Who's your favorite Louis?
As a Baroque historian living in a modern house, I have to go with Louis the Last (XVI). Probably much too straight-forward a person to be king, his namesake style chair has an essential geometry that's proved iconic, yet flexible through the centuries.
Unlike the continuous curves of its predecessor (a Louis XV chair), my Louis pairs straight legs with oval or circle backs. (Actually, they did square or almost square too, but oval is my preference). No fussy curlicues and no irregular shapes.
The greatest complication to its form lies in its precise proportions. Legs are slender and gently taper downwards— a fact often emphasized by carved fluting. Arms, if they exist, are shorter than the depth of its seat to echo how far elbows extend in relation to our knees.
A mixture of Baroque elegance and modern sobriety, it's no wonder the birth of this chair coincided with revolution.
And survived it.
Unlike its unfortunate (beheaded) namesake,
the essential form of a Louis XVI chair has transcended centuries of style coups—from Queen Victoria to Phillipe Stark.
The first image, above, is an 18th Century period piece upholstered in Aubusson and recently featured on a blog we love, Decor to Adore. More recent incarnations include (clockwise, from top to bottom):
- The ethereal, stackable, iconic-in-its-own-right "Louis Ghost" chair by Philippe Stark for Kartell,
- available in transparent and colored polycarbonate through Design Within Reach. (Note: the manufacturer's website quotes Louis XV as inspiration (?)...a question for Mr. Stark oneday).
- The Tyler Armchair by Oly Studio captures the chair's basic form all tidied up for modern rooms, and void of surface decoration. (Mouse loves it upholstered in cozy mohair as shown).
- All the grace of Louis the Best times three: the Triple Medallion Settee by Wisteria.
- Fashion designer Charles Nolan's spiffy redo of a vintage Louis style chair, repainted and tailored to perfection in a Holland & Sherry wool flannel with sharp red trim. Available at his impeccably decorated New York shop and by inquiry online.
- An ingenious window display of surrealist-inspired "melting" chairs in the windows of Moschino's NYC shop during Design Week 2009.
- "Lou Lou", a child-size version of the Louis Ghost chair by Kartell. Sized well for a certain cocreator of this blog, but lacking the extra plush padding she desires.
- The Comtesse dog bed by Prestige Houses. Okay, it's not a chair. But it is an impeccably crafted Louis XVI reproduction piece just perfect for our resident design diva, Mouse.