Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant

Henryot & Cie, a time-honoured chairmaker’s that’s in tune with modernity

A company founded in 1867; 60 staff who together master 17 unique skills; designs exported throughout the world, from Moscow to Dubai and New York to Tokyo; a trusted partner of top interior architects, decorators and designers, such as Philippe Starck, Alberto Pinto, Jacques Garcia and Andrée Putman. Henryot & Cie is a benchmark in traditional and specialist furniture and seating.

Located in Liffol-le-Grand, the capital of period seating in the heart of the Vosges Plain, in northeastern France, the company juggles the updating of antique furniture (Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, Empire, Directoire, Louis-Philippe, Napoleon III and Art Deco chairs and armchairs) with the creation of contemporary and designer furniture, in all cases producing its designs by hand.


We wanted to find out more about this prestigious, time-honoured company, so we interviewed its managing director, Jean-Louis Janin-Daviet.

Is the history of Henryot & Cie a family history?

Absolutely. It goes back to the 19th century: there was considerable unrest in Paris prior to the uprisings of 1870, and the artisans of the furniture-making district of Faubourg Saint-Antoine got their raw materials from Liffol-le-Grand. In fact, beechwood has been crafted here in the Northeast of France for centuries. In 1867, Clément Henryot decided to leave the capital and set up as a chairmaker here in the village.


From Henri II, Louis XIII, Louis XV or Louis XVI chairs, to Art Nouveau and turn-of-the-century period furniture, in the Roaring Twenties the firm catered for all manner of fashions and trends. It gained particular renown for designing the seating for ocean liner the SS Normandie. From some twenty staff in the beginning, it grew to employ over 500 people split between three production sites, in 1954, when the Style et Confort brand came into being. A forerunner of "ready-made” furniture, the firm was midway between an industrial factory and a craftsman’s workshop. In terms of skills and capacity, Style et Confort then became France’s number-one company specialising in high-end reproduction antique chairs.




In the 1990s, the furniture market slowed down, and we struggled to find mid-to high-end markets, looking in particular to the hotel industry. Then in 2006 came a turning point, as Dominique Roitel, the fifth generation of the Henryot family, decided to give the business back its craftsman’s heart and reposition it in the high- to very-high-end market. The company returned to its roots, tied to a family and a name, intent on continuing to excel in its mastery of high-class ancestral skills, while also embarking on a new path, by offering a more modern range of furniture and ornaments, suited to 21st-century lifestyles and a touch unconventional in shape and size.


Who are your main customers today?

Our unique expertise attracts top interior architects, decorators and designers (Philippe Starck, Alberto Pinto, Jacques Garcia, Jacques Grange, and interior-design agency 3 Bis), who commission unique, customised pieces for their French and overseas customers, including institutions, luxury hotels, restaurants and private individuals.




The dressing room of a suite at the Royal Monceau Hotel


Photo credits: Philippe Garcia / LaSociétéAnonyme 



Our orders come mostly from luxury hotels. Among the most recent, I can name the Royal Mansour Marrakech, commissioned by Mohammed VI, the new Royal Monceau Raffles Paris, together with Philippe Starck, the new Quality Hotel El Centre Del Mon in Perpignan, and the new hotel decorated by Jacques Garcia, the Selman Marrakech. We also supply all of the Ladurée tea salons, having just delivered to the very latest one to open in Tokyo.



We have also recently teamed up with four other firms in the French Vosges, including three EPV-label holders (de Buyer – cookware and bakeware; Garnier-Thiebaut – household linen; and Terres d’Est – faïence and glassware), to offer high-end solutions to the hotel and catering industry. Working together, we offer our services to the same sites.


Which design are you most proud of?

That’s a difficult one! Thanks to the ability and expertise of all our employees, we are able to cater for the wackiest orders that come our way.

I’m thinking of an extraordinary chair commissioned by an individual. We received an order for a special gift for a Legion of Honour award recipient: a very special chair, for a man with two sides – both an expert on Napoleon and a rock musician.

So we made this completely wacky Empire-style chair, the front of which contained all the elements of an authentic Empire chair, while the outside illustrated his rocky side, with a piano keyboard, his belt buckle and two legs in the shape of cowboy boots.





You must need special skills to deal with all these orders!

Yes, between them, our staff have 17 different skills and techniques, including woodcarving, carpentry, cabinetmaking, varnishing, lacquering, and gold-, copper- and silver-leafing. We have a workshop with six woodcarvers, which is unusual in a factory; a department of prestige excellence that does gold- and silver-leafing, trompe l'oeil, perspective, etc.; plus an in-house tapestry workshop.

The passing-on of skills is vital: it takes seven or eight years to train a woodcarver; the same goes for a varnisher. What makes us unique is that we have always succeeded in staying up to date and keeping up with technology in an innovative way. For example, we have designed technical furniture like the i-Bergère, a combination of leather, precious woods and technology, which represents the 21st century rather well.


This year, we also opened a museum of fine cabinetmaking skills. Dominique Roitel and I were keen to pass on chairmaking know-how to those wishing to find out about the trade.



What are the keys to your international success?

The concepts of networking and quality are very important. We receive support from the French Trade Commission – Ubifrance, the regional authorities and the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant label, which gives us better access to places where we can present our designs.


We have done a lot of work in Russia, for example for the fashionable hotel-restaurant La Colline, in Moscow, whose Louis XV design has been adapted to incorporate show-business elements. So there’s Russia, where we took part in the Art de Vivre à la Françaiseexhibition last October, alongside lots of other EPV-labelled companies. And there’s also Kuwait, Emirates, Qatar, Spain, Japan and South Korea, etc. For some US customers, we supplied the furniture for a reconstruction of a French chateau. We have become replica artists! Our catalogue of designs means we are able to look up and adapt 18th- and 19th-century chairmaking techniques.



To find out more about Henryot & Cie, visit the following sites: http://www.patrimoine-vivant.com/henryot_cie_style_confort and http://www.henryot-cie.fr/.

02 December 2010