A dozen or more coffee table books have been published in the last few years explaining the way to achieve the look of French interior design. Some even focus on the treasures to be found at French flea markets.
Looking through it all we thought you might be interested in an easier way. The way we do it!
So here is our process—the journey Soft Surroundings takes to bring you fine French furniture—in reproduction form. We’ll demonstrate with four quintessentially French décor pieces and highlight the steps we take to create remarkable remakes for you.
We were shopping our way through an antique market in France (L’Isle Sur la Sorge to be exact!) when we spotted the strong, dark lines and soft channel padding of this original 18th century burlap chair. It had Louis XV written all over it—from the carved embellishments on the exposed wood, to the padded arm rests and sturdy cabriole legs.
We brought it back to the US to make our exclusive version, which had to be just as true to type. We began by building the frame by hand out of strong, solid birch. Then our master craftsmen hand-carved grooves, and flower-and-leaf motifs along the wood, just like the original.
Yes, our artisans are key to the fine, high quality results we want. They’ve been woodcarvers for generations, experts at the art.
Beyond the frame, another feature that makes this chair irresistible is the unique channel padding and textural burlap upholstery. We even made sure the seat had hand-sewn stitch work just like the chair we found in France.
Along with linen, burlap is truly a favorite textile of France. Anything dressed in burlap has a refined, but unostentatious air. For example, tie a few yards of buttery soft burlap around a folding chair and it’s instantly elegant.
Burlap grain sacks also have a long history in the countryside of France. Farmers’ wives would hand weave these sacks with their own signature color and pattern of stripes. The effect was to create a sort of monogram, so when the farmer went to the mill to pick up his sacks, he could identify the ones that belonged to him immediately!
We took inspiration from the iconic French grain sack to create these cool, comfortable pet cushions. They’re irresistibly soft and naturally resistant to dirt and pet hair. We’ve yet to find an adorably pampered pet that doesn’t snuggle in and make them home.
Ask anyone to picture France and the first thing that comes to mind is often an outdoor café or bistro with its distinctively French tables. These metal-topped tables are centerpieces in France, indoor and out.
We found a spectacular perfect one during one of our journeys abroad, and couldn’t wait to create a romantic reproduction for you.
Ours has a zinc top that’s aged to perfection with a hand-rubbed patina. It looks as French as a reproduction can get. Even the hourglass iron stand and scroll legs add to the heirloom look. And there’s no better place for a mid-morning read or a crisp glass of white in the afternoon.
When we first saw the original of this lovely cabinet in a store in Marseilles, the shop owner told us it had been used as a jam and jelly cabinet.
But with its stately height, ample shelves, crown, and molding, we couldn’t help but envision it holding fresh laundered sheets, linens, fluffy towels, feather pillows and sumptuous throws.
We brought it home and set to making a beautifully crafted reproduction. From the hand-carved center motif on the door to the pleasing diagonal swath of the molding next to the antiqued brass pull handle, this piece has signature style with a French accent. And we’re happy to bring it to you.
Creating reproductions from authentic French originals is our great passion. AT HOME we revel in the romance of history, the patina of age, and the heirlooms of tomorrow.