A conversation with Edition Modern : Pierre Chareau

"Pierre Chareau followed his idea of strict lines and pure design from his architectural knowledge to design his lamps & furniture, as well as using the material that was involved in the structure."  - Denis de la Mesiere of Edition Modern

"NO house in France better reflects the magical promise of 20th-century architecture 
than the Maison de Verre." - Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times (here)

"NUN table lamp with the black base"
 photos by David John

Maison de Verre is a place I've heard many reference, but honestly I've very little knowledge about the 20th century designer, Pierre Chareau, or the modernist home he created for the Dalsace family in the early 30's.  Last summer, on a chance meeting, I ended up having a discussion with Maryanne, who works with Edition Modern, a L.A. company producing re-edition works of iconic French designer Pierre Chareau.  I immediately asked her if I could pay the studio a visit.  After many emails and weeks later, we made arrangements to meet in the fashion district of downtown on the 3rd floor of an industrial building. She introduced me to Denis de la Mesiere, the owner and creative force behind the company.  His desk was surrounded by dusty paintings, towering sculptures from other eras, and lamps in different stages of completion. We spoke for a couple hours about why he decided to start producing the Chareau lamps, the production methods, the difficulties of working with alabaster, and his personal history as a furniture dealer.

Pierre Chareau is known for creating theParisian avant-garde home, Maison de Verre, aka the House of Glass, out of industrial materials, towering glass blocks and genius mechanisms.  It was, and still is an exercise in light, shadow, function, and a new approach to living.  Edition Modern's lamps are created in downtown L.A. by different skilled artisans in the style of Pierre Chareau.  Utilizing the unforgiving material of steel and wood, and combining it with ephemeral alabaster stone creates a sense of unparalleled energy when illuminated.  The collection consists of wall sconces, table lamps, floor lamps, and ceiling mounted lighting.  Works from the collection can be customized, whether in scale, or colors, or wood selection. Currently, Edition Modern's lighting can be seen at Alexandre Ferucci's new space on Beverly and Martel, and J.F. Chen houses some of the works at his Highland location.  

Into the gentle light, and deeper into the shadows, my friends! 
Thanks again you Denis and Maryanne for the coffee and conversation.  - David John 

 The "Potence Table Lamp"

Tell me about Edition Modern and the re- editions of Pierre Chareau lighting? When and how did the company begin?  

Denis: It began 12 years ago when I decided to open a showroom on Beverly Blvd, and I began representing French furniture brand like Hugues Chevalier, and other brands inspired by the Deco period. When we opened the showroom, we quickly realized that we would need accessories, but also more specialty lighting. So, we started to browse in Europe for lamps that would fit the standard of our couture lines of furniture. Quickly we fell in love for a company that re-editioned Pierre Chareau lighting. After few years of working with them, we decided to produce the line in the States for many reasons. The Euro started to get higher and higher, and the impossibility to have the lamps wired with UL listed, shipping cost, etc… We also really wanted to adapt 1920’s Chareau ‘ s work to the US market and also to new lighting technologies (LED, etc…).  The success came quick with client like Joel Chen, Waldo Fernandez, and more. 

Are the lamps made in Los Angeles?  What materials are they made from, and how many people work on a single light?  

All parts are made in LA except for the stone. The only place to find the white alabaster is in Europe. Very few countries are still producing the stone. Not a big market because the fragility, the softness and the sensibility to heat. Alabaster is also made of 80% of water.  We can guess that there is a dozen artisans working to make a single lamp: the metal fabrication, wood carving and finish, metal powder coating, metal oxidization or plating, wiring, mounting, etc...   

Why did you become interested in the works of Pierre Chareau? Is there a connection to the family?   

As an all time aficionado of the Deco period (1920-1940), I went little by little to the Modernism side of this era. Starting with the German Bauhaus to the French Modernists like Frank, Sornay, Le Corbusier, Mallet-Stevens and off course Chareau. So much to learn about…….  

Alabaster.  Is this the original material Chareau used, and what is the nature of this material? Where is the alabaster sourced?  

The alabaster we used for our lamps is white alabaster the same that Chareau used for his lamps. As I said earlier, there is still a small production in Europe.  

I've read the one of Chareau's last projects was the studio of the painter Robert Motherwell in East Hampton. Do you know anything about this work, or have any photos?

DenisL Chareau was Jewish and he was forced to live Europe during WW2. He came to NY with his English wife. He did some work there, sometime with in coordination with other designers and architects.  

On the worktable, sits the book written about Pierre Chareau's masterpiece,  La Maison de Verre Hardcover by Dominique Vellay (Author) , Francois Halard (Photographer)

another book on Pierre Chareau by Brian Brace Taylor, here

Catching the sunlight....
The Alabaster shades used for the "Block Sconces"

the wood base of the "Nun Floor Lamp"

In the corner of the Edition Modern studio, 
an old chair with geometric alabaster shapes on a torn chair

Visit Edition Modern's site here.

For more information on Pierre Chareau, watch this video here on Maison du Verre