French Artisan Christophe Pourny has a story that reads like a novel. This antique restoration specialist was born and raised in the perched village of Fayence, France in the Var region, near the Riviera. With his studio based in DUMBO, Brooklyn - Pourny says he is constantly reminded just how different his life is now. "So many times when I look at the Brooklyn Bridge or the NY Skyline, I can't help but thinking of when I was a kid growing up in this little village in France". While I'm sure that village seemed like a bore to a child - Fayence is a story book town in one of the most celebrated regions on the planet! Just the mention of the French Riviera brings chic images of St. Tropez, Nice, and Cannes to mind. Not to mention Antibes and the legacy of Authors, Painters, and Actors that made this area their second home from Picasso to Cocteau.
Mr. Pourny grew up watching his parents - Christian and Arlette Pourny run one of the most sought after antique shops on the Riviera. The Pournys had a loyal following of the fashion flock who would make the annual visit to the region on Holiday. The shop specialized in Provencal style and had an eclectic offering. Christophe remembers - "I would watch my parents as they charmed visitors and finessed the pieces they sold. They really loved what they did and they had such a talent for it. I was like a sponge, I wanted to be involved in everything happening in the shop. It was on the property of our home, so my sisters and I were constantly back and forth to see what was going on". The Pourny's have since retired and continue to enjoy life on the riviera.
As if growing up in this environment wasn't training enough- after college at the exclusive Lycee Massena in Nice, Mr. Pourny began an apprenticeship with his uncle Pierre in Paris. Pierre Madel had one of the most well known shops on the Rue Jacob in St. Germain des Pres. Madel specialized in anything to do with the fireplace - from mantels to andirons. A former actor, his leading man looks helped him to amass quite the following. His fans stretched from Santa Barbara to St. Tropez, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Valentino being two notable clients of the shop.
"My uncle was a very generous man, and he wanted me to learn every aspect of the business". Mr. Pourny says with a laugh. " This meant doing every tedious little bit of polishing or errand running, which in the end was priceless - as it really taught me what it meant to run my own business". Mr. Madel passed away in 2006 at the age of 92.
Christophe moved to NY in 1993 and opened a studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Mr. Pourny says he watch the neighborhood go from a "where's that?" place in the beginning to a "mini TRIBECA" now. The real estate boom of the past 4 years did see DUMBO become one of the hottest destinations for new families. The area has the same feeling of remoteness as TRIBECA does.
The studio has a following with interior designers and private clients as well. Mr. Pourny specializes in all types of restoration - from hardwood to upholstered items. The studio also creates custom pieces and is known for its French polish. Industry bible The Franklin Report gives Mr. Pourny's work quality 5 out of 5 stars or "highest imaginable".
The latest news for 2009 is the addition of straw marquetry. The age old process of straw application has been a luxurious finish and coveted craft since the reign of Louis the XV due to the countless hours needed to achieve the look. Mr. Pourny noted " I am so proud to be able to offer this finish in our repertoire. Straw Marquetry is extremely labor intensive and can be applied in so many different manners."
Jean Michel Frank was known for his use of marquetry in the 1920's in Paris. Fashion designer Paul Poiret brought straw marquetry back in fashion as he commissioned Michel-Frank to practically encase his apartment in Straw. Jean Michel Frank became the marquetry artisan of his time, leading writer Jean Cocteau to write that Michel-Frank was "putting Parisian society on the straw". A double entendre noting the astronomical cost in those days of Frank's work.
Christophe Pourny Studio is located at 20 Jay Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn. To make an appointment or find out more about the studio or Straw Marquetry- visit www.ChristophePourny.com or contact 718-855-8865.