One of my many passions is mid-century Parisian furniture! When given the opportunity to incorporate an exquisite piece from that era into a design I am working on, my heart races with anticipation. However, as is often the case, modifications must be considered. You see, often times I find the scale of mid-century pieces a bit off for the larger homes here in Woodside and Atherton where I create many of my interior designs.
I am sometimes challenged to find the perfect item for one of my client’s interiors. When I did this Mid-Century Paris sitting room recently, I wanted a large, contemporary table, but with the careful restraint and innovation of the best designers of that period. However, the real vintage tables of that period are rather small by today’s standards. So, what to do?
My flame was kindled and the affair was about to commence. I was charged with creating a unique, one of a kind piece that would set off the interior and distinguish it from the mainstream things we are saturated with daily. Developing something completely new is not only an intoxicating challenge but it stretches me artistically too.
Here, size was what counted most. With the perfect dimensions defined, I researched all my favorite books on this style. I had purchased a small boat load of books on my last trip to Paris, and the excitement mounted as I studied them. My favorite of the lot is Les décorateurs des années 40 by Jean-Louis Gaillemin. What was the definitive style of the period? What materials were used? What were the many different styles that were created? How did they balance the pieces in each room? What design elements set the tone of the genre? This book had all the answers. I couldn’t have been happier.
As I perused, I noticed that grand gestures, inlaid materials, and simple leg styles were distinct traits of the period. I found an image of a chest-on-stand by the design team of La maison Dominique. The chest was ebony, (yes, the real, endangered wood species!) and it had a genuine ivory (also endangered!) inlay in a ribbon type of pattern. Oh, it was beautiful and seeing it made me swoon!
So that was it. My plan was forming. Of course, I needed to adapt the design and scale it to fit the table, and make it out of renewable resources. I did the imaging using Photoshop. After many different ideas were tried, I settled on the design and layout. I was exhilarated! But what materials would capture the period and still be sustainable? Even when being daring one must always consider the environment. My favorite workshop in San Francisco, LXRossi, worked with me developing and fabricating the piece. Mr. Rossi told me about the Tagua nut, a seed pod that look very much like ivory and has the consistency of clay so it can be easily carved and shaped. For the wood, I settled on using alder and painting it in a faux macassar ebony, highly polished and lacquered to give the look of the hand rubbed finishes of France.
I considered many leg styles and I ultimately settled on a simple tapered style. To finish it off, I opted to make it a two-tiered adjustable top. The lower tier can be used for magazines and the other debris that coffee tables tend to accumulate. The upper tier can be raised from a height of 17” to a height of 24”. This makes it a more practical height for serving hors d’oeuvres and drinks. No more leaning over to grab the Dom Peringnon!
And so my affair was at an end, a fete accompli! My passion united with and inspired by that of Ruhlmann, Jacgues Arnet, Andre Arbus, Jules Leleu, Gilbert Poillerat and all the wonderful designers of that breakthrough period of design resulted in a unique, one of a kind table not to be missed in this warm and wonderful, art filled room.
Thank you my amours, you changed custom designed furnishings and me forever!
All the best to you,
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