What are French Provincial Tables?

Solomon Branch

French provincial tables are tables created in the style prevalent around the 17th and 18th centuries that imitated the elegant designs found in cities in France, such as Paris or Lyon. The design of provincial tables, however, was simpler than their urban counterparts. French provincial tables were made of wood, often had marble tops, and were typically used in more rural areas of France. The style is still popular today, and recreations are available worldwide.

French provincial furniture was prevalent in Bordeaux, Brittany, Normandy, Provence and other French country provinces.
French provincial furniture was prevalent in Bordeaux, Brittany, Normandy, Provence and other French country provinces.

Although French provincial tables weren’t as ornate or complex as their big-city counterparts, they did typically have designs carved into them. Most of the designs reflected the farming lifestyle, such as fruits, shells, and other items found in natural settings. Many of the designs had symbolic meaning as well. For instance, shells represented both human and earthly fertility, and fruits and flowers often stood for the grace of the divine. Commonly known symbols of love, such as an arrow or a heart, represented love and affection.

The fancier tables found in larger cities in France were often made of more extravagant woods, such as mahogany, but French provincial tables were usually made of whatever kind of wood was available in the particular area. Oak, birch, and walnut were common, as were wood from the various fruit trees such as apple or pear. Modern French provincial tables are usually made of finer woods, reflecting the elegance with which the French provincial style is considered to be made.

French provincial tables are usually durable and rustic, reflecting the sturdiness needed to be functional in a rural area, typically a farmhouse. Most tables were used as dining tables and were made completely of wood. Tables used in living areas or sitting rooms were often ones that had marble tops, which reflected once again a desire for elegance and durability.

Many areas, especially in France, have specialists who can build or restore furniture in the French provincial style. Furniture in the French provincial style, including tables and chairs, are still in demand by those seeking to add some functional elegance to a room. The natural colors of the wood add a rustic but quality feel, and the designs are simple enough to go with many styles of décor. Many French provincial tables can be found in estate sales or other similar auctions, and can often be restored to their original look and feel, even if painted over or worn.

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