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Master Class: Seven Questions for Melanie Courbet, Founder of Atelier Courbet

Courbet Interior Shop
(Photos courtesy Atelier Courbet)

Melanie Courbet PortraitNew York’s latest design destination is Atelier Courbet, a new gallery and shop that brings together exquisite objects, furniture, textiles, and home accessories handpicked for their sublime old-school craftsmanship. In an age of touchscreens and disposable everything, many of these one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces combine traditional techniques with contemporary design. “Our intention is to highlight the revered talent behind every object,” says founder Melanie Courbet, who convinced renowned craftsmen Domeau & Pérès to make their stateside debut at Atelier Courbet. “We would like to inspire our clients to curate their home and their lifestyle based on the appreciation of the material and the details of their environment.” We asked Courbet to tell us more about the new venture, including its home in the historical Brewster Carriage House (located at the corner of Broome and Mott Streets) and some of her favorite straight-from-the-workshop pieces.

Why did you think that it was the right time to open this gallery and shop?
It was the right time in my life as I matured for seven years my relationships with most of the manufactures or craftsmen I represent today. On another note, I believe my desire to shift the focus to the master-craftsmanship over the design or creative aspects is a response to a context. Our market—like our global culture—shows a shift in the consumer’s behavior. There is a general trend at different levels of consumption that reflects a global desire to nurture a sense of community and connect with the makers behind our belongings or the goods we consume. Brand equity is now often built upon emotional connections with the provenance, a sense of cultural heritage and traditions. I hope for Atelier Courbet to convey that story and to allow for our clients to find that connect with each handmade piece presented.

What qualities unite the designers and companies represented at Atelier Courbet?
Atelier Courbet selects and represents master-craftsmen based on their abilities to fabricate for the contemporary art or design scene while carrying on a heritage, discipline and centuries-old techniques.

Atelier Courbet 1How did you come upon the Brewster Carriage House? Why did the building appeal to you?
It’s my friend’s building. He and I have similar visions and passions. It sounded natural and such a great fit for a gallery and shop focusing on master-craftsmanship and heritage to set the stage in a building that has that incarnation.

The Brewster Carriage Building goes back to the mid-nineteenth century when it used to house the famous carriage makers’ workshop. We kept the boilers doors as well as a carriage that was made here by the Brewster Company’s workers. Ross Morgan and I would like to make this corner a destination that stages both the heritage of the building, the neighborhood and selected centuries-old manufacturers from around the world. The Atelier Courbet and the Brewster Carriage Corner will become both a design gallery and a lifestyle shop.

courbet

Who are Domeau & Pérès? What have they created for Atelier Courbet?
At our grand opening last month, Atelier Courbet unveiled for the very first time in New York one of Paris’s most revered master craftsmen: Domeau & Pérès. With a collection of furniture pieces made in collaboration with Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Martin Szekely, Eric Jourdan, and Pharrell Williams, Domeau & Pérès has long been the favorites of the Paris design, art, and fashion scenes. Over the years, DP has collaborated with countless luminaries such as Andrée Putman, Marc Newson, and Colette, and worked on special commissions for clients including Karl Lagerfeld, the Royal Monceau Hotel in Paris, and the House of Champagne Krug, among others. Coming soon to New York is Domeau & Pérès’ latest collaboration with Marc Newson, the Bumper bed (pictured below). This will exhibit at Atelier Courbet after its feature at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

newson bed

Bol seinWhat are a few of your other favorite objects available at Atelier Courbet?
The Marie-Antoinette Breast Cup by the Royal Manufacture de Sèvres; the Jattes Tétons was fashioned by casting the royal bosom of Marie-Antoinette. The Bol Sein celebrates beauty with a touch of humor. The queen wanted the ceramicists of Sèvres to mold her breast and create a cup from which the king would be able to drink his milk. This object has fascinated the public and the artists since its creation. The influence of the bowl remains today. In 2011, corsetmaker Hubert-Barrere referred to it in his work la Vierge de Sèvres and in 2012, young designer Antoine Boudin created the Sen coffee set. There’s a very small production run every year and I’m so flattered to be the only one to have direct access to it as a retailer. The contemporary production retails for $950.

Another object is Domeau & Pérès’ Color Cushions. They are sleek and soft. We made a small edition of cushions for the Atelier Courbet opening. They bring joy to the gallery. The third piece I find myself staring at often is Hanne Enemark‘s Fools Gold vase. They’re elegant and tricky.

What is the last thing you bought and loved?
A pair of gloves by Causse—one of the finest french gloves-maker for centuries. Karl Lagerfield and the Chanel Group recently took the manufacturer under their wing and literally saved a realm of savoir-faire and couture treasure.

What is the best creative, business, or life advice you’ve received?
To keep the followings: Integrity. Faith even when illogical. Perseverance. Determination. And consistency. Whichever idea you stick to—if you protect it and maintain it, it will lead you and it somewhere.

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