In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought it time to address my love affair with Louis Philippe. Who is Louis Philippe, and how did his name become a part of my daily vocabulary? In order to answer these questions and more, I will have to give you a brief French history lesson – so sit back and relax!
For nearly two centuries, the House of Bourbon dominated the courts of France, as well as its trends, fashion, and décor. The “Fab Four”, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, had major influence on the arts and design, not only in France but in all of Europe. Each King Louis had his own personality, and thus his own signature style that defined his rule and made its mark on the world. With the execution of Louis XVI and the overthrow of Charles X, Louis Philippe became king. His monarchy was a new type of monarchy based on the support of the people and he became known as the “Citizen’s King”.
King Louis Philippe lived a modest lifestyle, doing away with most of the pomp and excess of the past French monarchies. He tried to please everyone, and famously in doing so, pleased no one. He was the last French ruler to ever hold the title of ‘King of France,’ and ended up being exiled to England.
The Louis Philippe style emerged during its namesake’s reign (1830-1848) in an effort to visually communicate his sensitivity to the French bourgeoisie. Comfort and functionality became the primary consideration with a simple, yet elegant aesthetic. My favorite Louis Philippe pieces are hands-down commodes and mirrors. I adore these pieces because of their decorative caliber, versatility, and ability to blend with more transitional interiors; we always have these beauties in stock at our retail showroom, and on our online platforms. I’ve highlighted these two treasures below, along with their hallmarks:
The Louis Philippe Mirror – Like the commode, it is simple in form. It is typically rectangular with curved top corners and squared bottom corners. The classic finish is gold or silver leaf. The frames usually have some type of vine, flower, or geometric motif for decoration. They strike the perfect balance of structural and soft, with elegance and character.
The Louis Philippe Commode – If you forced me to pick, I’d say this is my absolute favorite antique. It is typically solid and sturdy with little adornment. It has rounded lines with a marble top. Case pieces like this usually feature some type of “soft curve” to lend softness to the otherwise straight lines that were common of this period. The marble is usually gray, black, or white with some type of decorative profile. The front veneer usually features a beautiful dark wood like walnut, mahogany, or rosewood. These seamlessly incorporate into more transitional interiors.
While King Louis Philippe might not have pleased his subjects during reign, aesthetically he is a man after my own heart. I adore the simple sophistication of his namesake pieces, and my heart skips a beat when I spy one on my antiquing adventures. Please consider one of these pieces for your own home to add a bit of je ne sais quoi!