Hervé Van der Straeten – French Designer revives craftsmanship of the past

The French design world was excited by artists back in the 1930s and 1940s who created modern objects that combined up-to-the-minute allure with the authenticity of traditional crafts: hand-worked bronze, painstakingly applied lacquer layers, meticulously matched and polished wood.

Interior shown in Interiors Magazine

Skills like that may be dying out, but by producing furniture and accessories whose originality rivals the kind of vintage rarities that tend to appear only at auction, the designer Herve Van der Straeten is doing his best to keep them alive in France.


Hervé Van der Straeten was born in 1965 and is an independent artist-designer, first known for his jewellery designs, and now enjoys worldwide recognition for his furniture and lighting, instantly recognisable by the way he combines contrasting materials, bold shape variations and challenging volumes with perfect proportions, precision and detail. He designs and manufactures everything in his own dedicated bronze and cabinet making workshops and displays a selection of his unique and limited-edition pieces in his own gallery in Paris. The artist-designer is also known for his projects with French luxury homes. Van der Straeten has received numerous awards from the French Government in his career, including L’Enterprise du Patrimonie Vivant and Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2005, he joined RALPH PUCCI.

In general, a single piece of furniture is the product of three or four people, “Van der Straeten said.” Van der Straeten oversees a team of precision craftsmen, just like old-time operations, who work only on his creations. These days, centralisation is an unusual luxury; many designers often lug furniture around to several independent artisans.

Lighting by Herve Van der Straeten

“You’ve got to have it all together like that, all the craftsmen under one roof, otherwise you’re going to go crazy,” Van der Straeten said at his Marais showroom “Unless you have your workshop, you can’t control the quality.”

Material First, not design

David Kleinberg, a New York designer who commissioned Van der Straeten to design a lantern-style chandelier for a Connecticut house, compared his work to that of Line Vautrin, a 1950s cult figure who was famous for her hand-made jewellery, cigarette cases and mirrors.

First of all, he has that same sense of working from the material, not the design, “said Kleinberg.” “He knows that he has a man who can produce amazing lacquer work, so Herve thinks,” What can I do to demonstrate that ability? In New York, Van der Straeten began making his presence known.

Breaking the pattern

It was not how Van der Straeten originally envisioned his life that he designed lipstick cases, let alone chandeliers. His father and brother were engineers, so it was presumed that they would follow in the footsteps of Van der Straeten, who grew up in a suburb of Paris. However, a couple of months into his first year at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he said, “I realised that engineering was not for me.” He dropped out of school at the age of 19 and went into business as a designer of jewellery. In the 1980s, through the furniture and lighting of Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti in France and Oriel Harwood in England, he became one of the leaders of the Neo-Baroque design movement, a school of often extravagant decorative arts.

Fun Ride

The 2,700-square-foot Van der Straeten showroom on Rue Ferdinand Duval displays a single collection of 25 to 30 objects each year, most of which are produced in limited editions. He has also created a table lamp that was part of a retail line commissioned by Alexandre Biaggi, the influential vintage furniture dealer in Paris, for contemporary designer objects. His use of ageing artisans whose skills are dying out is part of Van der Straeten ‘s appeal.

A large convex mirror with surfaces that curve like a silver bubble, one of his designs, demanded the unique abilities of a retiree. Van der Straeten, whose thematic collections typically result from doodles he makes while talking on the telephone, said, “I always think about the techniques.”

And he scours the Ecole Boulle, a prestigious design school, for young artisans who understand his desire to mix materials to “contrast the very smooth with something a bit rough,” like glassy lacquer trimmed with artfully pitted metal, when he can not coax artisans like a mirror blower out of retirement. However, not everything off his drawing board led to instant swooning.

Emergence of Form and Matter

A Parsons-style console table made of bronze and surfaced with a panel of pony hide stands in his office; its legs are braced with a stretcher made of a stout chain length. Tough but elegant, a visiting American failed to impress with the striking design. As Van der Straeten recalled, she said: “Take the chain off.” “It looks like S-and-M.” He didn’t, and he didn’t, but, he admitted, he still didn’t sell the table. “She might have been right?

Herve Van der StraetenHerve Van der Straeten Sun, Jun 5, 2005 – Page 15-12 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.