Louis XIII (1610 - 1643)
Typically massive and solidly built, this style is characterized by carving and turning
(shaping on a lathe). Common decorative motifs found on it include cherubs,
ornate scrollwork, cartouches (ornamental frames), fruit-and-flower swags, and
Louis XIV, or Baroque (1643 - 1715)
This period is marked by gilding and silvering of wood, and by the use of ornate stretchers in chairs, console tables and center tables. Richly-colored upholstery and embroidery abound, and surfaces are inlaid with mother of pearl, thin wood veneers, marble, brass and ivory.
Régence (1715 - 1723)
A transition to a softer style. This period marked the debut of the cabriole leg, mainly used in sofas and chairs. Stretchers disappear, and chests of drawers assume a more rounded shape.
Louis XV, or Rococo (1723 - 1774)
Dainty, with a small scale and few straight lines. Upholstered furniture is done with satins and brocades in pastels; seat backs and chairs are lower and closer to human scale as comfort becomes a priority.
Louis XVI, or Classical Revival (1774 - 1793)
Straight lines return, with an interest in classical architecture. Style includes grand symmetrical motifs (oak and laurel leaves) and classical ornamentation (sphinxes, Greco-roman animals.)
Directoire/Consulate (1795 - 1804)
The Revolution leaves furniture simple and graceful, a reaction to aristocratic excess. Ornamentation is characterized with carved pikes, arrows and clasped hands. Woods include walnut and oak.
Empire (1804 - 1814)
With Napoleon's rule comes the appearance of swags and festoons as ornament. Carving is kept to a minimum and motifs are executed in metal moldings. Round marble-topped tables are characteristic of this movement, as are sleigh beds.
Restoration (1814 - 1830)
A continuation of the Empire movement, but with the introduction of tall, pointed Gothic shapes added to the heavy forms. The sabre leg comes into use during this period.
Louis Philippe (1830 - 1850)
Strengthened Gothic influence with the use of turnings and a return to carvings.
Second Empire (1852 - 1870)
Painted wood and mother of pearl return. Shapes become more whimsical, less solid. Chests of drawers on very tall, thin legs are common.
Art Nouveau (1897 - 1905)
The feeling of whimsy continues. Designs are based on natural forms. Highly stylized plant motifs are the norm.
French Provincial (1650 - present)
The Provincial country style has been an undercurrent throughout most of French furniture history. The court styles of each age are reproduced for the people in less expensive materials (pewter rather than silver, domestic woods) and with adaptations specific to each region.