C'est Magnifique! This month's Fox Tales will be the polar opposite of last month's clean lines and rustic industrial styling. Instead we will positively overflowing with that French je ne sais quoi as we explore the design aesthetic and inspiration of the nation that defines style, opulence, and elegance. From architectural details to putting a modern twist on classic French-inspired design we will be covered in crystal, glowing with gilding, and enveloped in velvet for the next few weeks.
This series was inspired by a couple new clients but in particular our #virginiachateau project. This delightfully elegant client has a definite taste for the finer things in life and asked Laura to bring the richness and grandeur of classic French design paired with some more transitional design sensibilities to the new #virginiachateau that she and her husband are building. This request sent the LFID team into research mode, pulling photos from traditional 18th and 19th century French Chateaux in order to get a firm grasp on the origins of the aesthetic so that we could then update it for a stunning 21st century home.
Photo Credit: Chateau de Versailles
The research process naturally started out with a look at the ultimate French Chateau, Versailles. The former home of such style icons of their day as Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour was the undisputed epitome of French elegance in design. With it's gilded walls, extravagant chandeliers, and luxurious furnishings it was an immense display of wealth, power, and the height of design during the Baroque and Rococo eras.
Photo Credit: Chateau de Versailles
Another of the royal residences, the Palais de Compiegne, is pictured below. This space as well as the above bedroom from the Grande Trianon at Versailles both feature the Louis XVI chair which was immensely popular in Rococo design. The simpler, more geometric styling of this chair stands in direct contrast to the more intricate and ornate styling of Louis XIV and Louis XV chairs that were used extensively in Baroque design and can be seen featured in the first photo from Versailles.
Photo Credit: Palais de Compiegne
For a more typical example of Rococo design you can look to the two below photos from the Chateau de Valencay and the Chateau La Durantie. Both of these spaces exhibit the lightness and elegance that was characteristic of this era. The lighter and airier Rococo design aesthetic was in direct response to the heaviness and excess of the Baroque period and focused on a color palette of pastels, whites, ivories, and golds in contrast to the bolder, more saturated hues that were prevalent in Baroque design.
Chinoisserie (the European interpretation of Chinese or Asian art) also became very popular during the Rococo period. The aristocracy were especially fond of incorporating this Asian influence in such pieces as pottery, room screens, tapestries, and the like as is demonstrated in the below photo with the large urns and screen.
Photo Credit: Chateau de Valencay
Certain features of the Baroque period did carry over to the Rococo period and even beyond into the Neoclassical period. For instance, light fixtures were so much more than simply a way to light a room. They were statement pieces and status symbols - the bigger and more expensive-looking the better! Thus gold plating and crystals were in abundance not just on chandeliers but also on sconces, candelabras, the works.
The gold plating and gilding extended to the oversized mirrors that were featured prominently in most rooms to make them appear bigger (and reflect back that magnificent chandelier!).
Fabrics that exude luxurious elegance reigned supreme and silks, velvets, damasks, and intricately woven tapestries added warmth and comfort to rooms that could have become simply cold, gilded boxes.
Photo Credit: Chateau La Durantie
Overall, the design periods that created what is generally considered to be the aesthetic of the classic French Chateau were periods of richness, extravagance, and a love of all things gold. These characteristics would go on to guide the LFID team in the next steps of our #virginiachateau design process. Stay tuned to see what we found out about French-inspired architecture and exteriors!
What is your favorite component of classic French Chateau interior design? The gilding, the crystal, the Chinoisserie? Comment below!
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