Maison Pouenat’s World-Famous Ironworks Celebrates A Milestone
Paris may be the City of Light, but it’s also cloaked in intricate and ornate ironwork. Walking over one of its many famous bridges is proof positive. Most of France boasts these eye-catching bridges as well as wrought iron fences, brass railings, and gilded balustrades that add to the country’s visual appeal. Maison Pouenat, one of France’s premier iron and metalwork ateliers, has been beautifying the land of the Gaulois since 1880. To celebrate, CEO and president Jacques Rayet launched several special collections this year and collaborated on a revamp of a well-known chair.
A 140th anniversary is cause for a big celebration, but alas, the coronavirus pandemic shelved those plans. Rayet and his team forged ahead despite confinement and work slowdowns to release the collections currently on display in their Saint-Germain-des-Prés showroom. As second-confinement lockdowns have lifted, the gallery is now open for private appointments as well as walk-ins.
The Anniversary Collection
To mark Pouenat’s special anniversary, Rayet commissioned artists who’d previously worked with the maison to reissue iconic works with some up-to-date touches. Of particular interest are Sybille de Margerie’s Fusion side table, Kaki Kroener’s Trèfle coffee table, Damien Langlois-Meurinne’s Close to Me console table and Lost Angels light fixture. Each unique and intricate piece reflects its designer’s vision paired with Pouenat’s expertise. As Rayet told Miguel Duterrier of Signatures Singulières magazine on IGTV, complicated parts are a regular occurrence at Maison Pouenat. “It’s a bit of our reason for living. If it were simple, maybe we would not do it,” he said, adding, “The architect finds a drawing; it is always something that is worked, textured, finished or with complicated three-dimensional shapes. That’s our daily routine, doing complicated things.”
The 2020 Pouenat House Collection
Pouenat has a stable of well-known architects who collaborate on designers’ private commissions and the house’s yearly collections. Those partnerships are mainly thanks to Rayet, who moved Pouenat in new directions upon taking the top position in 1995. The metalworks house began creating modern and classic interior design and objets d’art in the ’60s, but partnerships with the famous designers Rayet recruited elevated Pouenat to a global ironworks firm. Its 2020 collection, Metamorphosis, was designed in collaboration with the architecture and design firm Humbert & Poyet. Rayet met the duo in 2009, after Christophe Poyet admired some lamps another designer had created for Pouenat at the Maison&Objet show. Several private client commissions transpired over the years, which led to the current presentation. Originally scheduled to debut last April at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, the collection was unveiled at the significantly scaled-down, locally attended Paris Design Week in September.
The Armure Stool
Simultaneously, the ironworks company began work on a unique collaboration with Wilson Associates to benefit the La Source association, which uses the expressive arts to improve the quality of life for handicapped children and adults. They reimagined the iconic Solvay stool by Jean Prouvé (modeled after helmets from armor donned by men in the Middle Ages during battle), now dubbed the Armure stool. A metal overlay is grafted on a wood stool, symbolizing protection with a nod to fighting — a theme for 2020. “The cutout of the stool top is inspired by the small slits in the knights’ helms,” says Gaelle Rioualen, regional operations director of Wilson Associates. “The color blue is a symbol of escape, an echo of life, of travels which we have so desired during this special year,” says Rioualen. The stool will be part of a fundraising auction in February 2021 and then offered as a limited edition by Vitra.
History of Maison Pouenat
Maison Pouenat was founded in 1880 in Moulins, France, as the Postimpressionist period gave way to the excesses of Art Nouveau. It created banisters, balustrades, screens, and wall panels to adorn France’s most exquisite buildings. The house was instrumental in the restoration of the balustrades at Versailles, France’s most famous residence. Paris residents and visitors alike have also seen Pouenat’s work in hotels such as the Plaza Athénée and Le Meurice, and boutiques including Balmain and Dior. The company doesn’t limit itself to iron; it also works with steel, stainless steel, brass, aluminum, copper in bronze in its workshops, with 25-plus skilled artisans creating everything from gates and railings to lamps and chairs. The French government recognized Maison Pouenat’s work by designating it a Living Heritage Company (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant) by the Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Employment, which confirmed the excellence and rarity of Pouenat’s knowledge.