Rococo Furniture: A History of a Design Revival

Rococo Armoire

A Rococo armoire. (Photo:

When Louis XIV’s 72-year reign ended with his death in 1715, the Rococo style was born. Design became looser than the strict, formal and austere Baroque era. Rococo was optimistic, light, feminine and exuberant with shell, plant and flower motifs.

Rococo was replaced by Neo-classicism and a return to Greek and Roman design. In 1840, however, the fluid lines of Rococo became popular again. Rococo Revival became one of the dominant designs in the Victorian era and lasted into the 1870s.

The characteristics of Rococo Revival furniture were:

  • Medium to large scale
  • Tufted upholstery with interior springs
  • Symmetrical scrolls and curves
  • C and S curves
  • Lavish, high-relief carvings of nature motifs
  • Curved cabriole legs on casters
  • Marble tabletops
  • Mahogany, rosewood, walnut
  • Feminine, resulting in furniture mostly for the parlor and bedroom

Examples of Rococo style

John Belter, a well-known Rococo Revival furniture maker, used laminated rosewood with deep carving and piercework, and thick, upholstered, tufted seats and backs. Even the fabric was elaborate with floral designs.

Rococo sofa designed by John H. Belter, key proponent in the Rococo revival in the mid-1800s (Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This Rococo Revival sofa has birds and bird nest carvings. If you look at all the photos, you will also see the carved cabriole legs on casters.

Rococo design flourishes

Side chairs were less ornate, but were made with tufted upholstery and cabriole legs on casters.

This Rococo Revival étagère was machine made, but the flowers were hand carved. Note the typical C and S curves.

Lighting fixtures were brass with a variety of elaborate designs.

This center table has cabriole legs on casters, elaborate carvings and a marble top. Here is the table with a Rococo Revival sofa.

Rococo side table

A Rococo side table. (Photo:

Another Rococo revival?

I am curious to see if Rococo makes another comeback. Even though my tastes are simple, I can appreciate the extensive work involved and the idea of Rococo being a sign of freedom and openness.

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