Several times a year the creative directors, designers, and buyers at Soft Surroundings travel abroad on an “inspiration trip.” One of our favorite expeditions is to the South of France to scour the French flea markets for forgotten treasures and finds.
When we uncover something we like, we wrap it carefully and ship it back to the States. Then we size it up: measure every corner and curve to eventually make a piece of furniture that’s both old and new.
We consider the necessities of the modern world in our designs. For example, smaller living spaces need furniture with a smaller footprint and more storage. But we ensure the essence of the old-world charm is retained and even elevated.
Our finishing process is just as meticulous as our design process. Careful consideration is given to color, patina, carvings and hardware to maintain as much of the vintage authenticity as possible.
Let us show you some of our favorite creations and the real French antiques that inspired them.
The Amazing Armchair
Our designers found the muse for this amazing armchair on their travels through the tiny mountainous regions near Andorra. The original was a Louis XVI-style bergère, circa 1900’s.
As you can see we stayed true to the original with the exposed wooden frame, deep grooves and carvings along the arms and legs, and cathedral style back. However, the French tack trim was replaced with a stylish contrasting welt to set off the sumptuous taupe-grey linen upholstery and hint at modern-day.
Most remarkable is the finish on our Andorra Armchair. The solid oak frame is wire brushed and hand-rubbed with a taupe stain that gives the chair the aura of an heirloom. That is, until you hand it down through the generations and it truly is one!
The lovely Andorra Armchair and its vintage inspiration the Louis XVI Bergère de Rouen are both available for sale on the Soft Surroundings website.
The Standout Corner Cabinet
We always have our eyes peeled for corner cabinets during our shopping travels. They are the cutest and quickest way to fix up forgotten corners and small spaces. So when we saw this one we knew we’d found a gem that would inspire more than a few Soft Surroundings exclusives.
This stately antique shows all of the hallmarks of fine Swedish design. It’s made of solid oak, with simple lines and a grey wash finish. We estimate it to have been made in the 1800’s.
Our Soft Surroundings creation, the Maldives Corner Cabinet, borrows the curved shape from the vintage original. We wanted it to be just as pretty but slightly more practical so we designed the Maldives with two open shelves on top for display and a wainscoted cupboard for storage below.
The Fairest Mirror on the Wall
Venetian glass mirrors are finely crafted works of art, like jewels for the wall, and authentic ones have been made exactly the same way since the 1600’s. We found a breathtaking 19th century oval Venetian glass mirror this past year and brought it home to examine and revel in.
We loved the beveling, beading and gorgeous etching. It seemed to illuminate any room it was in—an undeniable attention-getter. But to us, one of its most-unique features was the openwork that revealed the wall behind it. We decided to get to work making designs with that distinctive detail along with the bevels and beads.
Obviously our reproduction, the San Marco Mirror, has a different overall shape than the vintage original, but it still has the sexy curves and jewel-like details. We think it makes a stunning addition above an entryway console, a dining buffet, a vanity chest, or on its own in an arrangement of framed photos, drawings, or paintings. And it’s made in the time-honored Venetian glass tradition.
The Urn that Earns Compliments
Our inspiration for the Normandy Urn came from a century-old neoclassical stone urn we found on a recent excursion. The weathered patina on the original got our attention and we wanted to create a wooden version with the same rich, time-tested look.
We were also enchanted with the petal design on the curved bowl and decided to make that component of the original a little more pronounced.
The two sizes of the Normandy Urn are the glorious result. Meticulously carved from solid mango wood and hand rubbed with an antique grey finish, each piece is then wire brushed to resemble weathered stone.
And because vases like this were used outdoors in ancient Greece and Rome, placing the Normandy Urn indoors on a countertop or table filled with fruit or greenery lends an old-world organic feeling. Or arrange both of them on the mantel or shelf with books or knick-knacks for a time-honored, classical touch.
A Frame’s Claim to Fame
You may have noticed our unique and useful Allier Framed Linen Board and Chalkboard online or in the Soft Surroundings catalog. These boards are customer favorites and we’re hearing about their use in nearly every room in the house! But we wanted to show you where the idea for their gorgeous frame came from.
This ornate heirloom mirror was the graceful model for our Allier Framed boards. We loved the elaborate floral urn carving at the top and the antique ivory finish so we created our linen and chalkboard frames to look very similar, from mango wood. As with so many of our exclusive pieces, these are hand carved and hand finished.
The Cutest Side Table in France
We may have changed the finish from bronze to pewter, and the scroll legs to elegant but sturdy tripod, but the essence of the Cannes Side Table is drawn from this one from the 1880’s.
We decided almost immediately that we simply had to keep the delicate filigree gallery and thought it would be even more magnificent around an inset mirrored glass top.
In the end, the Cannes Side Table is every bit as beautiful as the original and just the right size and shape to stand next to your bed or in a petite entryway.
Where to next?
We travel the world for design inspiration—from the hillsides of Provence to the street markets of Delhi. If you follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest you’ll see what we’ve uncovered lately and hear the stories each piece has to tell. It’s the next best thing to being there with us!