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French Decorative Arts and Interior Decorating Ideas

France has led the world in creating and perfecting the decorative arts which includes anything beautiful and useful. Detailed information is available on periods and classifications: Decorative Arts General Reference, crystal, Limoges, textiles and ironwork (selecting the topic here will take you directly to that place on the page).  Selecting any book title will take you directly to a page with full details and ordering information. 

French Decorating and Design Ideas general reference

This collection of interior decorating ideas will help you discover the wonders of French design over the centuries and help you incorporate them as you develop your own exciting style.  General reference books are listed first, then specific information by style and design period follow.  In general, during pre-revolutionary times, the changes in style were introduced first at court and tend to be formal.  Regional ("French country furniture") styles such as Provençal, would have been inspired by royal designs but they are more rustic and functional, and would have occurred later and changed more slowly in relationship to the distance from Paris or Versailles. For your assistance, we have also added an Interior Decorating Ideas French Dictionary (Design Terms) and a Home Decorating Style Guide (characteristic design details and dates for French periods, e.g., Louis XIV, Empire, Provençal).  Selecting any book title will take you directly to a page with full details and ordering information.  Ready to start shopping?  Whether you've decided on Paris sophistication or French country, it's all here.

French Regional Styles/French Country Furniture

Decorative Arts General Reference

Louis XIII 1610-1661

Artists: Jean Macé 

Louis XIV (Baroque) 1661-1715

"Table de Milieu" 1690-1700 gilded oak. Mantel clock 1780. Cast chased gilded bronze. New Orleans Museum of Art 

Luxury and opulence are the keywords for the Baroque period of Louis XIV, the Sun King. His state beds were embellished with embroidered velvet hangings and plumes. To read more, see Home Decorating Style Guide.

Artists: Lepautre, Berain (solid silver furniture), Audran, Boulle, Gole, Hache

WorkshopsGobelins, Saint-Gobain, Beauvais, Aubusson

Louis XV (Rococo) 1715-1774 (Regency 1715-1730)

Fauteuil à la Reine et à Chassis by Nicolas Heurtault 1720-1771 Menuisiers (Joiners) carved and gilded beechwood. New Orleans Museum of Art  L'Amour Sacrifé 1791 Sèvres by Boizot. Bureau Plat 1760-1770 Louis XV fruitwood with gilded bronze mounts. New Orleans Museum of Art  Mirror 1720-1730 Carved and gilded beechwood Régence style dragon motif. New Orleans Museum of Art

Artists:  Audran, Cressent, Boulle, Meissonnier, Pineau, Riesenburgh, Dubois, Heurtault, Lacroix, Delanois, Topino, Migeon, Delafosse, de Neufforge, Le Lorrain, Jacob

WorkshopsSèvres porcelain was designated a royal factory by Louis XV in the 1750's. His mistress, Mme de Pompadour of one of the most celebrated patrons of these sumptuous designs.

Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory Covered Vase designed by Bachelieu. New Orleans Museum of Art Covered tureen and stand 1754. Vincennes Manufactory (1740-1756) designed by Duplessis Père. New Orleans Museum of Art

Louis XVI (Neoclassicism) 1774-1789

Fauteuil à la Reine 1765-1770 by George Jacobs Menuisiers (Joiners). Carved beechwood. Neoclassic /"le goût grec"/Louis XVI. New Orleans Museum of Art 

ArtistsJacob, Delanois, Leleu, Canabas, Carlin, Riesener, Sené, Lelarge, Roentgen   

Directoire  1789-1804  Empire 1804-1820

Empire (late Neoclassicism) followed the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It draws Imperial references from the Roman Caesars to glorify Napoleon. Egyptian motifs are also used to commemorate his invasion there. Percier and Fontaine  were responsible for the remodel of Malmaison and its interiors and published the definitive book for this style. 

Artists:  Jacob Frères, Molitor, Biennais, Thomire, Percier, Fontaine, David, Prud'hon, Marcion

Art Nouveau 1895-1914

Artists: Majorelle, Gallé, Prouvé, Vallin, Jacob-Desmalter

Modern (Art Deco) 1918-1939

Artists:  Ruhlmann


Baccarat, Saint Louis, Lalique and Daum represent the finest in French crystal.


See also history of Limoges

Textiles and Graphics and Wall Coverings

Gobelins (acquired for the crown in 1660's to provide furnishings and tapestries).

Walls in France have been decorated from prehistoric ancient cave paintings. Through the Middle Ages paintings or carving on stone usually had a religious or historical theme. The earliest wood paneling on walls appears at the end of the Middle Ages and was used to protect from cold and damp. This was also the purpose of the beautiful and colorful wool tapestries  hung above the low boiserie  or wainscoting. (Boiserie comes from the French bois which means wood. It encompasses all the architectural elements of wood paneling including crown molding, baseboards, chair rails, also door frames, parquet, windows and shutters. The panels are lambris.). In the Renaissance through Italian influence paintings gained perspective and featured pastoral themes, fruits and flowers. From the reign of Louis XIV to Louis XVI (1650 to 1800), boiserie was added to the grand châteaux. The pieces were made where wood was plentiful and numbered for installation. In the 18th century common woods would have been painted and carvings became more detailed and were often gilded. Toward the end of this time pastels were used trimmed with a lighter shade. Furniture was painted and trimmed in matching colors. After the Revolution of 1789 boiserie that survived was often stripped to reveal the natural wood. The Victorian period saw them draped with heavy cloth while the Industrial Age favored organic Art Nouveau themes and wallpapers with natural life was introduced. This gave way in the 1920's to Art Deco geometric patterns on folding screens and room dividers.

Zuber Wallpaper: Zuber was founded in 1797. The wallpapers are decorated with elaborate scenes made from hand-carved wood blocks and hand-mixed paints. These blocks, which are still used to replicate historic patterns have been designated a national treasure.



Imagine yourself in the decadent surroundings named for Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard, 1777-1849, a French socialite whose Paris salon attracted literary and political figures.


Tole is the French term for sheet metal. Tole ware, typically used for lanterns, chandeliers, sconces, bowls, boxes and cachepots, has been made since the late 18th Century. Tole pieces are typically painted black or a rich color such as golden yellow or dark red, then detailed or stenciled with a stylized motif. Tole pieces were popular in the early 19th century - the classically inspired Regency period in France and the Directoire era in France.icon

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Last modified: August 29, 2022