(before we dive in, I want to apologize for the abundance of ads, I’m trying to get them fixed but didn’t want to postpone this post)!
After recently sharing a set of Louis XVI style dining chairs in my IG subscription group, someone messaged a question:
“How do I tell the difference between cheap Louis XVI style chairs from a retail brand vs. true antique chairs?” and I thought hm, this may require a blog post.
While I’ve learned quite a bit about Louis XVI-style furniture over the years, I thought I’d bring in an expert for this post: Jessica from Jessica Lev Antiques! She originally identified my recent dining chair set as true French Louis XVI style chairs when I shared them on my IG, and she shares the most beautiful antique furniture finds for her clients. I know you will enjoy her perspective and expertise.
MY OWN LOUIS XVI CHAIR ~JOURNEY~
I’ve been obsessed with Louis XVI-style furniture for a few years, and have specifically focused on finding the perfect set of Louis XVI dining chairs for our dining room. Here’s a graphic I put together with some examples of Louis XVI-style furniture:
I’ve had my fair share of Louis XVI-style chairs over the years, starting with this cheaply made desk chair that I found on Facebook Marketplace:
Then my first dining chair set that I found on Craigslist. They were lacquered and modern-made, but good quality. My plans to recover them never saw the light of day.
Then I found this set of blueish-green chairs. The owner claimed they were antique and I thought “for the price how can I pass these up?!”
But when I arrived to pick them up I realized they were modern-made, lightweight, and not as nice as the listing photo. The biggest giveaway/turnoff was the obvious faux paint/brush stroke finish on the frame.
I found these stunning Weiman brown mohair chairs, also from Facebook Marketplace. They were gorgeous, solid and so comfy. While Weiman is a great, reputable brand, these were not true authentic Louis XVI-style chairs (which didn’t bother me TBH). The obvious giveaway is, again, the shiny faux brushstroke finish.
I never thought I’d find anything better than these brown mohair chairs until…
I was scrolling Craigslist a few months ago and stumbled upon a listing that I glossed over at first, but after looking closer, I realized it may have been a treasure masked by a subpar photo.
They were located on the Upper East Side and were being sold by a client of one of my all-time favorite designers. I felt like it was meant to be; they went with everything in our house, white frames, luscious leaf-green velvet, and the price was a steal, given that a single chair could sell for over $1k!
Jessica messaged me and identified them as true vintage French Louis XVI chairs (which made me feel like I truly scored), and went into some more detail to explain why.
She was kind enough to share some of her expertise with me, and here’s what she had to say:
JESSICA LEV’S POV + EXPERTISE ON LOUIS XVI CHAIRS:
LOUIS XVI CHAIRS
- The oldest examples (think pre-1930s) are pegged. Look for circles in the rosettes and the top rail. The pegs should go through the front and the back.
- The vintage/antique versions are hand-carved, so look for differences in the rosettes. Although some of the more modern reproductions are handcarved as well, the older carvings have more attention to detail and the newer versions are flatter.
- The vintage/antique versions are solid wood, most frequently beech. They should have a heft/weight to them that isn’t the same as the chairs today.
- The other thing contributing to the weight is some of the old materials used beneath the upholstery! If they haven’t been reupholstered/redone, you may find horsehair or old springs in the seats and back!
- Look for uneven wear (e.g. the wood coming through) to the painted finish. The top of the chairs and the arms of the armchairs should be the areas where you see the most wear, along with the legs/feet (where they may have been hit by a vacuum or base of the table!).
- In addition for wear, look for dirt accumulation and other marks! A white painted finish won’t stay white long!
ROUNDUP OF VINTAGE/ANTIQUE LOUIS XVI CHAIRS
(p.s. my favorite place to hunt for Louis XVI style furniture is at auction)!