BuildDirect Blog: Life at Home

Rococo Furniture: A History of a Design Revival

Rococo Armoire

A Rococo armoire. (Photo: frenchfinds.co.uk)

When Louis XIV’s 72-year reign ended with his death in 1715, the Rococo style was born. Design became looser than the strict, formal and austere Baroque era. Rococo was optimistic, light, feminine and exuberant with shell, plant and flower motifs.

Rococo was replaced by Neo-classicism and a return to Greek and Roman design. In 1840, however, the fluid lines of Rococo became popular again. Rococo Revival became one of the dominant designs in the Victorian era and lasted into the 1870s.

The characteristics of Rococo Revival furniture were:

  • Medium to large scale
  • Tufted upholstery with interior springs
  • Symmetrical scrolls and curves
  • C and S curves
  • Lavish, high-relief carvings of nature motifs
  • Curved cabriole legs on casters
  • Marble tabletops
  • Mahogany, rosewood, walnut
  • Feminine, resulting in furniture mostly for the parlor and bedroom

Examples of Rococo style

John Belter, a well-known Rococo Revival furniture maker, used laminated rosewood with deep carving and piercework, and thick, upholstered, tufted seats and backs. Even the fabric was elaborate with floral designs.

Rococo sofa designed by John H. Belter, key proponent in the Rococo revival in the mid-1800s (Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This Rococo Revival sofa has birds and bird nest carvings. If you look at all the photos, you will also see the carved cabriole legs on casters.

Rococo design flourishes

Side chairs were less ornate, but were made with tufted upholstery and cabriole legs on casters.

This Rococo Revival étagère was machine made, but the flowers were hand carved. Note the typical C and S curves.

Lighting fixtures were brass with a variety of elaborate designs.

This center table has cabriole legs on casters, elaborate carvings and a marble top. Here is the table with a Rococo Revival sofa.

Rococo side table

A Rococo side table. (Photo: Frenchfinds.co.uk)

Another Rococo revival?

I am curious to see if Rococo makes another comeback. Even though my tastes are simple, I can appreciate the extensive work involved and the idea of Rococo being a sign of freedom and openness.

Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.

5 Comments

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  2. Thanks for this article–it is a great overview! While I think contemporary taste favors more simple lines than are used in Rococo style, I see bits and pieces of it here and there. Tufted furniture and elaborate mirrors have made a big comeback in the past few years. Rococo looks are still relevant if presented in a more stripped down context, I think.

    • Thanks, Mark! I like carved floral accents, but the true Rococo design is a bit much for me, and like you say, modern taste. As we try to simplify, this style does not fit in. It has surely influenced other styles, though.

  3. Typifying the grand elegance of 19th century Paris, the Rococo bed exudes antique charm. Period carvings on the French-style Rococo bed frame echo the traditional styling perfectly, but look just as beautiful in a modern bedroom with looks that are hard to miss. Our Rococo bed collection is crafted from mahogany and expertly painted, stained or hand-leafed before being delicately antiqued to complete the finish.

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