Frank Pollaro, who has been making museum-quality furniture, fitted cabinetry and paneling for some of the finest homes in the United States since 1988, will give insights into his craft in a lecture and slide show entitled “A Cabinetmaker’s View of Ruhlmann” at the Beverly Hills Library Auditorium, 444 North Rexford Drive, on Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m.
While viewed as a respected source for custom furniture in the Art Déco style of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Pollaro has also paneled rooms—he recently was commissioned to sheath the walls of a bathroom in parchment (goatskin), a favored material in the 1920s and 30s—and he builds limited-edition Steinway pianos that run well into six-digit dollar amounts. His own dining tables, which he will build to an architect’s or interior designer’s specifications or design himself for a private client, start at $15,000 and go up to about $80,000 and chairs range from $3,000 to $6,000 apiece, depending on the materials and the amount of inlay and other detail.
The furniture is produced by a highly trained staff of cabinetmakers and finishers, and the materials, particularly the veneers and inlays, are exceptional in both quality and rarity. (Veneers are thin layers of a fine wood, such as ebony or rosewood, that are applied to ordinary wood as decoration. An inlay is a piece, often a strip, of valuable wood that is fitted into a groove cut exactly to fit the size of the strip.)
“I found a company in Paris that had supplied Ruhlmann with rare wood veneers from Ceylon and other exotic places in the 1920s,” recounts Pollaro, “and I asked this very old employee if he had any satinwood crotch, which is the coveted part of a tree trunk that splits into two huge branches. He got on a ladder, climbed into very dusty rafters and pulled out some bundles of veneers with 1913 newspapers stuck to them. I paid $10,000 for a 16-inch square box full of beautiful wood, and I used some of those veneers for the console table that takes center stage in the Hotel Bel Air lobby.”