Design Under the Influence: The Louis Ghost Chair

Hello, I’m Erika Brechtel of small shop! I am by trade a graphic designer; by education, an art historian and interior designer. So I thought it might be fun for La Dolce Vita readers to take advantage of my past schooling and get quick “lessons” every now and then on a little historical background in matters of art, furniture, decorative arts, etc. but in the context of modern design! Fun, right? Today’s brush-up: what is the difference between a Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI chair? Let’s take the ever-popular (and a fave of mine!) Louis Ghost Chair by designer Philippe Starck for Kartell. Recognize it? We all know and still love it.

Perhaps you know, perhaps you don’t and are thrilled to learn that this chair is a modern interpretation of a French chair typical of the Neoclassical period of Louis XVI’s reign (1774 – 1791):

The Neoclassical period took its cues from Greek and Roman symmetry and classic geometries, but was also in direct response to the ornately curvilinear and overtly feminine Rococo silhouettes of the previous period (Louis XV’s reign, 1715-1774). You know that sexy S-curve “cabriole” leg, those super fancy and flourished pieces, often with shells and foliage? All of that is Rococo. These softer lines, and lighter fabrics and colors, were in turn a direct response to the heavier fabrics and imposing forms of the previous Baroque period during — you guessed it — Louis XIV’s reign (a.k.a. the “Versailles” Louis). Got all that? If not, here’s a (very) simplified chart to keep it all straight and help you quickly identify the characteristics:

What comes next? Directoire (post-French Revolution) and Empire (Napoleon’s era), but we can get into that another time! (See this is fun, right?) So whether you are a professional or a hobbyist: drop some knowledge on your colleagues and clients, or just have something to think about next time you see a certain room or piece of furniture. I hope you will use it as you wish, and enjoy!  

{Image sources and more on my Pinterest board}
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Tell Me What You Think! leave a comment...

  1. as usual I love your easy to read and see charts!.. very interesting.. thanks for sharing these facts! I have always loved that ghost chair but didn’t know what was behind it!

  2. Have always loved those chairs.. have two posts about them and didn’t know what was behind them! thanks for sharing this Erika, as usual I love your easy to read and see charts!

  3. I love this feature. I hardly ever take the time to comment but I would absolutely love to see more articles like here. What a great addition to La Dolce Vita.

  4. Love this !! They are definitely a favorite of mine and I really want to add some to my dining room…is that gold on the bottom of the chairs in the second picture? If so, Im pretty sure I need those !


  5. Enjoyed seeing so many different room photos with the Louis Ghost Chair in them! It seems like this chair has been getting a lot of attention lately, in the Cooper-Hewitt People’s Design Awards and the Washington Post Magazine, which is where I noticed it recently. This is my blog post on the subject, if you are interested:
    Really interesting piece of furniture, thanks for sharing all those great photos which we might not otherwise have seen!

  6. I totally just had a moment…remembering how much I love the Ghost Chair and remembering having margaritas with the brilliant Philipe Starck as he was critiquing a line of furniture he designed for The David Sutherland Showroom! Ericka, fabulous job breaking it down for us!

  7. this is a first for me to enjoy this informative shows our readers more than what they expected for new inspiration and how our European roots influence the style in our homes to make it our own personal choices.

  8. I have two of the Neoclassical Louis Ghost chairs on each side of an antique armoire…I have always loved them and it’s fun to have all this information you’ve put together here…I’m surprised how many people come into my house and think they are a bit odd…I adore them. I have a few of these images on my Pinterst boards, but must add the one with the Eiffel Tower.

  9. These really are amazing, we specialize in furniture hire and they are by far our most popular product. The Victoria Ghost Chair is another interesting version of the Ghost Chair, just has no arms, still a great chair tho.

  10. Event furniture hire is the ideal way to have an incredible assortment of furniture to make an event successful without having to worry about what to do with the furniture after the event. It is the perfect choice for private parties, meetings, weddings, concerts and other events where furniture is needed for just a few hours.