So I've always loved spiffing up old furniture and right now I have more chairs than I know what to do with, all waiting to be reupholstered. But eBay, why can't I quit you?? I figure I'll put my addiction to good use and separate the wheat from the chaff in my favorite saved search: "French chairs." I'm no furniture historian, but over the years I've learned how to spot a good fake in this department ... shape and scale are important, but it's mostly about paying close attention to the carving on the wooden frame. Depth and refinement. You'll see what I mean, but let's first dismiss two categories out of hand:
Victorian. Can't do it -- looks like a grandma and a bordello at the same time. Ew.
Asymmetry. Reminds me of Sharon Stone and DeNiro's house in Casino. Hideous.
Now what makes a near-miss? Witness:
This Louis XV-style fauteuil (essentially denoted by the curvy, cabriole leg and pointy-ish arm) isn't awful ... it's just new and cheap and boring. The carvings are too shallow, especially the dumpy little flowers on the leg and top back. Often best to avoid any piece of furniture with a shiny poly or speckly painted finish -- you know how in the 70s and 80s they'd lightly splatter paint on some black for an "antique" look? Yuck. It seems the best reproductions come pre-1960. Like the big furniture makers got lazy, or too creative with the weird shapes, or both.
Now the cane-backed variety:
A set of newish Louis XVI dining chairs (see the spindle leg; those carved florettes or whatever set within squares at the top of the front legs). Not bad carving, nice proportions and little brass sabots (feet). But the cane just makes it all too busy, right? I'd prefer a simple square back on this chair. Cane is also more common on provincial furniture -- again, ask a real historian why -- and it's hard to shake the Pierre Deux associations.
Finally, my favorite pair of chairs on eBay at the moment:
Adorable Louis XVI side/slipper chairs. Parcel gilt is usually a BIG red flag for cheap furniture -- full gilding = unforgivable -- but I actually like the gold paired with a grey-green, and check out those delicate spindle legs and deep carvings. Picture these recovered in polished leather (emerald? burnt orange?) or a pretty solid satin. Now I've got another case of the gimme-getmes!!