7- Exotic bird furniture in pink ivory and ebony, 2004
© Yannick Chastang
This set of furniture, commissioned for a London drawing room, derives its inspiration from the bright colours, contrasts and exotic bird-life of the Caribbean. The set comprises a large commode, two tall cabinets housing a bar and an entertainment system, one large coffee table and four round occasional tables.
The pieces are made of oak veneered in ebony and pink ivory. The marquetry decoration of flamingos and egrets are made up mostly of pink ivory, with details in white holly and amboyna burr on an ebony background. Pink ivory is a rarely available African wood which, at the centre of the log, possesses a dark pink colour, lightening in shade to a pale yellow at the outer edges. The variation in colour enabled the making of a marquetry using only naturally occurring colours. Madagascan ebony was chosen, not only for its superior qualities as a wood, but because certain trees have unusual brown markings which perfectly simulated the ripple effect of water in which the birds stand. The marquetry was made using traditional methods of donkey and piercing saw which enables the fine cutting of hard materials, for example ebony, which is only available in saw-cut veneer form. The use of saw-cut veneer results in a more stable marquetry and allows a diversity of natural colour which cannot be obtained from the sliced veneer used in more modern techniques, such as laser cut marquetry.
The legs are made of bronze, patinated black to match the ebony and have a strong Art Deco influence. Every hinge and handle was individually designed to complement the overall design and to best fit its purpose.
Wooden model for the commode's leg and a finished bronze leg for a small table
Detail of the purpose-made hinges
Portor marble, chosen for the top, possesses striations of a golden hue which harmonize with the lighter-coloured elements of pink ivory. This marble comes from Portor in Italy and has been a favourite of cabinet-makers for centuries. Stocks from traditional sites have long been exhausted and the marble is now sourced from underwater quarries.
While traditional techniques were favoured for the marquetry, construction methods took advantage of modern advances in cabinet-making, such as the availability of better quality glue and precision machinery. Innovation also had its place in the construction. The excessive weight of the commode’s marble top was supported by a panel of aluminium honeycomb, more commonly used in the aircraft industry and chosen in this case for its superior strength. All such modern materials are concealed by traditional wood and veneers, even on the back of the large pieces which display traditional oak panelling. The set of furniture, with its use of traditional, highest-quality materials and elegant Art Deco-inspired forms, pays its respects to the skills and greatest furniture of the past while being entirely contemporary in its new interpretation and use of modern techniques of manufacture.
Details of marquetry on the tall cabinets’