buffets and serving tables as well as storage for pots and pans.These two functions could be separate, with separate serving tables, storage units and kitchen dressers, or they could be combined into one piece of furniture (for example, a buffet may have a serving table top with pot shelves in the bottom). This type of furniture is foreign to many of us now, but used to have an integral role in meals. It was an in between place. Food would be placed on the serving table when cooked and dished out from there before being eaten at the dining table.
Furniture that was staying hidden in the kitchen was usually more simple and practical than furniture that was on show in other parts of the house, but it still had the beautiful design characteristic of French provincial furniture. In addition to serving furniture,
French provincial kitchens often included seats and stools that were similar to dining room seating but less likely to be upholstered.
Another example of a french provincial styled kitchen.
There are a lot of French provincial furniture pieces designed for the bedroom, including beds, bedheads, wardrobes, armoires, dressing tables and upholstered reading chairs.
French provincial bedrooms are calm havens of luxury with ornate bedheads, upholstered seating and luxe French painted finishes.
French provincial bedheads tend to be highly decorative, with either the square lines of the Louis XVI period or the serpentine curves of the Louis XV era. They may be upholstered or made from carved timber, and will either have cabriole legs or turned, reeded legs depending on the exact period or style. Bedside tables were not historically part of bedroom furniture, but many people now choose to have them made in the style of the era to complete their French provincial bedroom.
An armoire is a cabinet traditionally used as a wardrobe. It was historically made from polished fruitwoods but may also be given a French painted finish, and does not have to be used as a wardrobe. It may instead be used for other storage or as an entertainment unit.
French provincial styled bedroom
French provincial living rooms include a lot of seating: sofas, bergere chairs and salon chairs. Bergere chairs typically have an exposed wooden frame that is typically painted and are fully upholstered. They may be gilded in silver or gold leaf.
Salon chairs are smaller, lighter, open arm chairs with arm pads. A living room may also feature an armoire repurposed as an entertainment unit or a display case by using glass in the doors rather than timber.
Desks can also be considered living room furniture. French provincial desks are quite distinctive and very different from the traditional English desk. A French desk is typically a bureau writing table on carved cabriole legs and perhaps a couple of drawers across the top, just below the tabletop. It does not have pedestal drawers down the sides, which leaves the desk feeling spacious and open rather than imposing. High end
French desks may have gold plated ormolu mounts on the corners and on the knees and other gold finishing touches.
Example french provincial styles living room
French provincial homewares
The term ‘French provincial homewares’ can mean a lot of different things in today’s furniture and homewares market. Many things are now described in this way despite not being relevant to the historical period. People have an idea in their head of what ‘provincial’ means, and it doesn’t always match up with historical reality. With this evolution of the terminology, it can be difficult to articulate exactly what you want and what you mean by it.
Some french provincial styled homewares
There are many different goals both buyers and sellers of French provincial homewares have in mind. Some people aim to recreate a genuine, historically accurate space, while others wish to get a few authentic French provincial pieces and use other, unrelated homewares to complete the look. There are also some who aren’t concerned about accuracy at all and just want a French provincial ‘feel’. Some thoroughly contemporary homewares are marketed and sold as French provincial items: vases, throws, clocks and decorative pieces, among others. There’s nothing wrong with this necessarily, but depending on your own intentions it can be a pitfall. It pays to be aware of what sort of authenticity you require and what any homewares seller is able to offer.