Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bringing Louis XVI Into the 21st Century

This is a tale of bringing a rather homely Louis XVI bergere into the 21st century. I call this rather neglected little Louis XVI girl Louise: she has great lines and well detailed carving, although she is slightly, about 30 years, out of period*. But her stylist really has her wardrobe all wrong--frumpy and boring.  She spent some time at my house waiting for her make over and Mini Beast, my huge adopted Siamese decided that Louise was his. He spent all of his spare (does a cat have spare time?) time--whenever he wasn't eating or terrorizing Maddy ( very small cat)--luxuriating in Louise. Sadly, Mini Beast returned to the spot where Louis had sat for more than a month--I guess he thought that she was returning to him.

In August I decided it was time to start on Louise's makeover. First came paying some much needed attention to the sunburned old dull finish which included stripping (using green products and lots of elbow grease and even dental picks) the beautifully carved frame down to the raw (greige) walnut and smooth sanding the wood (my son, Andrew did this portion). Next came choosing the best fabric to highlight the raw wood--I chose 2 complementary very high end linens: a Donghia silver linen for the front and a very heavy Anna French 100% linen burlap for the back. Then Louise went to my fantastic upholsterer, Lalo, a very American Spaniard from Malaga. First Lalo tightened up Louise's joints, added new padding, gave her a new down cushion and finished the upholstery in tape made from the corresponding linens and nail heads.  And here she is all sassy and ready for her new home. I love the earthiness of the raw wood combined with the linens.

Sometimes, when a piece of furniture turns out as well as this chair did, it is hard to give it up. I think of Louise as the perfect chair to add a bit of class to a boudoir, bedroom  or even a bathroom (study ?). Yes, she is small in scale, but really comfortable for even big men. 

I think that I'm actually getting the hang of this blogging adventure: photos are almost where I want them to be and I managed to stay in Helvetica!!

Thanks for stopping by--Mary

*Period and early 19th century bergeres and fauteuils usually (but not always) have an exposed back with the center support showing. They also are usually crisply and well carved and of a smaller proportion (think of Napoleon). My photo quality doesn't do the carving justice.


  1. I can only imagine the work involved in lightening up the wood...but so worth it!!..
    love the natural greige look which looks great with the linen...beautiful piece..

  2. Hi Maureen, Thank you. I love her, too. Mary

  3. I love this!! I wouldn't mind it in my own boudoir...

  4. I know, but you are family. Thank you! Mom