In the 17th century, French intellectuals developed a fondness for salons—gatherings to discuss to art, literature, and politics—so naturally French furniture designers were asked to devise new, more comfortable ways to sit. By the 1800s, a typical French salon suite held a sofa, a chaise longue, a lady's armchair, a gentleman's armchair, and a stool. Today, most collectible antique French chairs come from such Victorian Era conversation rooms.

In response to the political and social unrest of industrialization, mass-produced 19th-century French furniture expressed nostalgia for the Golden Age of the French monarchy, relishing in the opulence of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. Inspired by the reigns of kings Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, antique French chairs usually feature carved wooden frames that were gilded or painted, as well as fine silk upholstery embroidered with delicate flowers. These chairs often incorporate serpentine lines; molding carved in the shapes of scrolls, faces, and arched crests; legs that curve or taper; and feet that scroll or end in claws or hooves.

One of the most common styles is the "fauteil," an upholstered armchair with open sides that came into popularity under the reign of Louis XIV, the 17th-century "Sun King." The chair is still a mainstay of French furnishing. Eventually, upholstered pads were added to the top of the fauteil armrests for even greater comfort. When upholstery became more readily available in the 18th century under Louis XV's extravagant Rococo reign, armchairs called "bergéres" included fabric-covered panels between the arms and seats. Stretcher supports disappeared from French chairs after the invention of curved "cabriole" legs, shaped like an animal's hind legs.

Most Rococo chairs were designed to sit against a wall. In fact, the heavy "siège meuble" was not designed to be moved at all. The pastel, intricately embroidered silk of the seats and backs, was an integral part of the design of a room, meant to complement the patterns and colors of the adjacent wall paneling. To accommodate the opulent fashions of the day, chair arms were shortened to account for hoop skirts, while chair backs were lowered to spare huge coiffures.

Revivalist Louis XV-style fauteils and bergéres can be distinguished from Louis XVI-style models. Louis XV-style chairs are curvier and rounder with cabriole legs and fanciful embellishments. By the time of Louis XVI's reign, Neoclassicism was all the rage, and so the more florid Rococo tendencies were toned down with Classical symmetry. Louis XVI-style chairs have more rectangular frames, with tapered legs. Oftentimes, these Victorian reproductions have casters attached to their feet.

In the 19th century, French armchairs grew even more luxurious when coiled springs were mass-produced. These "tapissier" chairs were also upholstered in elaborately detailed tapestries. The Victorians, very concerned about what happens when young lovers sat on a sofa, invented a whole host of seats including "canapé borne," "dos-à-dos," and "boudeuse," that let sitters have conversations, modestly, without the risk of physical contact.

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Recent News: French Style Chairs

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Kim Sears laughs off Aussie Open row with 'warning' T-shirt
The Times (subscription), February 1st

The 27-year-old was caught uttering a series of expletives in Murray's semifinal match against Tomáš Berdych on Friday, although lipreaders could not decide whether she was having a go at the Czech or at the French chair umpire, Pascal Maria, who had ...Read more

Vanessa Sicotte weaves her family's life into their home decor
Montreal Gazette, January 31st

Disparate items in a room work together if something ties them together, Sicotte said — and that something can be colour: The French chair previously upholstered in red is now upholstered in a print that has green in it — and it ties in with the...Read more

£30m funding to help keep Surrey moving and growing
Get Surrey, January 30th

Geoff French, chair of the LEP, commented: “We are celebrating the fact that the Enterprise M3 area has secured a further £29m from the government Local Growth Fund. "This investment, in addition to the £118m we secured last year, highlights the...Read more

Murray fires up and into final
Radio New Zealand, January 29th

Arguably the match was won when the Czech muttered something to the Scot at the change of ends after winning a tense first set. Glaring at Murray, the Czech muttered a few words and earned a gentle rebuke from French chair umpire Pascal Maria. The Scot ...Read more

Developing a smart and caring Muskoka, January 29th

Marg French, chair of the foundation, said the report is a summary of all the work done during the symposium. “It's about building a culture of philanthropy in Muskoka,” French said. “We have a lot of charities and everyone is so busy working on their...Read more

Murray books fourth final, Serena to face Sharapova
Reuters UK, January 28th

Glaring at Murray, the Czech muttered a few words and earned a gentle rebuke from French chair umpire Pascal Maria. The Scot returned to the court a raging bull, throwing Berdych from side to side and returning every baseline rocket with interest. The...Read more

French Chair Umpire Gets Lifetime Ban
New York Times, November 25th

A French chair umpire on the Futures and Challenger tours became the first official to be suspended for gambling-related corruption by the Tennis Integrity Unit when he received a lifetime ban. The umpire, Morgan Lamri, 22, said that he would not...Read more

'100 sièges français' celebrates the midcentury evolution of French chair design
Vogue Australia, September 30th

'100 sièges français' celebrates the midcentury evolution of French chair design. Design. Created 1st October 2014. more from Vogue Living. more from Vogue Living. Living Edge flagship store is now open in Sydney · VL loves: our favourite finds of the...Read more