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 

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