French Hunting style furniture and decor became popular in the court of King Francis I in the 1500s. Yet four hundred years later, it looks just as good in today’s homes. An impressive yet comfortable and welcoming style of decor, the French Hunting style is a great choice for people who enjoy an elevated rustic look. And no, you don’t have to be a hunter to appreciate this fine craftsmanship.
The Origins of French Hunting Style Furniture and Decor
The French Hunting style was made popular by King Francis I (1515 – 1547) who ruled in France at around the same time as King Henry VIII ruled across the channel in England.
Francis I was a great supporter of the arts, especially Italian Renaissance art and architecture. He even tempted Leonardo da Vinci to move to France to create art in the King’s court! King Francis spent a lot of money building and renovating castles and grand stately homes, including Château Fontainebleau, Château d’Amboise and Château de Blois.
Whatever the king did, the royal court followed. Aristocrats also began building châteaux and hunting lodges in the countryside near Paris in the rural Loire Valley. King Francis established a style of decorating these new buildings in a way that was inspired by the hunt and rural life, as well as noble mythological beasts that reflected the regal power of the monarchy. The aristocrats picked up on the look too, of course, following the taste of their King. Thus the French Hunting style was born. Whether this style is featured on a sideboard, buffet, or any other piece, the charm of this antique French style is truly special.
Renaissance Revival Hunting Style
Hunting style returned to popularity centuries later in France during the Renaissance Revival era in the late 19th century, when the newly wealthy middle class was keen to buy large, ornate and heavily-carved furniture to show off their rise in status. The Hunting style checked all the boxes, boasting fine craftsmanship in the carved details that was sure to impress. It was a very decorative look adorned with carved foliage, vines and animals, as well as handsome barley twists, yet this ornate style was still practical and comfortable to live with, focusing on dark woods rather than glitzy or gilded finishes.
Typical Features of French Hunting Style Furniture
To decorate the interior of aristocratic French chateaux and lodges, Hunting style furniture makers turned to symbols of the hunt to create an interesting theme in these luxurious pieces.
- Carvings inspired by the hunt included stags, fish, birds, dogs, foxes, rabbits and boars.
- Carvings of mythical creatures included winged griffins, dragons and serpents.
- Noble lion heads were also frequently used to adorn furniture, with the carved heads roaring out of the wood. Metal lion heads decorated door or drawer handles on cabinets.
- Carving of flowing forest foliage such as leaves, berries, acorns, fruits and flowers, or maybe even a barley twist.
- Decoration in the shape of grapes and vines were also popular, as would be natural in this wine-making region of the Loire valley.
- Barley twists often frame cabinets or serve as support posts on nightstands, adding more visual texture and design interest.
- Dark woods such as walnut, oak, and mahogany are featured strongly, and now boast a beautiful patina on the antique furniture.
- Warm colors
- The heavily-carved woods were sometimes enhanced by stained glass in the upper doors of cabinets.
Hunting Style Furniture and Decor in Today’s Homes
French Hunting Style antique furniture is still one of our most popular styles in our online store, proving that you don’t need a fancy chateau or hunting lodge to enjoy the look in your own home! Our customers love these hand-carved antique pieces as they add great warmth, character and decorative appeal to a home.
The lavish carvings of foliage and fruits brings a noble but rustic look to any home, and makes Hunting style a great match for a dining room. Carved vines often trailed down the backs of dining chairs. Today, Hunting style dining chairs with vines and grapes are a great choice for wine lovers who enjoy opening a great vintage when they host dinner parties. For example, our antique French Hunting chairs in the customer spotlight of our customer Sal’s dining room look amazing with their vines and grapes and also barley twists that create a bold silhouette.
Animal lovers will enjoy the realistic carvings of wild animals of the hunt (deer, moose, etc.) that bring a space to life and add tons of personality to a home. For example, carvings of roaring lions and other beasts are fierce protectors of your home! The animal faces are also sure to be a wonderful talking point at your next party.
The carvings of forest animals are the stars on this round antique French Hunting table, dating to 1880 and hand-crafted in oak wood. The vividly realistic details of the fox, boar, stag and hunting dog, all leaping out of the pedestal, are superb emblems of the royal hunt!
Nature is your muse for smaller home accessories too, including animal statues and figurines, or antler mounts on the walls or in light fittings. You don’t have to buy real stag antlers. Our collection of new OK Casting antler wall mounts are hand-crafted in resin, and each one is made in America. They look very authentic and have a nice weight to them.
We also have OK Casting chandeliers and other light fixtures featuring stags, boars, foxes and other Hunting inspired motifs. Bookends and boxes are other nicely crafted pieces to complete the atmosphere.
Mechelen antique furniture is the Flemish version of French Hunting Style, named for the city of Mechelen in Belgium. These rustic pieces are also heavily-carved with splendid lion heads, human faces and figurines. Our blog post What is Mechelen Style Antique Furniture tells you all about this look, including photos.
You can find French Hunting style antique furniture and home decor in our online store, where there are plenty of options to pick a unique heirloom piece to bring this handsome look to your home.
Aimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.