The Geminid consists of straw marquetry-clad shapes pierced by a brass rod, which can be used for hanging necklaces, neckties, scarves, and other objects.
Straw into Gold
February 1, 2017 / Written by Stacy Kendall
Parchment and horn, shagreen and hide, even recycled bullet casings—the antique material palette deployed by Rainier’s Normandie Woodworks sounds more like something from a cottage workshop in old Europe than like the sleek steel-and-glass media defining most modern décor. But in the hands of master woodworker Bruno Hervieux and his artist wife, Shannon, centuries-old craft techniques look utterly revolutionary.
The Milk & Honey credenza features straw marquetry and goat parchment.
"Straw marquetry is very old world, and nobody else does it here. We want to show designers its possibilities for contemporary design." - Shannon Hervieux
The Beacon credenza features a front made from bullet casings.
Before settling in Washington and launching Normandie Woodworks in 2012—a custom furniture shop that employs old-school methods to create contemporary pieces—Normandy-born Bruno honed his skills in top woodshops in France and New York. After 18 years building furniture for acclaimed architects and designers, he decamped to the Northwest to create custom luxury yacht interiors. “I learned a lot about crafting curved furniture and the level of build quality that is required for such demanding use,” Bruno says.
Today Bruno and Shannon parlay those skills and lofty standards into the heirloom-quality furniture they produce in their own studio. Normandie Woodworks’ contemporary designs, with their bevy of unconventional materials, are fashioned by “looking at classic materials through a modern lens, which opens up a world of design possibilities,” explains Shannon, a partner in the new business who assists in finishing its pieces.
Recently, Shannon taught herself the ancient art of straw marquetry, a technique in which thick French rye straw (a strain typically used in roofing) is applied as a finish surface. The look has enjoyed periods of popularity, including during Louis XV’s reign and again in the Art Deco era, when it graced chic cabinets, screens, wall paneling, and jewelry boxes. “Once the grass is cut, dried, flattened, and applied to a form, it plays with light and takes on an almost magical quality,” says Shannon. The duo’s latest rye-clad designs—the Milk & Honey Credenza (adorned with hexagons of straw marquetry and goat parchment), the Black Diamond Mirror (with coal-colored straw and brass), and the Geminid wall-mounted hanger (bright-hued crystalline polyhedrons pierced with a brass rod)—show off straw’s shimmering striations to stunning effect. The material may be Old World, but its attitude is entirely new.