Post 8 – Traditional French Design Origins

French design style is synonymous with  ornate luxury and glamour…

*The Hall of Mirrors – Palace of Versailles typifies the extremes of the style

French Interior Design became the most copied and influential style in Europe, lead by the reign of 3 influential Kings…

  • Louis the XIV – 1638 – 1715 Baroque Style – ornate, masculine heavy symmetrical  furniture
  • Louis the XV – 1710  1774 – Roccoco Style – remains ornate but lighter more feminine curves & soft comfortable upholstery
  • Louis the XVI  1754 – 1793 – Neoclassical Style –  restrained , influenced by Roman and Greek architecture with  fluted columns, laurel leaf wreaths

Characteristics of Interiors Style


While french style varied over time,  the use of rich colors in window coverings upholstery, tapestries carpets,  wall paneling,  wallpaper and furniture remained constant.  Blue, Yellow, Gold, Pink Green and Red are commonly used in bold or  softer tones.

Ornate Decoration

Flooring,  Wall Decoration, Carpets and Curtain Fabric, style remained ornate,

  • highly polished or painted with decorative scenes
  • Ornate carving
  • Marquetry inlaid work in woods in furniture and flooring
  • Highly glossed lacquer furniture
  • Ornamentation in a variety of metals including bronze
  • crystal & ceramic chandeliers

 This use of gold characterised the wealth and luxury associated french style. No object escaped gilding including;  furniture, porcelain, plaster work ceiling and wall panels, chandeliers and lighting,  fabrics, statues art work, tapestries and mirrors.

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Influences on French Interior Style

Renaissance Religious Art

The strong jewel colours, abundance of gold and ornate patterned fabrics seen in renaissance art at the time of Louis XII, remain popular and form the basis of the French Baroque and Roccoco styles…

“The Hours of Louis XII” Prayer Book Depicts Louis XII kneeling in Prayer


From ‘chinois’ the French for Chinese,   inspired by the art and design from  Asia largely China, Japan  was a major influence on french design in the 18th Century.

The style was imported or copied and applied to porcelain, silk , wall papers and wall panels in silk,  screens, lacquered furniture, carved furniture and gilt  fantasy scenes.

Original Chinese wallpaper was made from pure silk impregnated with starch to make this material very strong and lasting.

Chinoiserie Motifs included:

  • fantasy scenes
  • beautiful birds
  • flowers and gardens
  • people, pagodas & villages

Scenes of County Life – Toile de Jouy

A decorative pattern used in fabric wallpapers and upholstery white  background with a single colour  pattern – usually of a pastoral theme such as a couple having a picnic.

Other Decorative Motifs

  • Nature inspired painted decoration flora and fauna
  • Painted exotic landscapes
  • Fantasy  animals were often depicted
  • Musical instrumentation
  • Symbols of love such as bows and couples
  • Arabesque pattern scrolls



Figure 3 – Panel of silk, France, about 1735, brocaded silk, 119.38 x 54.61 cm. VAM -Museum no. T.187-1922


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