Monthly archives for July, 2011

Antique Buffets: Versatile ~ Attractive ~ Endearing!

F-1For decades the antique armoire has reigned supreme over all other antique furniture types in dominating a room’s visual impact, providing the primary function for furniture in the room, and serving as the focal epicenter for all other aspects of the room’s design.  In recent years, however, a Antique Louis XIV One Door Buffetstrong contender for the antiques crown has gained prominence, and in many instances surpassed the armoire as the principal item of antique furniture.  That contender provides a diversity, adaptability, and range of style that the antique armoire can never approach.  That contender is the buffet.
Antique Gothic Walnut China Buffet
The lowly trunk was the first cased furniture, appearing relatively recently in the history of western civilization, and was basically a way to enclose personal items for transport and storage. At some point it was realized that adding legs to the trunk made it easier to access, and shortly after, providing doors on the façade made for even easier access than raising the lid. Voila ~ the buffet.
Buffets have evolved into such an incredibly diverse entity that they are being found in virtually all rooms in home and office applications. Their ability to provide a surface for display or serving as well as simultaneously store valuable or useful items with style, makes them the obvious choice for an incredible number of design requirements.Antique Marquetry Marble Top Foyer Buffet
To talk about the variations in style of the buffets available today would require a reference volume the size of a dictionary! Every distinct style that has been born in the various countries of Western Europe can be found with relative ease, and the variety of styles is mind-boggling. From elegant yet simple Country French designs to exquisitely intricate Gothic works that are amazing in their complexity, to works of art in the Renaissance style that glorify heaven, earth and mankind, to Baroque and Rococo masterpieces that take the sensuous form to its apex ~ buffets come in a dizzying myriad of styles. Often when selecting a buffet one is faced with the dilemma of too many choices, rather than a lack of options.
Antique Italian Renaissance Walnut Buffet
The most obvious application for the buffet is the dining room. Atop the buffet one can place seasonal decorations, heirlooms and other decorative items. The top can be cleared for serving food items, as buffets are usually designed to be the perfect height for serving from a standing position. Above the buffet one can place a mirror to decoratively enlarge the room, or a painting, a grouping, or perhaps a tapestry.Antique Country French Linen Buffet
Another obvious application is the foyer. For the various reasons upon which this article elaborates, buffets are excellent choices when compared to consoles or chests of drawers. Aside from the vastly superior variety of buffets available to match size and décor requirements, the buffet provides excellent storage, suitable for seasonal items and heirlooms that need to be stored in the conditioned area of the house, not the attic.
Noted designers such as renowned authors Charles Faudree and Betty Lou Phillips are increasingly using buffets instead of chests of drawers in every room, including the bedroom. The buffet is superior to the chest of drawers in three distinct ways.   One is its space utilization.  Whereas a chest of drawers devotes significant internal volume towards the wood that comprises the drawers and framework/guides around those drawers, the buffet is unencumbered.
Vintage Provincial Painted Vaisselier
The second distinct advantage of the buffet over the chest of drawers is its superior variations in style, size and shape.  Buffets have continued to evolve over the centuries into single, double, triple~ up to five or six-door models.  They are available in narrow, medium, large and huge widths.  They are available as corner units to utilize an oft-wasted space.  A third advantage is that buffets frequently are available with a companion piece, such as in a matched pair or the more common buffet/dessert buffet combination.
Pair Antique Regence Painted Buffets
For the office, buffets make a great choice as credenzas, housing paperwork, archive files, office supplies, and even fax machines and internet devices.Antique Louis XVI Buffet Sink ConversionFor the bathroom, custom vanities have become the norm for designers looking for unique and interesting visual appeal. Designers that choose antique buffets create an incredible focal point that is at once beautiful and functional. Buffets are easy to retrofit with sinks and plumbing because of the uncluttered nature of their interiors. That same feature allows infinite storage possibilities for toiletries and sundries.

For the family room, the inherent versatility of the buffet also applies to the 21st century lifestyle. The advent of flat panel televisions has made it much easier to enclose these devices in beautiful armoires, which is a tried and true decorating trick. However, television screens have become quite large of late which yet again reduces the number of armoires adequate for theAntique French Renaissance Buffet with TV task.
Antique Henri II Walnut Buffet TV Lift
Unlike any other cased furniture, buffets provide a surface that gives a decorator an endless palette of design possibilities. All of the qualities we’ve mentioned make it a cinch to match any décor with a complementary buffet and accessories that fit the space, serve the purpose, and establish the style for any given room. The armoire may have reigned supreme for a very long time, but perhaps it’s time for the contender to take the forefront for the 21st century.

Antique French Furniture ~ Glorious Beginnings

Antique French furniture has been collected, copied and emulated around the world, and many volumes have been written on the subject.  No wonder Thomas Jefferson said “France is every man’s second country”, because we have been so influenced by France ~ its style, furniture, history and art.

To most of us, antique French furniture means furnishings from the 18th and 19th century, so we conjure up mental pictures of that period.  This is rightly so, because 18th century France was an amazing period of great innovation in design and the decorative arts.   This continued through the 19th century witnessing the rise of the middle class and inventions of the industrial era.

But the birth of a great country like France started so much earlier with the rise of the Merovingian kings in the 5th century.  It is hard for us living in our young country today to imagine the legacy and history that started so long ago.  The most notable beginnings of French furniture were during the Gothic period and many examples are documented in museums.  This period was marked by austere existence and high religious devotion.  The furniture of that time was nothing like the more romantic re-interpretation of the Gothic style in the 19th century.   (This revival produced the vast majority of the antique Gothic furniture we enjoy today.)

In the early Gothic period the furniture was more fundamental and basic.  The wooden chest, or coffre, served as the seat, storage for clothing, even sometimes as a cupboard.  But the simplicity of the early style form evolved over the centuries to the point that today we can’t resist the graceful panels with the linen folds and the now-famous gothic arches and spires.

As France emerged from the Middle Ages, the romantic era of French Renaissance art and antique furniture began.  It was an unexpected result of the Italian military campaigns of Louis XII and François I.  The glorious era of the Italian Renaissance had commenced almost a century before, therefore French noblemen and officers returning from war brought home new grand ideas and revolutionary works of art.  To implement this newfound style, both rulers were instrumental in bringing brilliant Italian architects, sculptors and painters to France.

The kings erected grand châteaux such as d’Amboise, Fontainebleu and Chenonceau.  The Loire Valley is filled with monuments to this grand era, set upon this lush, fertile valley of legend.  Castles that were originally conceived as fortifications for defense developed into architectural gems, filled with antique furnishings that were true works of art.  French kings and the nobility were inspired by this new style and bought paintings by Raphael and statues by Michelangelo.  Artists like Leonardo daVinci were invited to decorate newly constructed palaces of the royal court.

France entered this new era with a spirit of rebirth as creativity and innovation swept the country.  This spirit spread throughout Europe and eventually encompassed the world.  Today we are just as inspired by these style beginnings, expressed in the architecture and
furnishings of the new castles and chateaux that we are building today!

We now have sub-categories of Armoires, Buffets and Commodes devoted to the Renaissance/Gothic styles, and you can log onto to see them all!

 Inessa Stewart

Antiques in Style is a source of joy for me to create, and hopefully will be a source of inspiration for you! The variety, artistry and history of the antiques and vintage pieces that surround us every day provide pleasure, beauty and sometimes even intrigue.

The classics never go out of style, and each era, country, and even artisan's interpretations create an environment that is always full of surprises.

It is truly a pleasure to bring such timeless style together for every client and follower of my blog. And of course, your input is always welcome!

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