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Magazine    March 2002

A Certain French Style

Patinated metal and saddle-leather settee designed by Marie Guerin

Marie Guerin's mirrored column lamp

Guerin metal table with limestone top

"I'm very French in my buying, though I have some Italian things as well," says veteran antiques dealer Mady Jourdan, who, for the past 16 years, has maintained a shop in New York, Reymer Jourdan, where she shows 18th- and 19th-century and 1940s French tables, sideboards, chairs, consoles, mirrors, chandeliers and a host of other carefully selected 18th- and 19th-century French antiques, including a collection of classically inspired furniture and lamps made in France.

"In France I was in the Louvre des Antiquaires and it got to the point where I was having to buy antiques that were expensive just so that I could compete," says Jourdan, a dealer since 1968. "Since many of my clients were American I decided to close the shop in Paris and open in the United States, where I attended university. For New York, I can buy anything I like."

So it was in New York that Jourdan began blending classically inspired pieces from the 1940s with her inventory of earlier antiques that were of impeccable quality and very stylish—and not always bearing the signature of a famous cabinetmaker or designer. "It's a wonderful, eclectic mix to have good 1940s and earlier furniture because the ’40s designers copied many of the elements of the 19th century," she says.

Jourdan, over the years, has stocked furniture by the famous designers of the 1930s and 1940s (Jean-Michel Frank, Jacques Adnet, Jules Leleu, Gilbert Poillerat, Emilio Terry and the firm Jansen, which decorated rooms in the White House during the Kennedy presidency) as well as such rare pieces as a Louis XIV ebony commode decorated entirely with inlaid brass detailing. At present, she is expecting a container from France with a suite of Jansen furniture, including two lacquered wood sofa tables with gilt hammered-metal legs made by Ramsay.

The contemporary furniture line is designed and produced in France by Jourdan’s daughter, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design who, after two years of working with her mother in New York, realized that there was a dearth of certain staples in decorating. "When I managed the store for two years interior designers would complain about how hard it was to find good antique lamps and coffee and small tables," says Marie Guerin. So she began designing and producing them and suddenly realized she had a line of furniture.

Guerin's font of inspiration is the Neoclassical period ("I love the simplicity of the lines"), and she borrows a lot of stylistic concepts, such as the narrow, tapered legs of the leather settee (top), from that period. "What makes my furniture modern," she notes, "is that I use limestone, zinc, slate, leather and other materials that are contemporary." Her furniture is sought out by the leading designers, including Paul Wiseman and Victoria Hagan.

Russian commode, circa 1840, of sycamore and rosewood Mid-19th-century Venetian mirror

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