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Monday, March 26, 2012

French Furniture - Bergere and Fauteuil Chairs

Yesterday in my blog, I introduced the topic of French style furniture (my overall favorite style of furniture) and discussed the distinction between "city" and "country" French furniture.  Today, I wanted to review the difference between two type of French style chairs - bergere and fauteuil (which actually is French for "chair").  Many people, including me, get the two confused and call almost any type of French chair a bergere.  So here is an opportunity for some education.

From Wikipedia  - link
A bergère is an enclosed upholstered French  armchair with an upholstered back and armrests on upholstered frames. The seat frame is over-upholstered, but the rest of the wooden framing is exposed: it may be molded or carved, and of beech, painted or gilded, or of fruitwood, walnut or mahogany with a waxed finish. Padded elbow rests may stand upon the armrests. A bergère is fitted with a loose, but tailored, seat cushion. It is designed for lounging in comfort, with a deeper, wider seat than that of a regular fauteuil.  A bergère in the eighteenth century was essentially a meuble courant, designed to be moved about to suit convenience, rather than being ranged permanently formally along the walls as part of the decor.
 From another source - comparing a bergere to a fauteuil - source
A bergère chair is an upholstered chair having closed, upholstered sides, arm rests, seat, and back. It also includes exposed carved wooden legs. These chairs are considered French country in style and are often used with an upholstered ottoman having similar exposed carved wooden legs.

"Fauteuil" means "armchair" in French. In antique furniture, it specifically means an upholstered armchair with open sides; developed in the late 1600s in France, towards the end of Louis XIV's reign, the style flourished in the 18th century, becoming lighter and more graceful in appearance, but also more ornate - the chair arms were often upholstered to match the back and seat; one variation, the fauteuil à la reine (Queen's armchair), has a square, high back.    
From my 2010 Collection - Fauteuil Chair and Ottoman.  This style chair is often referred to as a bergere but doesn't meet the definition because of the open sides.  Stylistically, though, it is very "bergere-like"!
SO ... the major distinction between a bergere and fauteuil is the upholstery or other treatments on the sides - a bergere has sides that are fully enclosed.  I have noticed that many retailers such as Ballards call their French chairs "bergere" even though the sides are open.

So, we've learned something about French style chairs - here are some examples from my prior-year collections!  I do love them!

From my 2009 Collection - French Style Bergere in Red Toile  
From my 2009 Collection - French Style Fauteuil Chairs 
From my 2010 Collection - French Style Bergere Chair with Painted Woodwork


  1. Helpful post.I spent many months researching different companies that sell a french style upholstered bed. I finally made the decision to go ahead and buy the Chelsea upholstered bed. Extremely pleased with my decision. Below is a link to the product page. Good-luck with your upholstered bed shopping.