[Late-Louis XIV canape from Demiurge.]
Maybe I was swayed by some comments my grandmother once made, but I used to think lounging around on the furniture for hours at a time was mainly a 20th-century habit.
[Louis XIV-style chaise lounge via Bonhams]
It's easy to forget that roughly 400 years ago the French were innovating chic pieces designed for reclining. A few years back, I enjoyed a talk given by the lively French professor and author Joan DeJean. One of her major areas of interest is Europe's longest reigning king (to date), Louis XIV (1638-1715), and she explained how he positioned France as the international arbiter of all things luxe and high style (the recent Chanel Resort show at Versailles is an example of how his power still reverberates).
[Carolina Herrera, Jr.'s estancia photographed by Francois Halard, American Vogue Living,
And although Bohanan states up front that her book is intended to be a social history ("a book about what things can tell us about the lives and lifestyles of their owners"), not a history of the decorative arts, she nonetheless describes many objects in detail. Artist Teresa Rodriguez's interpretations of period furnishings are a nice bonus, too.
[Curator Jacqueline Jacque's now highly coveted exhibition catalogue from a recent
Extensive postmortem household inventories, required by law in France during the 17th and 18th centuries, give us a sense of just how busy French upholsterers were (the volume of slipcovers is a little staggering), how many sets of chairs French provencials bought, and what the must-have pieces were (Turkish rugs, paintings, lacquered Asian-inspired cabinets, clocks, impressive beds bedecked with harmonizing textiles, softly-cushioned modern chaise lounges, and pairs, pairs and more pairs). We also learn who could afford to embrace ever-changing color trends -- from rich reds and greens to blues to lighter, brighter shades such as citron, yellow, and pink with green.
[Louis XIV-style at Amy Perlin]
[Coleen Rider's photo of a Peter Dunham vignette using Carolina Irving's blue-and-white fabrics. Directly below, Dunham embraces the French style of repeating a pattern throughout a bedroom, House & Garden, August 2006.]
[Below, a detail of a fragment of a 17th-century Anatolian rug from the
Turk ve Islam Eserleri Museum in Istanbul, via Hali spring 2007]
[Betsy Burnham's house photographed by, Lisa Romerein; image courtesy Burnham.]
[Sid Mashburn day-glo Tretorns]
More than the direct influence exerted by the Sun King, Bohanan is concerned with the power of fashion, the desire to be in style, and the impact of abundant engravings and magazines such as Le Mercure. She writes:
"What was fashionable and state of the art in Paris captured the hearts and minds, and soon the purses, of provincial nobles, connoting a closer relationship between center and periphery than historians of grain prices and market integration have maintained -- this because consumption of decorative items has little to do with traditional market forces of supply and demand."
[Garniture -- all the rage in Bohanon's findings. I recently spotted this five-piece set
over at Ceylon et Cie.]
over at Ceylon et Cie.]
[Dick Dumas's 1980s (or 70s?) four-poster bed made from plumbing pipes and covered with Manuel Canovas fabric, as seen in Pierre Deux's French Country.]
Interior decoration is referenced in some way throughout the entire book; after all, architecture and decoration were (and clearly still are) such powerful ways of expressing one's identity. In subcategories, though, Bohanan delves into: comfort, convenience, and innovation in furniture and lighting; color, regularite, and the French preoccupation with matched sets; luxury; taste and politics; and dining and sociability.
[Ann Mashburn, a self-described Francophile, with husband Sid. The bed hanging is a much more minimal descendant of the elaborate hangings which evolved throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.
Photo by Jessica Antola, House Beautiful, July 2011.]
[Mashburn at home, photographed by Erica George Dines courtesy Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles.]