Object of desire These chairs are from Henryot & Cie -a 140-year-old company that is still owned and run by the founding family.
Elysée chairs by Henryot & Cie
When a leading designer is commissioned by the government of France to create a piece of furniture that would be a fitting representation of his country, he needs to find a furniture maker of the highest order to execute his work. And so, for these chairs - commissioned for the President's reception room at the European Union in Brussels - the designer-architect, Sylvain Dubuisson, went to Henryot & Cie, a 140-year-old company that is still owned and run by the founding family and still employs the traditional skills it always has.
Not that I knew any of this when I first set eyes on them at the recent Arts & Métiers exhibition at Emirates Palace, which brought together 20 or so of France's leading craft-based companies. Spotted from right across the room, their elegant simplicity is what drew me. That and the almost pearl-like glow of their material (as I later learnt, a highly advanced man-made fabric that looks and feels like a cross between silk satin and the finest leather, if such a thing were possible).
The deliberately asymmetric form that makes them the perfect pair (they are not sold singly) is resolutely contemporary and unlike anything else I have seen lately (an increasingly rare thing in this age of ubiquitous design references) they nevertheless have something of the finesse and glamour of Art Deco about them. But there's more to them than just good looks: the quality of workmanship that goes into them is all too rare today. The frames are solid oak, the padding is made the old-fashioned way and the double-row saddle stitched finishing is hand-sewn. The ability still to do such work, says Dominique Roitel, the owner and director of Henryot, is his raison d'être. "Our logo is the letter H, naturally. But, to my mind, what that really stands for is 'homme' - the men who make our furniture. Without the hands of these people it would be nothing."
Available to order from Henryot & Cie, 88350 Liffol-le-Grand, France; +33 3 29 06 60 70; www.henryot-cie.fr. Retail price (excluding shipping) approximately ?4,400 (Dh22,897) per pair.