People sometimes get confused about the difference between English Regency style furniture and French Regency style furniture. That’s no surprise when they sound so alike, but they are actually quite different in the way they look. Our Guide to Regency Style Furniture tells you all about the English Regency period and its influence on interior designers. Today we’ll talk about the French Regency period too, and show you how to tell the difference between the two furniture styles. One thing is sure- both of these movements resulted in the creation of countless pieces of beautiful antique furniture.
The one thing that both English Regency and French Regency style furniture has in common is that in both countries the term Regency referred to a period when a Prince Regent stood in for the monarch. Let’s start with La Belle France!
French Regency Style Furniture
The French Regency or Régence years were in the early 18th century when King Louis XV was too young to reign and so Philippe d’Orléans governed in his place as Prince Regent. The fine furniture and decorative arts in this period were in a transitional style. It shows the shifting tastes between the previous Baroque styling that was popular during the reign of Louis XIV, and the rising Rococo look that would become fashionable during the reign of King Louis XV after he took the throne as an adult.
Furniture design in this transition style Régence era started to develop the curved lines and ornate feminine details that would later flourish into full-blown Rococo styling. Rococo furniture was very graceful and full of lavish carvings and sensuous shapes. Embellishments drew on the natural world, with flowery, frilly and watery carvings including swirling shells. Furniture designs were often asymmetric, which was an exciting new development at the time.
Typical French Regency Style Furniture Features
- Furniture boasted curved lines and corners, and sinuous lines including bombe shapes and serpentine fronts on cabinets.
- New motifs included shells, mythological beasts, and masques.
- You also see a lot of flamboyant scrolls including C-shaped scrolls and S-shaped scrolls, and leafy scrolls known as foliated scrolls.
- Curvy cabriole legs, and hoof feet.
- Woods included walnut, rosewood and oak, often featuring beautiful surface veneers and marquetry.
- The wood was accented with marble and with regally gilt bronze or gilded metal ormolu ornaments.
- Seating in French furniture became much more comfortable in general, including curved backs rather than rigid straight backs. Cane chairs became popular too. It was all an invitation to encourage you to draw up a chair for some elegant conversation… and gossip!
English Regency Style Furniture
About a century later, across the channel in England, the English Regency era occurred in the early 19th century. During those years George IV served as Prince Regent on behalf of his father George III who wasn’t well enough to govern. But the term English Regency style usually refers to a longer time span than just those 9 years, continuing through to around 1837.
Typical English Regency Style Furniture Features
- Furniture design retained the Neoclassical look of the Georgian era, inspired by ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian design.
- Straight lines and clean edges are a staple of regency period furniture.
- Furniture makers in this period emphasized symmetrical and streamlined designs in contrast to the ornate flourishes and carvings of the earlier French Regency furniture.
- Dark woods including mahogany and dramatic decorative veneers were the focus to create a sense of majesty and luxury, often accented by gold and metal accents.
- Ornamentation such as classic decorative motifs included rosettes, laurel wreaths, acanthus leaves and lyres, which are U-shaped harps. Lion masks were another decorative accent.
English Regency Versus French Regency Style Furniture
As you can see, there is quite a contrast between the clean and straight-lined Neoclassical look of English Regency style furniture versus the curvy shapes and decorative flourishes of the French Regency style. Both styles are wonderful, it just depends on your own personal taste and what works for your home and lifestyle.
An English Regency interior design scheme will work terrifically well in a dining room, where the classic and elegant style is sure to impress when you are entertaining friends. A French Regency look is perfect for a living room or seductive bedroom where the curvy lines create a sense of lavish comfort and decorative allure.
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.