Louis XIV style is marked by dignity, grandeur, bold effects, lavish but not excessive ornament, and faultless workmanship. Curves were modest, straight lines prominent and elaborate ornamentation reigned supreme. Chairs were varied, ranging from the stool to the high back padded armchair, which was more like a throne, with heavy carvings and rich upholstery.
Most chairs from this period have stretchers. One of the most common styles of French chairs is the fauteuil, an upholstered armchair with open sides that came into popularity under the reign of Louis XIV. Eventually, upholstered pads were added to the top of the fauteuil armrests for even greater comfort.
The commode, or chest of drawers, appeared with ornate brass pulls and key escutcheons. Console tables and writing desks became fashionable, and mirrors, chandeliers and candelabras became more common. The cabinet arrived from Italy. Legs were figural, baluster and claw, many with pied de biche (hoof foot).
Gilded bronze decoration was popular and André-Charles Boulle created marquetry. Much of the finest furniture made by Boulle and his numerous imitators was of ebony and carved gilt wood.
Design motifs backed Louis XIV, the Sun King, as all powerful. Furniture was interlaced with the "L" initial, fleur de lis, and the sunburst. Other popular motifs include: acanthus leaves, arabesques, musical instruments, human and animal grotesques, sphinxes, gryphons, and lion heads and paws.
Louis XIV was advertising his power over the church with furniture designs and positioning himself as a semi-deity to his people. Because Louis XIV furniture was so elaborate and costly, very few pieces were produced or found in the homes of the middle class. The sumptuous interiors and the elegant cabinetwork so characteristic of the Louis XIV style were confined to the royal palaces and to the splendid mansions of the aristocracy located in and around Paris.
The era of King Louis XIV marked the definite end of the Renaissance period in France and the beginning of a series of distinct period furniture styles, the first being the enormously influential Baroque. The royal furniture factory, Manufacture des Gobelins, was founded during this period. Louis XIV's reign (72 years, 3 months and 18 days) is the longest of any European monarch to date. It was an age of courtly splendor and grandeur; of rich, massive furniture, well suited to the Palace of Versailles, which became the official residence for the Kings of France from 1682 until 1790.