Masters of their craft, Paris-based Féau & Cie. are today gracefully carrying on the 400-year-old boiserie tradition in France. In a world that seems to prize sleek, modern and minimalism, Féau & Cie. are a throw back to the grand tradition of boiserie, the beautiful carved woodwork that has graced many a grand Parisian hotel particulier and chateau. I was recently inspired to look into these master craftsmen after having been invited to dinner in a home graced with their magic in the form of carved and gilded garlands of fruit and foliage.
Now and then you find paneled rooms offered for sale at auction, but I have always wondered who would chance buying them to fit into modern interiors? You just know your room is going to be 4in. too low and the walls another foot too short. And this is where you call in the experts at Féau & Cie.
A team of over 40 permanent employees can help with restoring broken pieces of decoration or by crafting new panels to help fill out a room scheme. We should all be thankful that unlike most modern decoration, boiseries were removable and could be saved even after their former homes were redecorated or even destroyed.
The Féau & Cie. library and showroom takes you through the whole history of French interior design from panels adorned with carved wreaths of oak leaves dating to 1700, to others from the 1790s incorporating musical instruments, to panels incorporating fabulous geometric wonders created during the Art Deco movement of the last century. Féau & Cie. were the ones who purchased the 1925 Ruhlmann panels by Rigal that adorned Lord Rothermere’s Grand Salon on the Champs Elysées. Their extensive pattern books allow you to pick designs of all types to have their craftsmen customize the look you want.
Before you panic and think I’ve given up my modern aesthetic, fear not. This is just another great example of layering your space. Imagine if you will, a room installed with Féau & Cie. carved 18th-century boiserie all painted in a monochrome palette – the carvings will recede ever so slightly into the background. You can then fill the room with modern furniture as a perfect complement. Remember, great design doesn’t date; so two worlds can happily harmonize if you take care and plan out the space. In the case where a client wants to go full-on paneling, I would persuade them to go bold – how amazing would a library or study fitted in Chinoiserie lacquered and gilt panels be in a home that was otherwise the model for contemporary living? It’s all about balance.
The point is simple. Always look for quality first and then find a way to incorporate it into your space. It’s taking the time to discover treasures like Féau & Cie. that can help create a truly remarkable and memorable space.
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city
image credits: Christophe Boulze and Olivier Caillard; Féau & Cie., Paris