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A lesson on french baroque

Thursday, November 6, 2008


My latest project is incredibly frustrating. I'm designing (this is all pretend, not a real client this time) a studio apartment in Paris for an artist. I think I'm going to name my artist Francoise. Since the apartment is in Paris, we're using the metric system for the first time. Using the metric system is very confusing, but that's not the frustrating part. The hardest part of this project is that the apartment is based on a time period. We each wrote down our favorite historical style and then we drew out of a hat. No one got their favorite style, and I drew the Louis XIV period.


Let me tell you a little about Louis XIV style. It's also known as French Baroque. French Baroque is a very theatrical style, known for large scale details: heavy carvings, extremely decorated surfaces, and furniture covered in gold. Think masculine colors and big furniture.

Baroque paintings often used dark backgrounds and theatrical lighting.


Unfortunately French Baroque isn't really popular right now, and it's very difficult to find furniture for my apartment. And I can't afford antiques because my budget is $15,000 (that includes everything: doors, drawer pulls, flooring, furniture, kitchen cabinets, appliances, etc). I could spend my entire budget on ONE coffee table. I've done search after search and most of the things I find look like this:

This is not French Baroque. They are wrong, wrong, wrong! Way too many people think that French Baroque and Rococo are the same. They're not. This chair is Rococo.

Rococo furniture is ornate, heavy ornamentation, S-shaped curves, shell shapes, light and pastel colors. Rococo is similar to baroque, but it's a bit daintier and has lighter colors

Baroque is also ornate with heavy ornamentation, but it's even more weighty and over the top than rococo. The baroque period used theatrical colors and extravagant materials (lots of dark, wood carvings).

Now the picture below is a French Baroque chair. It has a high back, heavy gold carvings and stretchers (the support at the bottom of the chair). Maybe it's only noticeable to me, but there is a HUGE difference between these two chairs. People should really do more research before selling their "Baroque" chair on the Internet. And that chair pictured above shouldn't just be called French Rococo because it has a name! That chair is a fauteuil chair. The open arms give that away. And don't even get me started on the different between fauteuil and bergere!!!
Fauteuil chair = open arms
Bergere = closed arms
 People get those wrong all the time too. Enough about that.


Right now French country and Rococo is in, and French Baroque is not. The cheaper big furniture stores just don't sell stuff that's similar to French Baroque. So what am I supposed to do? Pick out expensive furniture that is similar to my time period and blow my budget? Or pick out cheaper furniture that's within my budget, but not stay true to the French Baroque style?

What I have done is find all the cheap stuff possible like the cheapest cabinets and appliances that home depot offers. I have some expensive period pieces, but I've tried to balance it with inexpensive lamps and end tables. Yesterday, I added everything up. What to guess how much I'm spending so far?

$36,893.34! That doesn't include some major items like window treatments, built-ins and counter tops. I'm way, WAY over my budget of $15,000 and I still have more stuff to add. What am I going to do!?

8 Responses to “A lesson on french baroque”

  1. Man I'm exhausted just trying to sound half of those words out!

    But that's probably the reason I was a business major.

    That and I still don't know what the color chartreuse is....

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  2. Can you change your period?

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  3. Busy with school? I miss your blogs! Just wanted to check on you.

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  4. wow I'm guessing IKEA doesnt have a french baroque line do they?

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  6. oh my! good luck. i'm an interior design major as well, and i've had projects similar to this, but luckily i haven't had a budget! that would drive me mad.

    i'm currently working on a comparative analysis of 18th century french & english chair forms... which is how i stumbled across your blog :)

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  7. A great place that I have found some really nice pieces are the Bombay Outlet (it is closed down) and also (don't laugh) Marshall's and Ross have had some cute small inexpensive pieces of furniture. They had a really adorable chair there that was absolutely gorgeous. Places like that or even yard sales are where I find a lot of unique inexpensive pieces and the great thing is that with a creative eye you can sometimes catch a piece that really adds a lot of personality to the room and no one would ever guess where you really got it from. LOL!

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  8. Omg you are so right! I stumbled on your page trying to find an updated baroque piece for my design project and all the websites I've found are "wrong wrong wrong!!!".

    I'm in design school in Portland, OR. Currently attempting to make an acurate book of furniture styles.

    Good luck on your project. Maybe some furniture maker will get the hint and make updated period pieces... and label them correctly.

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