Romantic and lavishly decorative, the Rococo style of furniture and home decor is often known as the Louis XV style because the look rose to prominence in the 1700s under the reign of King Louis XV, with more than a little input from his favorite mistress Madame du Pompadour!
This was the Golden Age of decorative style in France, and the graceful curvy lines of the King Louis XV (or Louis Quinze) style furniture appealed to the extravagant taste of the king’s court. It continues to appeal today, as it lends a sensuous and feminine look to any room, whether you buy genuine antique Rococo furniture with exquisitely carved details or a newly-crafted piece inspired by original designs.
Shells and watery and frilly shapes are often carved on furniture, along with birds, flowers, fruit, acanthus leaves, flourishing ribbons and free-flowing curvy scroll shapes reminiscent of the letters S and C. Designs were often asymmetric, which was a new development in the 18th century. Chairs and tables feature curvy cabriole legs and sideboards and console tables often boast a curved front bombe shape.
The Neoclassical appearance of furniture that emerged during the reign of King Louis XVI of France and his wife Marie Antoinette was in contrast to the romantic Rococo looks popular under the previous king. It was called the goût grec, meaning the Greek taste, because after the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were discovered in 1748, the world was fascinated by classical Greek and Roman design.
The new emphasis was on symmetry and straight lines. Furniture featured simple adornments such as brass columns and carved pillars and mythological figures. Classical motifs included the Vitruvian scroll pattern of repeated rolling waves. While these pieces are sometimes decorated in gilding and gold ormolu, the clean lines of the Louis XVI or Louis Seize style make it a good match for today’s homes, where it conveys a sense of tradition without being overly fussy.