As if inspired by a quintessential French soufflé, French Provincial furniture is light, airy and sometimes sweet. Classic, yet semi-formal, this furniture style was born in the 18th century in the workshops of the French provinces, like Lyon and Liège, rather than those of Paris. It was inspired by the provincial nobility who wanted to distant themselves from Paris, as it was considered “too urban” to them at this time.
French Provincial blends Rococo, rustic and French countryside styles and imbues any room with an air of elegance. The features typically associated with French Provincial furniture include cabriole legs and simple scalloped carving. The typical French Provincial dining chair is the ladder-back chair with a woven rush seat.
Original French Provincial furniture was built of woods found in the provinces, such as oak, walnut, elm and fruitwoods, and there was an emphasis on function and long-lasting quality. The aesthetic, while inspired by Louis XV furniture, often reflected the country surroundings of the makers, such as the chair motifs of carved wheat backs or star backs. This furniture reflected the provinces’ cultural identities as distinct from the metropolis.
French Provincial is slightly more relaxed than Louis XV furniture, but don’t be surprised to see hints of that ornate style that was so popular in urban Paris. Similarly, French Provincial takes cues from the Rococo style while relaxing the accents. Natural finishes and bright painted colors are hallmarks.
A hint of lightness is observed in the French Provincial style, as with the blend of solid wood with caning. Finishes vary, although the shades of white or eggshell adorned with gilt and discreet floral accents has become commonly associated with the style. One commonality of French Provincial colors is the accumulation of polish or grime that produces an aged patina, particularly in the lines of the carvings.
While Louis XVI’s wife, Queen Marie-Antionette, was an ardent admirer of the style that would become Neoclassicism in the late 1700s, one can see hints of French provincial style in her furniture designed by Georges Jacob for the Petit Trianon just before the French Revolution. There, her furniture embodied the call for a return to nature and the rural simplicity she sought through the motifs from nature and the usage of caning.
The original Gaslamp Antiques Mall and GasLamp Too always have the necessary furniture to bring some French Provincial style into your home. Currently there are several gorgeous French Provincial pieces in Booth T101 in GasLamp Too. One is a roll-arm bench that is painted a creamy ivory trimmed in gilt scrolling and acanthus leaves and features tufted upholstery in pink dupioni silk. This traditional style bench would blend seamlessly into one’s home décor as additional seating in a hallway, at the end of bed or in a living room. The tufting and rolled arms add sophisticated charm.
Another French Provincial item in Booth T101 is a gorgeous oval back chair surmounted by a carved floral motif and featuring an acanthus garland on the seat. This lightweight, feminine piece is in excellent condition and could be placed as extra seating in a living room or used as a vanity chair in a bedroom.
A smaller French Provincial bench with armrests, antiqued gold leaf trim and beige damask upholstery is also located in Booth T101.
In 1924, John Widdicomb Company introduced its Louis XV Provincial designs to the U.S. These were created by Ralph Widdicombe who worked from models he had procured in Europe and designed furniture for the company until 1951. These items were the first of their kind to be made in this country and they created the wave of popularity for French Provincial furniture that continues today. The three French Provincial pieces in Booth T101 are very much in that vein.