Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Decorating French Empire Style Bedrooms

Neoclassical style dominated late eighteenth century European decoration. Two distinctive styles known as Empire and Regency emerged from neoclassicism. This particular blog post is dedicated to Empire design, with emphasis on creating French Empire style bedrooms. Pronounced "ahm PEER", this beautiful style was the signature look of Napoleon. Upon assuming the throne in 1804, France’s Emperor wanted a new look that reflected his military success and personal style so he began an ambitious art and design program that resulted in clean lines and bronze doré appliqué that suggested imperial grandeur. Since Napoleon was in the process of expanding the Empire through force, military accents figured heavily into the style of the day.

I adore this particular style even though it is a bit masculine. I find it can be softened with the right fabrics and accessories yet it still gives a home a elegant dynastic appeal. Whether you want a period room or a more modern bedroom with a French Empire twist, I have gathered some images to show you how to create a bedroom from his fabulous era in French history.


It is fitting that we start off the post with pictures of the pinnacle of French Empire decor, the Empress Josephine's bedroom........

......as well as Napoleon’s bedroom at their Chateau de la Malmaison.

Furniture in the French Empire style was generally rectangular and symmetrical, and bronze doré appliqué, burnished gold, and jewel-like inlay finishes became hallmarks of the new style.

Also bedrooms were draped and swagged with luxurious fabric. Many time even suspended from the ceiling giving the French Empire bedroom the look of military grandeur. 

source unknown

Napoleon liked the luxurious tents and wall hangings that were associated with the ancient Roman Empire. Tenting became a design element of the French Empire bedroom after Percier and Fontaine decorated Napoleon and Josephine's château, Malmaison. These bedrooms were designed to resemble the campaign tents of Napoleon's military victories. Here the homeowner has created a bedroom Napoleon would definitely have approved of!

via pinterest

In designing your own French Empire bedroom look for wallpaper, fabrics, etc, that feature Napoleon's imperial symbols. These included the bee, the letter N surrounded by a laurel wreath, stars, and the eagle.

Black lacquer coated wood was very popular as was the use of furs, especially leopard.

In fact black was a very popular color of the day as it represented masculinity and military effect.

Empress Josephine had a love of nature and flowers as well as a preference for lighter materials and colors such as earth tones, poppy red, soft blue.  However during Napoleon's reign the French Empire style took on a darker look and rooms became more formal. Bright royal reds, emeralds or olive green, royal purple, golds, and rich browns were the colors of the day.

Lee Jofa

Satins, silks, brocades and jacquards, figured velvets, and fine wools were fabric preferences for the French Empire style bedroom.

French Empire chandeliers have a stately and dignified presence.These chandeliers function in two parts. The top part is called the tent and the bottom is called the bag. These parts combine to give off a swooping distinct shape.

I love this French Empire style daybed and the regal gold and silver color palette. 

From the book "The Bedroom"
By Diane Berger / Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg 

Mahogany was the wood of choice but ebony, walnut, and tulipwood were also heavily used. Figures representing victory, swans, lions, wreaths, vines, acanthus leaves, Egyptian motifs and geometric shapes such as circles, squares, octagons and ovals were widely used.

Imperial symbols decorate the chair arms, curtains, carpets, and porcelain of most French Empire style bedrooms. You don't have to drench yourself in gilt but be prepared to use some even if sparingly.

You can create a softer version of the French Empire bedroom by using light weight cream fabric for the bed curtain. Even gauze will work. The trick is to find the right bed. Even a sleigh bed with the right curtain treatment will give you the desired look. And there is that little bit of gilt!

Create a bed yourself by using head and foot boards from a French style bed. You can find similar pieces at antique and collectible malls. I saw one this past weekend while treasure hunting that I thought would make a great Empire style bed but have enough projects on my plate so I had to walk away. 

Artistic metalwork flourished in an outpouring of beautiful clocks. Look for pieces such as these. You can find less expensive ones, just keep this style of clock in mind while looking.

Also a French Empire style bedroom needs decorative accessories like these candelabra. If antiques aren't an option keep an eye out for affordable reproductions found at home decor stores.

source unknown

Another popular motif for your French Empire bedroom would be the Greek Key design.

source unknown
via Pinterest

Details featuring eagles, bees, Napoleon’s initials, and laurel wreathes took center sage on cabinetry and metalware during the Empire age. Look for pieces that have these embellishments.

Napoleon was captivated by Egypt during his campaign there (May 1795–October 1799). He made a study of monuments, temples and royal tombs and brought back to France exotic motifs that caused Egyptomania throughout the Empire.

French Neoclassical / Empire Style Settee 
 In the French Empire bedroom Sphinxes and caryatids (female figures serving as supports) were prevalent on furniture.

Wouldn't this fabulous bed look stunning in a French Empire style bedroom. This antique is c1799, and on display in Musée de Louvre. Notice Empress Josephine's beloved swans. You could always stencil some classical motifs on your own creation.

Here is an old desk I recently painted black, added a burled wood paint technique, gilt striping and stenciled motif. A bed would be lovely painted like this and hung with Empire style bed curtains. Make an inexpensive bed look like a million dollars and give it a special place in your French Empire bedroom.

Black and gold paint in a Greek key design, lion pulls and luxurious bedding give an instant Empire feel to this bedroom. Add elegance and sophistication to your bedroom with old leather-bound books, gilded picture frames, trinket boxes and elegant, luxurious throw pillows.

Your Empire style bedroom can take on a more feminine feel with the right fabrics. Feminine floral stripes in pink and green against a more masculine green stripe gives it a nice balance.

Pretty French Empire style bedroom at Viscaya. This look could be duplicated with a plain sleigh bed and added gold leaf embellishments. Add beautiful bedding and a curtain of course!

Figures of fame and victory were echoed in the decorative arts during the Empire. Notice the stars and wreaths on the carpet as well as the brass embellishments on the bed. Also anything you can do to create a tent like feel will be perfect for your French Empire bedroom.

Marc Boisseau

Stroheim & Romann, Neoclassical print wallpaper and fabrics

Tented beds fit with the concept of imperial dynasty and conquest, so of course they work well in a French Empire style bedroom. Great accessories and wallpaper designed in neoclassical style complete the look.

Here is an example of finding the right headboard and making your bed look like it would fit wonderfully in an Empire bedroom. Put a small, tailored loveseat at the foot and it gives you the feel of a rectangular empire bed. Lots of pillows for that luxe feel and you are ready to enjoy.

Here a modern bed looks Empire chic with a cornice and curtain and classical accessories. The nailheads are the right accent to make the bedroom look as if it stepped out of the Empire period. Even if you don't have expensive artifacts, flea market antiques and brass accessories work perfectly for a French Empire theme.

source unknown

The ruffled curtain and pink color pallet gives this French Empire inspired bedroom a soft, feminine feel. Just don't get carried away. This style won't take kindly to an abundance of ruffles. Find pretty French chairs and any table with a brass pie crust top. What makes this softness work is the wallpaper with a design that resembles a wreath.

I realize the antique beds are out of many peoples price range. That shouldn't stop you from creating a beautiful Empire style bedroom. Get yourself a modern bed or head and foot board like these three examples and you are off to a great start. Pick up some French Empire style accessories in your treasure hunting and you will be good to go!


You might also enjoy a tour of Napoleon and Josephine's Chateau de Malmaison


Click here to see the previous post

This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Decorating With Blue Painted Furniture

Painted furniture is a popular trend right now even though I consider it classic because it truly never goes out of style. Painted furniture is an easy solution when you need to change the look of a room and I think every home can use a painted piece or two to break up the look of too much wood. 

I am a fan of antiquing a piece instead of distressing. I like to give a piece with good bones a second chance by making it look better instead of beating the poor thing to death. Also I don't believe in painting a good antique. Despite what many think, the French do not do that! 

This post is dedicated to those wonderful blue painted pieces. Blue is a very popular color due it’s diversity in the color spectrum. 

I have gathered some images of blue painted furniture that would enhance any interior. Believe me it was harder than I thought it would be since the percentage of good blue furniture is pale in comparison to the really bad pieces. Enjoy and let these blues lift your spirits!!

It's hard to beat a lovely faded blue patina.

source unknown

I lived the painted furniture life years ago in the 80's when my style was American Colonial/Primitive. Blue was a popular color for painted furniture then too. You would see cupboards much like the one above in lovely shades of blue. I loved it then and still am drawn to it's appeal even though blue painted furniture doesn't work in my interiors today.

source unknown

We have moved from the "everything painted white" look to a more sophisticated style of painted furniture done in creams, greys, and greyed down versions of other colors such as blue which lend an old world quality to the interior.

Blue has always been a desirable color for furniture. An article in Country life in America,  1915, stated that "painted furniture is to be used largely this year throughout. The plain colors, particularly pale grey, ivory, green and blue used in floral patterns are most popular".

via Pinterest

Shades of blue furniture works great when juxtaposed to whites and grays.

I think the appeal is due to the fact that any piece of furniture looks great painted blue.

Painting furniture blue is a great way to revive older pieces, especially those that need TLC but are not good enough to invest in a restoration.

Charles Faudree

This beautiful shade of blue is reminiscent of the deep grey blue found on the classic 18th and 19th century Aubusson rugs from France. It is an elegant color that works well with many colors as it is a dark neutral.


I especially love hand painted furniture pieces with blue accents.

Lovely blue and white 18th century Italian painted furniture. Try your hand a adding some embellishments to the piece you are painting yourself. Or if you are not artistically inclined, stencil on some florals and period details.

This dark "greyed down" blue works really well with neutrals.

Axel Vervoordt

The many facets of gray-blue keep this shade at the top of designers lists for painted  furniture. It's a wonderful color for keeping a feminine/masculine balance.

Blue painted furniture is a look that reflects life's simpler times, bringing back that farmhouse warmth.

This piece has a lovely blue color and texture that will add real character to any setting.

I adore the soft impressionist blue furniture often used in historic French interiors.

Charles Faudree

Incorporating blue into a room doesn't have to involve painting the walls. Adding accent pieces of blue painted furniture will give you the desired look.

In U.S. and European public opinion polls blue is overwhelmingly chosen by almost half of both men and women as their favorite. Another reason you can't go wrong with a piece of blue painted furniture.

Duck egg blue is a fabulous choice if you have decided to paint a piece of furniture. Remember the more muted the better the look.

I love the rustic European blue furniture but also adore the gilded pieces. A touch of gold never hurts!

A pretty pastel blue works particularly well when waxed with a dark brown. Just a little aging for character.

Beautiful Swedish Rococo Writing Desk via 1stdibs.com
On the high end of the current spectrum is 18th-century Swedish Gustavian painted furniture derived from King Gustav III, who had been dazzled by the court at Versailles. Many of the Gustavian examples on the market today are painted in soft grays, blues and greens.

via Pinterest

Furniture that fits the French Country decor has light, muted colors with a darker rich color undertone.

French country furniture, like this blue painted armoire, resembles the ornate furnishings of the 18th-century royals, but has a look that fits better in the rural French home.

via Pinterest

You may have discovered a piece of furniture at a thrift store or yard sale that has features reminiscent of French country pieces. Painting it to look authentic involves the proper paint and finish. Study antique painted pieces to see how and where they have aged. For instance a drawer usually doesn't get worn in the center, just around the edges. 

What causes a good idea or "trend' to become passe and even abhorred is when over saturation occurs and bad DIY projects ruin the whole look. I am afraid this is what will happen soon to the painted furniture trend. Fortunately good pieces will always stand the test of time and if your piece is painted authentically, it will become a family heirloom.

Click here to see the previous post

This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 Follow Me On Facebook Follow Me On Pinterest Subscribe to my RSS Feed Send Me An Email