Happy New Year from Lorfords

Out with the old, and in with the new. Happy New Year from the team at Lorfords Antiques! Every January offers a welcome chance to start afresh, but this year feels particularly momentous after an unusual 2020.

We hope you had a relaxing festive period and managed to share some happy moments with family and friends. Despite the many obstacles faced by the industry in 2020, it was a great year for Lorfords and we are so grateful for your support. The arrival of a vaccine heralds an even stronger 2021 and we are excited for what’s to come.

Giving back to our homesArt Deco club chairs, Mid Century interiors

When we reflect on the pandemic in years to come, we will remember the seismic change to our home lives. For many of us, the home used to be a place we returned to late in the evening, just to leave again early the next morning.

Yet during the months of lockdown, we witnessed our homes play host to family meals and birthday celebrations. Our houses transformed into offices, classrooms, and a creative hub.  Rooms that never got much use came into their own, and we experienced the home as we never have before.

The link between our surroundings and wellbeing has long been established, but last year we witnessed it first-hand. Our homes passed the test and deserve some love as we enter a new year. Lorfords will be on hand, as always, to help you choose the perfect antique pieces to elevate your interiors.

The Lorfords serviceArt Deco marble big cat, Mid Century interiors

We believe that decorative antiques are more than just a commodity, and our service extends beyond retail. We want to provide the best possible experience for our clients and offer you more than just a shopping destination.

As a result, we’ve worked hard to make our online presence as enriching as possible. Latest Arrivals keeps you updated with our latest stock, so make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter. Through L-Shaped, we are building a knowledge and resource bank as a way to share the joy of antiques with our clients. There you will find everything from in-depth articles on Regency and Gustavian furniture, to guides on decorating your bedroom and home office. Our regular shoots and lookbooks aim to contextualise our antiques and inspire your interiors.

The most beautiful homes combine the finest antiques, fabrics, paint, and wallpaper. We really value our relationships with other creative businesses and want to strengthen these collaborations and develop others this year.

Business updatesMid Century pendant lights, vintage folding screen, Mid Century armchairs

We have decided to repurpose our shop in Tetbury from the Spring, but we will remain a presence on the high street. We’re incredibly lucky to have 30,000 square feet of showroom in our two hangars at Babdown Airfield, just outside of Tetbury. With 60 dealers supplying a vast range of decorative antiques, we truly believe that Lorfords offer an unbeatable location.

We have plans in place to expand further this year and add more dealers to our ranks. There’s always room for change and improvement, and we are eager to make the hangars a warmer and more comfortable experience.

For a little inspiration to get going in 2021, have a browse of our latest lookbook 'Roaring Twenties.'

Once again, a very Happy New Year!

Spotlight on: Louis XVI furniture

Whilst revolution brewed, a majestic furniture style emerged in France. Louis XVI and his infamous wife, Marie Antoinette, oversaw a period of design that is still coveted today.

The Bourbon DynastyLouis XVI fauteil armchair, Louis XVI bureau plat, Louis XVI commode

Louis XVI was the last of the Bourbon monarchs. He reigned from 1760 to 1789, ascending to the throne at just 20. Indecision and weakness of character plagued the King, who never quite lived up to the legacy of his ancestors.

Louis Seize was married to Marie Antoinette in order to assert diplomatic links with Austria. What the King lacked, the Queen made up for in many ways. She was the last Queen of France, and Marie Antoinette is remembered for her headstrong and extravagant ways.

The reigns of his predecessors were characterised by their own design preferences. The intention of his great-grandfather Louis XIV was simple: splendid, extravagant furnishings that reflected the monarchy in all its glory. Known as, 'The Sun King,' the sun was the royal emblem and the dominating principle of this reign was brilliance.

His grandfather, Louis XV, embraced the Rococo style and his furniture embodies femininity, comfort, and curving lines. Due to his string of mistresses, he asked for shorter chair armrests to accommodate their full skirts.

Whilst each King Louis had their own personal taste, certain pieces of furniture defined the whole dynasty. Furniture for specific functions became popular; Louis XIV introduced the commode and popularised writing desks and console tables. His reign was the apogee of giltwood furniture and his successors kept such features in their own design.

Looming tensionsFrench antique candlesticks, marble top commode, French compote dish and giltwood mirror

In order to discuss Louis XVI design, we must delve into the socio-political tensions of his reign.

The King's life ended at the guillotine, accused of treason. Marie Antoinette's lavish tastes provoked the public and she met the same fate as her husband.

The royal couple was not ignorant of the angry masses, but their efforts to appease them were minimal. Pattern and design in furniture made use of the natural grain of the wood in an effort to identify with starving Parisians. The King once wore a peasant hat to sit for a portrait in an attempt to show solidarity, but the seeds of resentment were already firmly sown in the French people.

Louis XVI inherited financial problems and exacerbated them with his careless spending. Heavy taxation further alienated the people, particularly as the Queen ordered vast amounts of furnishings. Legend says Marie Antoinette once responded to news that the people had no bread with the classic remark, 'let them eat cake.'

When the monarchy was overthrown, royals and nobles had to forfeit their luxuries, and swathes of furniture from this period were lost. Therefore, a period Louis XVI piece prompts real excitement both for its beauty and historical context.

Louis XVI styleLouis XVI antique gilt mirror, Louis XVI commode, antique chandelier

Design under Louis Seize was a mixture of continuity and innovation. The relationship between France and the classical world evolved over time and French neoclassicism was particularly aligned with the English style. English influence during this period is clear in the use of mahogany for chair backs and veneers.

Furniture design under Louis XVI consolidated previous eras in many ways. There was no dramatic overhaul or principled u-turn, but the changes transformed French furniture into a force of beauty. Louis XVI furniture is more angular than earlier periods, with straight lines and geometric patterns. Restrained, short tapering legs replaced the cabriole style associated with Louis XV.

Neoclassical influence already existed in France, known as goût grec or ‘Greek taste.’ The discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum fuelled enthusiasm for this new architectural style. Marie Antoinette constantly commissioned pieces in this style for her quarters at Versailles. The classical influence was expressed through motifs as well as shape. Louis XVI pieces exhibit plenty of carved friezes, cornucopia, egg and dart, and oak and laurel leaf.

However, this was still the opulent French monarchy. Bronze fittings adorned almost every piece of furniture and ormolu mounts were common. Marquetry evolved away from florals and towards the geometric, so lots of beautiful games tables emerged. The commode, ushered in under Louis XIV, remained iconic under his great-grandson.

Louis XVI designersLouis XVI antique furniture

Louis XVI’s reign is often considered the golden age of cabinet-making. Marie Antoinette imported many designers from Germany and Holland. The Queen's Austrian roots had a clear influence on design and these individuals outshone their French counterparts.

Jean-Henri Riesener held royal patronage from 1771 and is one of the most prolific designers of the time. He preferred exotic, luxurious materials for marquetry and ornamentation. His works feature gilded lacquer, mother-of-pearl and gilded ormolu mounts.

18th Century French furniture would not have reached its full potential without Georges Jacob. Jacob began working in the style of Louis XV, but swiftly adopted the style of the new King. This latter period is when his innovative designs reached their peak.

Georges Jacob's motif of triangles with rosettes adorn the joints between the arms and backs of chairs. In the late Louis XVI period, Jacob decorated the square section at the top of chair legs with daisies or small suns.  This master cabinet-maker pioneered circular seat frames and spiral armrests, which became distinctive features of this period. His patrons included Marie Antoinette and the Prince of Wales.

The legacy of Louis SeizeFrench compote dish with antique French books in

Louis XVI furniture reflects a truly special period of design. Although his reign lasted just under 30 years, its influence on design continued into the Empire period. This period remains one of the most widely emulated furniture styles.

This style has charmed collectors for centuries and it's not difficult to see why. Whether you are looking for a few antiques to compliment a contemporary scheme, or want to perfect a period home, Louis XVI is the pinnacle of French design.

Louis XVI furniture suits modern interiors because of its simple elegance. Don't be afraid to mix ornate French furniture with modern art and sculpture, there is no need to stay in the confines of one style!

We have a large collection of Louis XVI pieces here at Lorfords. This was the heyday of iconic antiques, including the bureau plat, stunning armoires, and elegant giltwood chairs. Browse these pieces and more in our Tetbury showroom and hangars at Babdown Airfield.

For a taste of the Louis XVI style, visit our lookbook, 'The Last King,' to browse a selection of our pieces.

Spotlight on: Gustavian furniture

Gustavian style flourished in Sweden during the 18th Century. Inspired by the neoclassical French style, Sweden became major players in Europe’s age of elegance.

Gustavian enlightenmentGustavian furniture, Gustavian bed, Swedish Mora Clock, classical reeded columns, Gustavian corner cabinet

When discussing Gustavian design, the individual behind the name matters. King Gustav III reigned from 1772 to 1792 and oversaw and encouraged the flourishing of the arts.

The King was shot at a masquerade ball in 1792 and died a short while later. This event inspired Verdi’s opera Un Ballo in Maschera.

Although he was loved by some and hated by others, King Gustav’s role in the Swedish Enlightenment is clear. He was an educated and cultured man who welcomed artists and writers to court. Despite the pressures he faced at home and abroad, his reign saw huge advancements in art, literature and design.

Marriage of design

Gustavian bed, antique textiles

Gustavian design fuses foreign influence with long-standing Scandinavian ideals.

In France, Louis XVI reigned during one of the most significant periods of French furniture design. His style was more refined than his predecessors, but maintained the opulence and grandeur. King Gustav spent a crucial period of time in Paris and at the royal palace in Versailles. This experience left him determined to make Stockholm the ‘Paris of the North.’

Today, Swedish design is generally associated with minimalism and muted colours. Much of Gustavian style did display these trends, but period pieces can actually be very splendid.

The entertainment rooms in palaces and noble houses during this period were full of gilded furniture and grand mirrors. At a glance, you might be in a French 18th Century palace.

Classical discovery

Gustavian bed, Swedish stool, antique candelabra, antique textiles

Across Europe, design was influenced by the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the early 18th Century. Artistic concepts were completely overhauled by the exposure of this clean-lined elegance.

At Stockholm Palace, you can view King Gustav’s Museum of Antiquities to get a sense of his fascination with the classical. The museum displays a large collection of sculptures which the King brought back from his ‘grand tour’ around Italy.

The Pompeian style is evident in Gustav’s Pavilion at Haga Park. The interiors of the Pavilion feature marble columns and rich detail. King Gustav commissioned Louis Masreliez for the design, who went on to define the style of the period.

The impact of neoclassicism is clear in Gustavian furniture. The pieces are architectural in form and display symmetry, columns and carved detailing. The classical inspired Swedish furniture's trademark restraint, as it moved on from the elaborate rococo period.

The Swedish touchclassical columns, antique books, marble fragment

Despite all of these influences, Swedish style is inherently… well, Swedish.

French 18th Century design had a huge impact on King Gustav, but the Gustavian interpretation was more refined. In fact, Gustavian furniture is a loyal tribute to Swedish ideals.

Swedish winters are long and dark, which still shapes their interior design to this day. The priority has always been to bring light into rooms, through pastel colour palettes, giltwood and plenty of mirrors.

Although the décor in palaces and noble houses was grand, Gustavian style became more homespun as it spread throughout Sweden. Often the carved frames of chairs and sofas were left exposed and the furniture was painted. Local woods were used such as oak, beech and pine.

Although Gustavian designs were simple, they were well-executed and designed for their purpose. Function was a priority and lots of corner cabinets and console tables emerged.

Shape and detail helps to identify the Gustavian: bonnet topped cupboards; barrel-backed chairs; fluted legs and carved decoration to name a few. Some of the most distinctive carved motifs are guilloche (woven circles), rosettes and scallop detailing.

Gustavian interiorsantique candelabra, Gustavian bed

So, why does this style have such a profound influence?

Even the most modern furniture store, IKEA, draws upon its Gustavian heritage. Interior designers constantly source antique and reproduction Gustavian pieces to transform homes with Swedish style.

The most obvious reason is that Gustavian furniture is easy to live with. It is equally suited to a grand London townhouse, a country cottage, a chalet or a villa. Curved lines and carved motifs make these pieces decorative, but the silhouettes and paintwork are simple.

There is also a certain magical quality to Gustavian period and style pieces. Furniture with its original paint gives a lovely fairy-tale finish, especially in a muted colour palette. It's feminine, but not overtly so. Gustavian pieces were often fairly small and mobile and they were meant to accentuate a space, not dominate it. This is a versatile style as a result, whether it's used in small doses or as an entire decorative scheme.

No Gustavian interior is complete without the iconic Swedish Mora clock, which is a piece as rich in history as it is beautiful. Mora clocks are a testament to community craftsmanship. In the early 18th Century, the town of Mora suffered a bad drought and many people fled to Stockholm. Here they would learn new skills and trades, including clock-making.

Upon their return to Mora, a local industry started as families worked together to manufacture these iconic clocks. Mora clocks radiate the quiet peace and grandeur of Gustavian style and have a beautifully rounded shape. A Swedish Mora Clock is often the finishing touch in a Gustavian inspired setting.

Lorfords and GustavianGustavian corner cabinet, Swedish Mora Clock, antique candelabra, Gustavian bed

Gustavian furniture has a valuable place at Lorfords and Swedish pieces are always coming through our doors.

Browse Gustavian daybeds, sofas, chairs, Mora clocks and other antiques on our website or come and see them in person.

Our two hangars at Babdown Airfield and showroom in Tetbury give Gustavian pieces the space and context they need to do them justice.

Visit our lookbook, ‘Swedish Enlightenment,’ to view our selection of Gustavian furniture.

The Room Outside

Spring is springing up everywhere.

With the arrival of the first crocus, our thoughts inevitably turn to the outdoors and the garden - or the terrace, or the backyard, or the window box. Whatever the extent of your plot, one thing’s for sure, we love our gardens. It’s true to say that, over the last few years, the garden and all things horticultural have undergone a major image change. Gone are the days when having a nice garden meant little more than a well-tended lawn and herbaceous border. These days we expect our gardens to be every bit as stylish and distinctive as our homes – a Victorian style patio set and water feature just won’t cut it.  Planting and landscaping might be a garden’s backbone, but it’s the added structures and embellishments that transform it into something really special. But, while many of us are used to furnishing our homes with antiques, how many of us would consider buying period pieces for the garden?

Our love of gardening is as old as civilisation itself. The ancient Greeks were the first people in Europe to create gardens and adorned them with marble and bronze effigies of gods and mythological heroes. The Romans were equally keen on their gardens; some of the oldest surviving examples of garden furniture are in the gardens of Pompeii. Our Celtic ancestors cultivated small enclosures and the Tudors had their knot gardens – tightly clipped box hedges laid out in intricate patterns.  But it was in the late 1600s that the fashion for decorating gardens really took off in England. This period saw the fashion for highly formal French-style gardening, modelled on the works of Andre Notre, Louis XIV’s gardener at Versailles. When Charles II regained the English throne in 1660, one of the first things he did was to ask King Louis if he might borrow Le Notre. The aristocracy were keen to follow suit and before long, grand parterres and avenues, complemented by numerous statues designed to invoke classical settings and terminate views, were the order of the day. At first the taste was for statues depicting figures from Greek and Roman mythology – the Borghese Gladiator and Hercules swinging his club were particularly popular. The earliest ornaments were carved from stone, or, for the very wealthy, marble or cast lead. As the fashion for French style gardens took hold amongst the Francophile aristocracy and those eager to copy them, a vast repertoire of ornaments were introduced into the garden, including classical vases, fountains, obelisks, balustrades and furniture. By the middle of the eighteenth century the strict formality of the French garden had yielded to something softer. Designers now sought inspiration from the landscape itself. Rolling lawns and serpentine ponds became the order of the day and, in the hands of designers like William Kent, the garden became a complete work of art. Ornaments in the form of statues, temples or follies took centre stage with every element carefully chosen to work in harmony with its neighbour. Iconography was the order of the day and the positioning of garden ornaments often had a deep symbolic meaning which, although less decipherable today, would have been easily understood by most educated people at the time. This period saw the creation of the celebrated gardens at Stowe in Buckinghamshire and Stourhead in Wilstshire. Garden “ornaments” might include a replica of the Pantheon in Rome, a temple dedicated to Apollo or an underground grotto, containing that mid-Georgian garden essential: a live hermit, who would be employed full-time as a curiosity for visitors. The job of a hermit could be fairly lucrative but there were strict conditions attached to the job description – a hermit wasn’t allowed to speak and nor could he cut his hair or fingernails.

Whilst few of us have the sort of garden that can accommodate miles of gravel paths and numerous classical temples (or hermits), a well-placed statue or urn can bring a flavour of eighteenth century grandeur to a modern day garden, acting as a focal point and adding a sense of drama. Early examples from the 17th and 18th centuries are rare and, on the rare occasions they do appear on the market, command high prices. More easily available are statues from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many of these were made of composition stone or terracotta both of
which became popular in the Victorian period as way of producing good quality garden ornaments that were cheaper than stone. Henry Doulton started making terracotta garden ornaments in the late nineteenth century and by 1900, Doulton were England’s main manufactures, with a range that included window boxes, fountains and sundials. Terracotta is highly durable and has the advantage of being frost proof, enabling it to survive the rigours of an English winter. Composition stone was invented by the Romans but also took off for garden ornaments in the Victorian era. Figures and ornaments are moulded rather than carved, so multiple copies of the same piece could be produced relatively cheaply. Properly weathered, a piece made from composition stone is difficult to tell apart from a carved-stone original.

Garden furniture only started to appear widely in the nineteenth century. Before then the only seating used in a garden would have been benches of marble or stone and these would have only have been within the reach of the upper classes. In the early nineteenth century, as gardening for pleasure started to become a pastime of the middle class, wrought iron seating started to appear. This would have been made to order by the local blacksmith and, for this reason, no two pieces of wrought iron furniture will be identical. Wrought iron fell out of favour as the century progressed but remained popular on the Continent, particularly France where furniture by Arras was made for use in public parks well into the twentieth century.

The Victorian era saw a return to formality with terraces, elaborate flowerbeds and manicured lawns, complemented by a plethora of ornaments once again being de rigeur. Mass production, thanks to the Industrial Revolution brought garden furniture within the reach of an aspiring middle class, eager to ape the taste of the gentry in the big house. The invention of cast-iron made their dreams an affordable reality. There were many foundries making cast-iron garden furniture but perhaps the best known is Coalbrookdale.  Based at Ironbridge in Shropshire, the firm began by making architectural ironmongery, such as drainpipes and gutters but by the 19th century it was producing a vast number of garden seats, plant stands, urns and fountains, and all manner of other paraphernalia for the well-dressed garden. Leading designers of the day were commissioned to produce designs and, in its day, Coalbrookdale was a by-word for quality. The foundry is still in business and, as the maker of the Aga stove, still plays a big part in middle class aspirations.

It’s often the case that the most distinctive garden ornaments are made from objects that weren’t originally intended for the garden. If it’s a quirky, original look you’re after, you need to think outside the (window) box.  All that’s needed is a bit of lateral thinking: for example, a gargoyle head can make an excellent wall fountain. Stone troughs, originally used for animals to drink from, were at one time a feature of every village. Bedded out with plants they make an imposing statement and are highly sought after today. Beaten coppers vats, originally used for boiling laundry or making cheese, are solidly constructed with rivets and take on a wonderful patina with age. They are now enjoying a new popularity, not for laundry but as vast bedding planters. It’s not just large items that make a statement. Vintage garden tools used for gardening can be used as smaller decorative elements leaned against fences or left on tables. Wheelbarrows and old carts are the perfect containers for planting out vivid summer blooms, while garden rollers simply need propping up against an old brick wall to look good. Terracotta flower pots, trowels made of metal from the 1950s, rakes with handmade teeth and branch handles and early 20th century metal buckets and enamelware watering cans all add a distinctive personal touch.

Rolling acres or roof terrace, rustic or urban: antiques offer a stylish way of decorating the “room outside” and there’s not a gnome in sight.