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Decoding Styles: How to Identify a Louis XVI Chair

Decoding Styles: How to Identify a Louis XVI Chair

Furniture styles can often seem like a puzzle, each piece telling a unique story about the era it hails from. Among the many captivating styles, Louis XVI and Louis XV stand out as prominent periods in French furniture design. In this guide, we’ll delve into the distinct features that defined the furniture of the Louis XVI period, particularly the pinnacle of the style, the antique Louis XVI Chair.

History of Louis XVI Furniture Style

The Louis XVI furniture style emerged during the late 18th century in France, leading up to and during the French Revolution. This period marked a significant departure from the opulence of the preceding Louis XV era. Louis XVI furniture was a reflection of the changing social and political landscape, characterized by a shift towards Neoclassicism and a rejection of the excessive ornamentation of the Rococo style. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman designs, this style emphasized clean, straight lines, symmetry, and geometric shapes. Thus, the style became a hallmark of sophistication and taste during a time of enlightenment and societal transformation.

Check out this gorgeous pair of Louis XVI style armchairs available now on Styylish. The chairs are of pear wood, and they have the classic straight back, crowned with a finely carved wreath decoration. 

Louis XVI Style Armchairs- 19th century- styylish
French Louis XVI Armchair set

Characteristics of Louis XVI Furniture

Louis XVI furniture, prevalent during the late 18th century, exudes an air of refinery. Characteristics of this style are subdued ornamentation, geometric shapes, and a Neoclassical influence. Defined by a move towards simplicity and symmetry, Louis XVI pieces showcase straight, clean lines and tapered legs. Wood, such as mahogany, walnut, and oak, is a common choice, adorned with subtle ornamentation like delicate floral patterns, rosettes, and classical motifs.

This stunning pair of original Louis XVI Armchairs are the pinnacle of Louis XVI design. They have been expertly crafted with a hand-carved beech wood frame and showcase the classic fluted legs. They have beautifully carved armrests to add charm to the chairs, making them a unique addition to any home.

Louis XVI Armchairs- Styylish
Beech wood Louis XVI Style Armchairs

Comparing Louis XVI to Louis XV Furniture

In contrast to Louis XVI style, Louis XV style is a celebration of opulence and extravagance. Classic characteristics of Louis XV design are curvaceous lines, asymmetry, and ornate ornamentation. Influenced by Rococo art, it flaunts intricate carvings, scrollwork, and naturalistic motifs like flowers, shells, and foliage. Further, the emphasis is on luxury and indulgence, reflected in the use of rich materials such as giltwood, rich woods, and lavish fabrics. Louis XV style exudes a sense of fluidity and grace, embodying a more flamboyant and lavish aesthetic compared to the refined elegance of Louis XVI furniture.

The Bergère Chair

A popular style of chair in Louis XV’s reign is the Bergère. It surfaced at the beginning of Louis XV’s reign, with a lower seat height. At this time furniture became less formal and changed according to the latest fashions, as a more comfortable piece of seat furniture. In fact, the armrests are set back from the front corner of the seat rail to accommodate the voluminous dresses of the time.

This Bergère is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and showcases a gorgeous gilded beechwood frame, carved with flowers and leaf motifs, and a stunning silk upholstery.

Louis XV Bergère at The Met

Additionally, Styylish has another example of the grandeur of Louis XV chairs. This opulent chair is available today on Styylish! Originating in Germany, this side chair has rich carvings of floral and fruit motifs at the crown and decorating the curved frame.

Louis XV Armchair from 1860 France

What Caused the Shift in Style from Louis XV Io Louis XVI?

Louis XVI was known for his struggle to deal with the financial crisis in France, his marriage to Marie Antoinette, his attempt at reform, and ultimately, the end of the Bourbon monarchy during the difficult years of the French Revolution.

The shift in furniture style from the opulent Louis XV to the more restrained Louis XVI style is due to several factors. During Louis XV’s reign, the Rococo style was predominant, characterized by elaborate ornamentation, curves, and an emphasis on opulence and excess. However, by the time of Louis XVI’s reign, there was a growing intellectual movement, the Enlightenment, which influenced a shift towards rationalism, simplicity, and a focus on classical aesthetics.

Additionally, Louis XVI struggled with financial strain due to ongoing wars, maintaining lavish court, and national debt. This financial pressure encouraged a more economical approach to furniture production. Therefore, emphasizing quality over quantity and focusing on the use of less lavish materials and restrained ornamentation.

A Step By Step Guide to Spotting a Louis XVI Chair

Identifying a Louis XVI chair involves closely examining its design, materials, and specific features that are characteristic of this 18th-century French style. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you identify a Louis XVI chair:

1. Examine the Backrest and Frame: Louis XVI chairs often feature a rectangular or oval backrest. The frame is often wood and showcases clean, straight lines with minimal carving or ornamentation.

This unique set of four antique Louis XVI Dining Chairs from Eastern France is an excellent example of the minimal ornamentation of the oval backrests in this style. The dining chairs have a beautiful open back, hand-carved design of cherry wood. 

Antique Louis XVI Dining Chairs- Styylish
Antique Louis XVI Dining Chairs – available now on

2. Look for Classic Carved Details, Motifs and Decorative Elements: While the overall design is more restrained, Louis XVI chairs may have delicate decorative elements such as fluted columns, rosettes, urns, or floral motifs.

Take for example, this elegant set of four Louis XVI armchairs, originating in France and dating back to around 1830. Admire the beauty of the carved rosettes adorning these armchairs, adding a touch of sophistication to their overall appeal. Additionally, it has been newly upholstered with light blue velvet. Their classic design and refined craftsmanship make them versatile pieces that seamlessly blend with various interior styles.

Set of four Louis XVI Armchairs- three quarter view- Styylish
Velvet Upholstered Louis XVI Armchairs

3. Look for Straight and Tapered Legs: Louis XVI chairs typically have straight legs that are often slightly tapered. The legs are usually fluted (grooved), and resemble classical columns, and end in rounded or slightly pointed feet.

These gorgeously tapered Louis XVI Chairs originate from South Germany and dating back to 1780-1800. They stand gracefully on fluted legs that taper into a beautiful, slim end. The tapered, carved legs exemplify the chairs’ unmatched craftsmanship.

Pair of Louis XVI Chairs- Styylish
Original pair of Louis XVI Side Chairs

4.  Check for Marquetry or Inlays: Look for marquetry or inlays on the chair’s surface, which are common features of Louis XVI furniture. Intricate patterns or designs created using a different wood or materials make up the chair’s backrest, seat, or legs.

This set of 4 original Neoclassical Louis XVI dining chair, available on the Styylish site, dates back to around 1800 and comes from southern Germany. They stand out for their finely carved backrests, with an open work palmette motif . Additionally, the chairs have two elegantly designed round legs in the front. This gorgeous example of sophisticated yet subdued wood carving is a classic aspect of Louis XVI chairs.

Set of 4 original Neoclassical Louis XVI Chairs- Styylish
Set of 4 original Neoclassical Louis XVI Chairs

5. Note the Use of Natural Materials: Louis XVI chairs are crafted from natural materials like mahogany, walnut, oak, or fruitwood. Additionally, these chairs often use wood in its natural state or stained to enhance its natural color.

This 18th-century Italian armchair is a rustic take on a Louis XVI chair armchair. It has a decorated, rich, walnut wood frame and an incredibly comfortable straw seat. The elegant and classic design of the armchair makes for a stately piece.

Louis XVI Walnut Armchair - Styylish
Unique Louis XVI Walnut Armchair- available now on

Consider Adding Louis XVI Chairs to Your Home

Now that you can identify any Louis XVI chair, consider adding one to your space. Its symmetrical lines, restrained ornamentation, and classic motifs harken back to an era of refined sophistication. Whether as an accent piece or part of a curated collection, a Louis XVI style chair not only embodies historical significance. It also seamlessly complements various interior styles. Further, its blend of comfort, craftsmanship, and history makes it a choice worth considering for those seeking to elevate their home with a piece of timeless design. Shop the elegant Louis XVI chair on sale on the Styylish site today!