Let the critics say what they will about the acting and story line of the movie “Marie Antoinette.” What caught our eye was the luxurious sets.
The young Austrian who married Louis XVI and became queen of France was known for her fashion and nesting sense, and the movie, directed by Sofia Coppola, showcased both the gorgeous halls that the royal couple entertained in and the private quarters where the queen spent her downtime.
Although most of us don’t have a Hall of Mirrors in our own home, it is possible to live like a queen by adding a few touches of Marie Antoinette’s design signatures.
Kristen Brubaker, co-owner of Trouvé, a Phoenix boutique that carries antiques and gift items with a distinctively French flair, studied for a semester in college in France and lived less than a block from Versailles, the quarters of Marie Antoinette.
Brubaker fell in love with the amazing interiors of the royal home, and she now splits her time between her two stores — here and in California — and scouring the French countryside for beautiful pieces to sell at Trouvé.
Much of Marie Antoinette’s Versailles was looted and destroyed during the French Revolution, but over time, some of the rooms have been restored to look as they did when the young couple reigned. Last year, during a visit to France, Brubaker took a behind-the-scenes tour of the famous chateau.
“The movie really brought the whole period alive,” she says. “It was dead-on.”
She saw for herself the small rooms and tiny staircases that Marie Antoinette used when she wasn’t entertaining, and says pieces such as the Louis XVI-style reproduction chaise she has in her store are just the types of things the queen would have used in her daily life.
“She would get changed three and four times a day,” says Brubaker. “Can you imagine how exhausting that would have been? She would have a little couch to lie down on and rest in between all her entertaining.”
She says to look for a chaise, or fainting couch as they are sometimes called, that is small because it would have been made to the frame of a small woman. Also look for straight wooden legs, indicative of the Neoclassical style of the time, usually hand-carved with intricate designs.
Brubaker says you can integrate a few pieces of furniture and fabric without decorating your whole space by updating pieces to work with your existing decor. For example, pieces of vintage embroidery showcased in sleek frames add color and character to any room. Or, take a piece like the chaise and cover it in a modern linen, perfect for a large bathroom or even a walk-in closet.
A La Marie Antoinette
If you want to live like a queen, or specifically like Marie Antoinette, here are some things to consider:
Fabrics: Look for silk, especially silk damasks, which will add a rich look to your room. If you’re on a budget, try a throw pillow or an ottoman covered in this fabric. Wal-Mart has damask drapery panels in soft greens, pale blue and gold for $26.94 each. Marie Antoinette also decorated with Toile de Jouy, with typical patterns depicting the countryside and its people.
Lighting: If you have the budget, a rock crystal chandelier will instantly transform your room into a palace. If you don’t, try converting your existing lights to something softer by utilizing candles or pink light bulbs in place of harsher white bulbs.
Furniture: The furniture of the period is characterized by its straight legs, its symmetry and intricate carvings in the wood. Look for these details on consoles, chairs and settees. For more ideas on what to look for in furniture of the period, pick up Judith Miller’s “Decorative Arts: Style and Design From Classical to Contemporary” (DK Publishing, $50). It’s full of information on collectibles and antiques, and has a chapter on the Neoclassical period.
Colors: The palette of the chateau during Marie Antoinette’s time was soft. Look for pale pinks, salmons and blues in your fabric and paint choices. And think gilt: What royal couple wouldn’t want a little gold in their lives? You can try this look on picture frames and other small items by purchasing a product such as Liquid Leaf (Michael’s $4.99) and painting it on yourself.