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French Louis XV Fauteuil Renovation Project

You may recall I purchased a pair of French 17th century classic Louis XV fauteuils (or to you and I, open sided armchairs) a while back as an upholstery project.

The antique chairs were beautiful but had been re-covered in the last sixty or so years, rather badly, in a floral curtain weight fabric inappropriate for furniture.

Over time the trim had started to fall off and the fabric, some of which had been glued into position, had started to peel.

The fabric that had been tacked on, was degrading and rust had started to form on some of the old tacks, presumably because the chair had been stored in a damp location at some point in its life.

Other than that, the pair of chairs were a stunning depiction of the Rococo (Louis XV) artistic movement, and with a bit of fixing up and a little TLC, could be elegant again.

The Louis XV style is synonymous with the Rococo movement but there’s an unmistakable sturdiness and solidity to Louis XV chairs, with a generous helping of serpentine curves: namely along the seat rails, the back, arms, and the legs.

The fauteuils, or covered arm chairs, still have a broad, rectangular appearance to them, but the shape is romanced with curves, carving, and gilding.

Midway through Louis XV’s reign, the opulent luxury of entirely gilded chairs grew a bit more subdued, sometimes replacing uniform gilding with a combination of white and gold paint.

The solidity of a Louis XV chair appealed greatly to English tastes, and much of the chairs that came across the Channel during the Georgian period show great similarity. The bergère grew more curvilinear during the Rococo period, as did side chairs, cane chairs and armchairs.

The term Rococo was derived from the French word “rocaille”, which means pebbles and refers to the stones and shells use to decorate the interiors of caves. Therefore, shell forms became the principal motif in Rococo and society women competed for the best and most elaborate decorations for their houses. Hence the Rococo style was highly dominated by the feminine taste and influence.

My two chairs were looking a little more Rococo than Louis, so part of my deconstruction process will not only involve removing the baroque style fabric but striping the chair of its shiny French polish.

In my next blog I will deconstruct the chairs and work through the stages of upholstery.

Watch this space!

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