Antiques 101: Why We Love Louis Philippe commodes

Antiques 101: Why We Love Louis Philippe commodes

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When we're in France sourcing for Huff Harrington's Atlanta HQ and our adorable Paris showroom, we're always on the prowl for a Louis Philippe commode.  Usually everyone is looking for them to, so we have to act fast when we see them.

What is a Louis Philippe commode and why do we like them so much? Well, let's get some terminology settled, first.  Many of you may associate the word "commode" with - uh - something else, like a toilet!  However, in French, the word refers to a chest of drawers.


A beautiful example of a Louis Philippe commode. This one dates from the late 1800's, features gorgeous burled walnut and a dark marble top. Magnifique!

Many French furniture styles can be identified by the political period in which they gained popularity.  The Louis Philippe period ran the dates of King Louis Philippe's reign, which lasted from 1830 to 1848.  His reign was best known for his alignment with the middle class (his nickname was the "Citizen King").  

Simple and refined lines and a dark marble top are hallmarks of a Louis Philippe commode. 

Fine furniture no longer was restricted to royalty and aristocrats. Designs turned from extravagant and formal to simple, refined lines and used beautiful woods like walnut, with its lovely burled grain. Often the commode was topped with a piece of white, gray or black marble. 

We love this style because of its elegance and simplicity.  We'll pair it with some fun modern chairs and an abstract painting and voila, instant magic.

Here's Ann scouting a Louis Philippe chest at an antiques fair in France. She's actually perched on a ladder because the chests are stacked on each other.

Here's the same chest in the photo above. See how it looks in its new home?! 

Over the past few years, we've seen a popular trend with Louis Philippe commodes. Instead of preserving the rich, dark tones of the walnut or French oak wood, many dealers are bleaching or stripping the wood to truly reveal the wood grain.  It's certainly a less traditional treatment but we love the lightness of the bleached wood tone and often the pattern of the burled wood grain is a piece of art unto itself.


Here's an example of a bleached walnut commode.  The dark coloring has been removed but the burling is still visible.  

Typically, a Louis Philippe commode will not have ornamental hardware but instead simple key holes framed with an escutcheon in which you use a key to pull the drawer open. 

See the simple framed keyholes? There's usually one key that opens each drawer.  

We love this shot - a Louis Philippe commode paired with some modern elements like abstract art, sculptural pottery, handsome wing chairs and a zebra rug.  The magic of the mix makes us so happy!

We'll keep bringing these beautiful babies home whenever we can get our hands on them.  So stay tuned for a new crop arriving soon in Atlanta - and Paris and joining the ones we already have on the floor.




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