Last Week I was in Los Angeles getting caught up on the latest of all that is chic in design and visiting my favorite resources for innovative furnishings. I love to visit LA and often stay at the Hotel Bel Air. There is just something about those swans!
A furniture maker from New Jersey named Frank Pollaro had invited me to come see his pieces. He reserved the Grace Kelly Suite for a showing of his amazing, museum-quality, Ruhlmann inspired furnishings.
Isn’t this one of the most handsome chairs you’ve ever seen? Look at the polished nickel front feet. It is amazingly comfortable as well. The Macassar ebony wood arms have a gently carved shape which makes running your hand over one of them a complete delight. A chair like this represents the finest craftsmanship and design that is offered today. There is nothing else like it.
But who was Ruhlmann? E.J. Ruhlmann was the leader of the Art Deco furniture design movement of Paris from 1914 until he died in 1933. Ruhlmann’s pieces were very simple, making use of gentle, almost impeccable curves. This made pieces look like elegance exemplified.
In his will, Ruhlmann requested that his shop be dismantled and no other pieces be made without his own fine touch. This meant only a relatively few pieces of his wonderful furniture were ever made. Most of his work has ended up being one-of-a-kind and today are in museums like the Louvre, the finest galleries of Paris or the most exclusive private collections. Here is a fine example of his work.
But then along came Frank Pollaro! Frank has been a gifted woodworker from an early age. In 1985 he discovered Ruhlmann’s artistry in a copy of “Fine Woodworking” magazine. Ruhlmann’s work struck a chord and he never looked back. He knew from then on that making very fine furniture was his destiny. Frank started woodworking at 16. At 21, he started his own company. In 1994, Architectural Digest ran an article about him and he began to secure exceptional commissions. Now his client list includes such big names as David Geffen, Clive Davis and Larry Ellison.
Although the Pollaro workshop can make anything, the exact, museum quality reproductions of the Ruhlmann furniture is where Frank’s heart is. Take a look at this delightful dressing table. The veneer is know as “ring lizard”.
Sometimes Pollaro likes to design new pieces that are in the style of Ruhlmann, which he makes to coordiante with the original designs, like this stand-behind bar and bar stools:
Can you imaginethis in the corner of your new condo at the Infinity in San Francisco? What elegance, style and taste!
Look at this piece:
Have you ever seen anything so divine? The original of this rolltop desk is in the Louvre. Through some personal connections, Pollaro was able to meet with the curator at the museum and completely examine the original. Even with that special opportunity, Pollaro estimates that a piece like this took him and his dedicated team 1100 hours to design and fabricate to his exacting standards. The classic beauty reflected in this piece will be in style always.
All of the pieces made are executed to perfection. The wood solids and veneers are carefully selected, some from very old, rare logs that Pollaro has purchased, others from reclaimed or newly harvested sources. He uses the most beautiful, richly patterned and vibrant colored veneers available anywhere.
Following the Ruhlmann style, Pollaro also uses small amounts of very old ivory to accent the pieces in the subtlest of ways. For those of you who are worried, all of his ivory comes from the Warther Ivory Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio, which certifies that all ivory is legal, pre-ban, and for sale to American craftsman and artisans only. Isn’t that cool?
I can’t resist adding this piece. Pollaro says this is what a doggie bed would have looked like IF Ruhlmann would have designed one. Since Ruhlmann didn’t, Pollaro did it for him:
Custom sizes are available… It was a thrill to see this quality of craftsmanship and design. So now I am on the lookout for that unique project where I can create something very special by using at least one piece from the Pollaro collection!
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