Created in 2017, La Chaise Française has set itself the challenge of offering eco-responsible chairs on the French market. Dozens of chair models are made in the workshop of a specialized manufacturer in France. The chairs are made from wood from PEFC (Pan European Forest Certification), sustainably managed forests located within a radius of less than 200 km. No more chemicals and mass-produced chairs. The young company has chosen to produce less and better, while surrounding itself with a quality designer: Margaux Keller
Quark takes you to meet the La Chaise Française team, founded and directed by Bartolomé Lenoir since 2017.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and the French chair?
My name is Bartolomé Lenoir and I am from Nantes. I founded La Chaise Française 3 years ago. It is furniture that has been relocated for too long.
You started as an assistant accountant and then a journalist. How did you enter the world of furniture? Where did the idea for the French chair come from?
I have always been passionate about media and media engagement. I still write forums on the made in France, in Figaro. My training is also very entrepreneurial. I did both Dauphine and EM Lyon. Then I started my own business. This has a commitment and not just a profitability. The two go together very well.
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How do you define your profession within the French chair? What qualities are required?
It takes a form of resilience. Today, manufacturing in France remains very complicated. The made in France trend is on our side but we have to start from so far that resilience is very important. It also requires financial resilience. It is an environment where we will make much less margin than the others. Then the energy is important to knock on all the doors. We must explain why we are more expensive and the meaning of this approach to consuming French. Finally, I am an entrepreneur who defends values.
Do you think that your profession and your company will have to reinvent themselves? Especially with the pandemic?
Our company is quite young. We have experienced a boom during the pandemic. We adapted earlier compared to other companies that now have to reinvent themselves. We are a brand that is very well understood on digital because we have built ourselves around it. The covid only saw the good choices we had made.
In your opinion, do the decoration and therefore the furniture have an impact on our moods, our well-being?
The first element is that there is evidence on the sourcing of products that will affect well-being. The materials, depending on the chemical contribution, whether or not they have a health impact on our daily lives. Indeed, in some factory-made products, there are sometimes chemicals that can alter our well-being. We have made a stool without screws, without glue and without nails which is widely used as a bedside table. It is furniture that we breathe because close to our bed, it can be dangerous if it contains chemicals.
Made In France
The second element concerns quality made in France compared to Chinese quality. I see a lot that our grandparents' generation has a much better sense of the art of living than people in their 20s. They have a knowledge of materials and a sense of quality. Having quality furniture means having elegant materials, which put us in conditions for a much more pleasant art of living.
The third element corresponds to the design. I think that today, having original pieces created by fellow citizens close to home is very important. These original pieces will stick better to our identity. Today, factories make enormous economies of scale to be able to offer products at low prices. This implies a standardization of the decoration as well as the furniture.
Because of this phenomenon, interiors look more and more alike and are no longer linked to each person's identity. Especially in art, we can find identical paintings. Before, the paintings were unique pieces and made it a pleasure to come home. I think that the made in France and creativity can only be done nearby. This has an impact on our way of life.
Can you describe your creative process and your way of working with the French chair?
We put eco-responsibility at the entrance of the creative process. We give constraints from the start to the designer. Then, we will create a first prototype that will stick to the industrialization of the product. Once several prototypes are created, we choose the one that is the most eco-responsible and aesthetic. We then launch the product in series.
Can you present your eco-responsible approach in a few words?
Our eco-responsible approach is first of all the sourcing of wood. We mainly work with local wood. We use water-based paint and not chemical paint which can have a negative impact on our health. Then, we have our chairs made in a French factory. This contributes to the maintenance of French employees and highlights their know-how. The products you buy from us emit very few greenhouse gases during their manufacture.
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Do you work in a circular economy?
Today we can recycle our products. We source our products from virgin materials. Our wood comes from eco-managed forests. So there is no deforestation. On the contrary, when you buy a chair from us, a tree is planted. In addition, we recondition and rework the chairs we are given.
You launched a chair brand. Don't you think there are already enough chairs on the market? Why launch a new range of chairs? It's a big bet isn't it?
No, chairs are the most imported furniture. In France, a chair is too expensive to produce. It was therefore necessary to get involved in this project to save this furniture and the French know-how that results from it.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Mostly literature. Some writers speak to me a lot. They gave me the love of France and this vocation to work locally. Then I came to furniture through painting. I am a big fan of painting. I am interested in it in a fairly broad way, from Poussin to Renoir but also the Italians of the great century of the Renaissance. However, contemporary painting interests me less. It is this love of painting that led me to the Decorative Arts and gave me a real interest in the art of living.
Do you have any recommendations for Instagram or Facebook accounts that you particularly like?
I really like the softness in terms of Cézanne's textile brand. It's very clean and I like their approach. In furniture, I like Gautier furniture. It's a company with a real family history, it's a real inspiration for us. Then, in rather aesthetic inspiration, you have to subscribe to the Gazette Drouot which is magnificent. There is art, decorative arts and lots of decoration. They show the historical panel and the French know-how. It's inspiring.
Finally, what do you think of the Pegboard and the modular design? Should we prefer a single function or multifunction object?
I don't think it should be either. There are objects that must be mono-function and others multi-function. There is a call to the multifunction, but it must be done intelligently. Do not think that single function objects are obsolete.
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