Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Decorating With The French Bergère Chair

Two iconic French armchairs, the bergère and the fauteuil, are frequently misidentified. Although they are similar, they are two totally different chairs. My last blog post focused on the fauteuil. Now the spotlight is on the French bergère which came into vogue as comfortable seating quickly became all the rage in 18th century France.

The bergère (ber zher'), French for “shepherdess”, was first seen in the Louis XV period. Louis XV enjoyed conversation and commissioned his chair maker (Jean-Baptiste Tilliard) to create a comfortable chair that would be well suited for conversation areas. He created the bergère around 1725 at the end of the Régence period. It is a low, upholstered chair with enclosed arms thus distinguishing it from it's open armed close relative, the fauteuil. The bergère was fitted with an upholstered back, padded armrests, and a loose, tailored seat cushion that provided lounging in comfort, while the enclosed arms and back helped to keep out drafts. Cabriole legs were often used on this chair.

In my opinion, a French bergère can add a sense of history and elegance to any style of room. Even though it has a timeless design, this chair can benefit from a bevy of upholstery fabric options that can take it easily into more modern settings. This style is still as popular today as it was in stylish European homes centuries ago.

Here in this French salon, you can see the difference between the two fauteuils and the striped bergère.

As French intellectuals developed a fondness for salons, where they would gather to discuss art, literature, and other important events of the time, more comfortable seating became imperative. French furniture designers began to design more comfortable suites of furniture that allowed for comfort and well as aesthetics.

A royal Louis XVI giltwood bergère which was made for Marie Antoinette by François II Foliot. A French bergère like this was more than likely used in the drawing room and was often part of a suite with accompanying settee.

The bergère catered to the needs and comfort of users, particularly women, whose wide dresses could make sitting very difficult. To accommodate the opulent fashions of the day, chair arms were shortened to give more room and chair backs were lowered so the backs of huge coiffures would not get mussed.

The bergère was the favorite chair of the most fashionable women of the day.The fanciful name, "shepherdess chair", was coined in mid-eighteenth century Paris.

Kara Childress via

It was the lightness and style which made the French bergère chair so popular as an occasional guest chair.They were light enough to move around making rearranging easy.

The bergère is a perfect chair for the bedroom. With a slightly reclined back they are pleasant to sit in making them ideal for reading and relaxing before bedtime.

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Gilded or painted the Bergère frame looks even more fabulouly French when upholstered in toile.

Betsy Speert

These antique French curved chairs typically featured carved wooden frames that were gilded or painted and exposed to view.

Ginny Magher

French bergère backs can be high or low, square, round, curved, or conical (flowing without a break into the arms) in shape.

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These chairs look spendid together and offer symmetry, however a solitary bergère or fauteuil can stand alone beautifully.

I love the French Provincial bergère covered in cream fabric. There is such a quite elegance about them.

Bohemiennes on Etsy

Because of the lower backs of the bergères, they are great chairs to place in front of a feature window and not have to worry about your view being obstructed.

via Pinterest

At home in a classical French bedroom, this bergère would look just as good in a toned down rustic French farmhouse. These chairs are chameleons.

French bergère chair upholstery was often done in silk and a brilliant color but a wide variety of other fabrics and patterns can be used, along with materials like leather.

The bergère is an excellent accent chair in almost any room.

via Pinterest

All styles of bergère chairs are lovely whether they are medallion back, serpentine back, or square back like these.

Joseph Minton, via Southern Accents

Another fabulous room in which a pair of French bergère chairs elevate the interior to a higher level of sophistication.

via Pinterest

Several different styles of bergère chairs are represented in this French salon.

via Pinterest

If you want more of a French Country look, you might prefer a cane bergère.

I adore these French chairs in cane.
The wood of a bergère chair may be left untreated, or it may be stained, painted, or gilded. Some people like to antique the wood, giving it a distressed patina so it blends into a room with an aged feel.

Classically, the chair is oversized and very well stuffed, making it a comfortable and inviting place to sit. There are many stunning reproductions available today with a wide variety of upholstery fabric from which to choose. This classic style French bergère chair has a look that is fresh for today.

Taylor & Taylor Design Firm

Unique upholstery gives these comfortable chairs an elegant edge.

French bergère chairs are right at home in an eclectic interior. These are covered in a trendy ikat pattern.

The French bergère remains a popular decorating choice for interior designers. Like most classic decorating pieces, it has stood the test of time.

Whether you paint them, gild them, or leave then au natural, bergère chairs will definitely have you saying OUI, OUI!

To learn more about French chairs be sure to visit 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Decorating With The French Fauteuil

A question I am asked frequently pertaining to French arm chairs is "what is the difference between a fauteuil and a bergère. While people often use the terms interchangeably, these are indeed two different chairs. This blog post is designed to show you the difference, and hopefully convince you how incorporating either of them into you home will provide instant polish and sophistication. This post will be devoted to the fauteuil, with a follow up in a few days spotlighting the bergère. First let's learn how to pronounce it.


The fauteuil (foe-toy) is an upholstered armchair with open sides and a primarily exposed wooden frame that is often gilded or otherwise painted. The fact that it has open sides distinguishes it from the bergère which is totally enclosed. It is typically upholstered on the seat, the seat back, and on the arms (manchettes), with carved decoration on the arms, legs, seat edge, and around the frame of the back. The style is never fussy, but instead has a light and graceful appearance. Older than the bergère, this style chair is considered the chair of kings. It was developed in the late 1600's in France, towards the end of Louis XIV's reign. 

This is my favorite type of armchair and I could post pictures of them for days. I will try and contain myself and not overwhelm you with images. Maybe somewhere in the 20-100 range.....just kidding.

In this room you can see the difference in a fauteuil (foreground) and the bergère (background).

via Pinterest

Possibly the single most important and dynamic period of European furniture design took place under the reigns of the Louis', the three French kings of the 17th and 18th centuries. The fauteuil was created during this time frame.

Most fauteuils were painted or gilded by specialized painter-gilders. Finally, an upholsterer would cover the frame with silk, velvet, tapestry, or other luxurious material and fine trimmings.

via Pinterest

Again it is the open arms that distinguishes the fauteuil from the bergère.

Fauteuils could remain in natural wood when they were waxed or varnished. Until the creation of fauteuils, chairs tended to be formal, with a high straight and rectangular back. Slowly the shape of chairs began to change, becoming more graceful and comfortable.

The style is never fussy. Instead fauteuils are light, refined and ornamented with carved decoration on the arms, legs, seat edge and around the frame of the back.
The fauteuil remained popular in the 18th century and was taken up by the English cabinetmakers, such as Chippendale, who described them as 'French chairs'.

Louis XVI, Pierre de Priester Antiquités

Because of its small size, the fauteuil can be easily moved to accommodate different conversation areas.

Some fauteuils can be found with straight legs like these Louis XVI Style Oval Back Armchairs.

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Fauteuils can also have graceful cabriolet legs.

The seat cushion can be attached or loose.

via Pinterest

Fauteuils vary greatly in shape. Some have a square or rectangular back.

Charles Faudree

Other fauteuils have a squarish back with a serpentine top.......

while others are more curvilinear or even circular.

Henri Samuel and Susan Gutfreund

Medallion back fauteuils presents the perfect opportunity for covering the back in a print and the seat in a corresponding solid.

Furlow Gatewood

When a fauteuil is placed in a room it seems like your eyes are just drawn to it's shape. Even this cane back style stands out in a room full of lovely furnishings.

A fauteuil has the ability to look handsome when upholstered in a wide variety of prints and patterns. For instant country French flair cover one in toile.

And you can't beat a fauteuil that has been upholstered in a casual check. It is the perfect look for the French country home.

I simply adore the typically French chateau style fauteuil with open arms, painted wooden frame, and cream linen upholstery.

The fauteuil is a chair you can have fun with. Contemporary fabric patterns and vivid colors look chic on these historical frames in an "opposites attract" kind of way.

all images via Pinterest

Lisa Farmer Designs

For a pop of fun in my more serious living room, I recently covered the seat of a cane back fauteuil in a faux Tibetan lamb fur.

The fauteuil is a chair that works wonderfully in an eclectic interior. They just seem to enhance any style.

You will never regret adding a French fauteuil to your interior space. From the salon to the bedroom they are the perfect enhancement.

Look for the next post featuring the bergère!!

Click here to see the previous post

This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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