Sarah Halford

Architecture and Ceramics

ah non, je suis fatigue

We spent last week in the Loire valley, which was utterly brilliant. I love French interior style, especially the French predilection for matching the fabric, wallcovering, carpet, bedsheets, cushions, paintings, skirtings… anything that can be decorated will be decorated in coordinating fabrics. The British only take this tradition as far as their use of Toile de Jouy, but in the Chateaux we visited, any fabric could be liberally applied to all surfaces.

The French are also masters of beds en niche, for both practical and political reasons. A small niche, hung with tapestries and shielded from the room with long curtains would effectively reduce draughts.

This is a child’s room at the Chateau de Villandry.

Another chambre at Villandry, showing the extensive use of one fabric throughout the room, and coordinating fabrics on the furnishings. The bed en niche is quite informal here

Even the painting next to the window ties in with the fabric. The French really aren’t afraid of strong, repeating pattern.

At the Chateau de Chambord, a self-coloured brocade is used all over the walls, bed and even the decorative urns above the bed are covered in brocade and braid. Also note the extravagant appliqued grosgrain ribbon over all the furnishings. This technique looks just great, and must be terribly hard work. See here for a close up of the painstaking needlework.

I know it’s hard to tell from this grainy photo, but this is an example of the more theatrical aspect of French decor. the bed is on a raised plinth rather than en niche. The hangings for the bed, and all the hangings on the walls aren’t woven fabric – they are dozens of handmade embroidered panels. The work that has gone into these is staggering.

This theatrical composition uses the same heavily patterned fabric on nearly every surface possible.

At Chambord, the niche is taken to extremes. This niche is a whole room to itself, and the bed is effectively on a stage, behind the proscenium arch. The photo at the top has the same effect, placing an ornate barrier at the foot of the bed.

This interior design crosses over to interior architecture, with dynamic spaces being created using applied decoration and clever use of entrance and promenade. Amazing what you can do with a bit of braid, eh?

Next time on ‘a ridiculously detailed look at the Chateau of the Loire’ I’ll be looking at roofing and drainage! Here’s  a sneak peek, you lucky devils.


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This entry was posted on May 23, 2011 by in architecture.
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