The Louis XV period tracked the reign of French monarch Louis XV (1715-1774), following the reign of Louis XIV and the formal, boxlike, larger furniture of the eponymous Louis XIV style.
We define the Louis XV furniture period, on the other hand, by its elegance and fluidity. The period breathed new life into the older Baroque style, reinvigorating French furniture in myriad ways. In a sense, the Louis XV style is the French iteration of the Rococo. Curved forms, lightness, comfort and asymmetry are all hallmarks of the style. Louis XV furniture styles frequently employed marquetry, using inlays of exotic woods of different colors, as well as ivory and mother of pearl. The furniture we find in this period features a flawless marriage between functionality and elegance. Chairs have curved legs, floral decorations, and comfortably padded seats and backs, for example, while still managing to sacrifice nothing in design.
The History of the Style
The Louis XV style can be broken down into three periods. During the early years (1715-1730) when the King was too young to rule, furniture stuck after the vein of the larger, geometric Louis XIV style. This period was known as The Regency. From 1730 until 1750, during “The First Style,” we began to see more ornate and exuberant designs, as well as asymmetrical construction. This fashion of design was referred to as rocaille, French for “rock.”
Finally, from 1750 until the end of Louis XV’s reign (he died in 1774) “The Second Style ” featured a reaction against the rocaille and its excesses. This period makes use of the burgeoning influence of neoclassicism, spurred by recent archeological discoveries in the Mediterranean. As a result, furniture began to sport Roman and Greek aesthetic and motifs. The later furniture even goes so far as to incorporate decorative elements of Chinoiserie and other exotic styles. This preceded the neoclassical Louis XVI style to come.
The Difference between Baroque and Louis XV
While Baroque furniture and Louis XIV catered to robust design and balance, and symmetrical structure as a default, the ornate details of Rococo-inspired Louis XV style were purposefully feminine and romantic. In this period, we find designers and craftsmen placing less of an emphasis on symmetry and more on fluidity and grace. Gentle S-curves and natural floral motifs frequently found in carvings and marquetry on furniture of all types in this period, from commodes to chairs. As we partially mentioned above, primary motifs found in the furnishings of the time were rocaille and coquille (French for “rock” and “shell,” respectively).
Read our blog covering the history of Louis XV furniture in-depth for further information.
Below are some of our favorite featured pieces here on Styylish.
European Antique Dresser, Louis XV 1770 – $11,000.00
Crafted in France towards the close of the Louis XV period (1770), somewhat surprisingly, this one-of-a-kind dresser still features the elegant curves and richly-decorated ormolu fittings characteristic of the earlier Rococo style. On the other hand, the geometric design of the Louis XVI period is already evident here, in features such as the exquisite tulipwood and kingwood marquetry on the siding. The marble top provides a lovely finish to this luxurious piece.
This chest of drawers measures 33.08” H x 45.28” W x 23.23” D. It comes refinished and French polished. It ships from Germany and the list price includes shipping to Boston.
French Secretaire, “Secretaire en pent”, Louis XV 1770 – $8,000
The Secrétaire en pent, or sloping desk, first began to appear around the year 1735. These writing desks are generally small cabinets featuring a sloping front that opens out into a writing surface. Interestingly enough, the Secrétaire en pent was also known as en dos d’âne, or “style of donkey’s back,” due to its unique appearance.
This Louis XV secretaire in particular features a walnut veneer. One of the highlights is the elegant figural marquetry strung along the exterior of the writing surface, which the cabinetmaker created using plum, satinwood, and kingwood. The superb color and grain of the different woods are the standout features of this exquisite piece of furniture. It also offers a surprising amount of storage space.
The inside of the writing top has six drawers along with a larger central storage compartment, in addition to the drawers on the exterior. This secretaire has its original brass fittings and is in very good condition. Leather also covers the writing surface.
This secretaire measures 41.34” H x 45.28” W x 20.48” D. It comes refinished and French polished and ships from Germany and includes shipping costs to Boston.
Bureau Plat Desk, France 18th -19th century – $7,000
This exquisite bureau plat desk will make a bold statement in any home. It’s notable, in particular, for its stunning rosewood veneer. An original gilt-tooled leather lines the writing surface.
This desk is the perfect minimalist centerpiece for a home office. It features three forward-facing drawers. Unlike a console table, it performs well even when centrally placed, since all four sides are decorated with the elegant rosewood veneer and bronze fittings.
It measures 29.53” H x 51.19” W x 28.35” D. This bureau plat desk comes refinished and French polished. It ships from Germany and includes shipping to Boston.
Commode Kingwood, Louis XV France 18th century – $12,900
This kingwood commode features a bombé front with three drawers, one large, central drawer spanning the full width of the piece, and two smaller drawers above. It sits on grand, tapering legs with scrolled caps, characteristic of Louis XV furniture styles.
This commode will definitely make a statement, with its finely grained rosewood and kingwood veneer and gold-plated bronze fitting, which is used in every elegantly-formed backplate handle and escutcheon. Furthermore, a rosé overhanging, original marble surface embellishes the top. The lock plate has a signature: “Chalamel, Rheims, RR-Rue des Tapissiers 23,” likely of the original maker.
This kingwood commode comes professionally refinished. It measures 38.18” H x 33.85” W x 18.89” D. An excellent addition to any living room or bedroom.
The commode ships from Germany and the list price includes shipping to Boston.
Antique Dressing Table, France 18th century – $6,000
The French antique dressing table, or “poudreuse,” dates back to the 1700s. The maker of this particular dressing table combined three types of veneer: rosewood, kingwood, and satinwood, for the beautiful marquetry we see here. Raised on curved, slender legs, this is an extremely expansive dressing table, with numerous compartments and features.
It sports four exterior drawers, a pull-out writing top, and a built-in, flip-up central mirror. Meanwhile, one side features an area with sunken slots made specifically for storing cosmetic containers, while the other side features a small space ideal for storing other beauty products.
This dressing table measures 29.53” H x 35.44” W x 20.08” D inches. It comes refinished and French polished. It ships from Germany and the list price includes shipping to Boston.
French Antique Transformation Commode – $7,500
The French antique transformation Commode, essentially a variant of the traditional chest of drawers, originates from Paris and dates back to 1800. This piece features finely-inlaid flower marquetry, crafted using rosewood, kingwood, and satinwood, on the front, sides, and top.
The special feature of this extraordinary piece, however, hides underneath its top. The top, when lifted up, and reveals the top of a secretaire. Then, the secretaire compartment lifts up and reveals six small drawers.
The secretaire’s writing surface folds out and is covered with elegant red leather. There is one drawer in the front and two additional drawers on each side of the chest. Original bronze fittings embellish the commode.
This transformation commode is in very good, refinished condition. It measures 29.93” H x 28.35” W x 18.12” D.
Commode, Louis XV Paris 1740 – $10,000
This Louis XV style commode, originating in the 1740s era Paris, features a total of 4 drawers. There are two larger, full-width drawers on the lower portion of the commode, and two smaller ones above. This commode still features its original marble top and elegant original gilt bronze fittings, accenting the body’s carved feet. These fittings feature acanthus leaves, flowers, and rocailles, common among Louis XV furniture styles.
Gilt bronze fittings also decorate the five drawers on the bombe front. Adding to the luxurious appearance is the stunning rosewood veneer pattern found throughout the surface.
The chest of drawers is in very good condition. Dimensions are 51.19” W x 35.44” H x 23.63” D. It ships from Germany.
The list price includes shipping costs to Boston.
Styling with Louis XV Furniture
Like any antique furniture style, Louis XV furnishings are wasted when simply thrown into a room. Intent is key to get the most value out of your piece. Below are some tips we’ve created about styling with Louis XV furniture, and antiques in general.
First of all, don’t use antiques to create rooms from the past. Create spaces that speak to modernity, using the timeless aesthetic of the antique to accent with a taste of the classic, Old World period. Mix it up, incorporating modern and vintage pieces together. This gives your antiques new life and allows you to present spaces that are envisioned in a new and interesting way.
Also, follow angles, or don’t, but be consistent. A desk with curving lines should be paired with a chair or stool that visually synthesizes with it well. Also, be targeted with lighting. Good lighting can accentuate the space and complement gilt bronze mounts or other trappings. Use lamps on top of large, darkly-colored furniture to lighten the space and offset the illusion of crowding that these pieces sometimes create.
We like this quote from designer Maria Hademus: “I find that choosing the right antique is more alchemy than science.” It’s an art of intuition, understanding the aura of a space and finding the correct way to accentuate its positive qualities. It’s also important to be targeted in your placement. Antiques add an extra layer of personality and character to a room if placed properly, but be careful not to use too many pieces of a certain era in the same space. In that way, one can inadvertently create a historic interior. We don’t want a Louis XV room (unless you are trying to create a museum). Places Louis XV items precisely where they are accented best.
Often, we spend so much time looking for stunning period pieces that are beautifully and expertly preserved (don’t worry, we have those at Styylish) but the truth is, it’s a mistake to include pieces that are not compelling in some way.
Find pieces that speak to you, and speak to the space, and you won’t go wrong.
Head to our shop to start your search, and reach out if you have any questions! We’re confident we can help you find the perfect antique piece for your space here at Styylish.