One of best parts of my job is getting to see how stuff gets made. Fancy stuff. I must have a bit of my father's tinkering nature because while he was taking carburetors apart and putting them back together I was doing the same with, oh, peasant blouses. These days I love trekking out to Queens (ahem) to visit the upholsterer or Brooklyn to the plaster guru's workshop. So imagine my delight when Dara Caponigro, editor-in-chief of Veranda, invited to me to tour P.E. Guerin, Manhattan's only foundry and purveyor of heavy metal fantasies for over 150 years!
It's nothing short of a miracle that this place still exists in a neighborhood of $12 million town houses and hipper-than-thou restaurants. Our insanely knowledgable guide, Martin Grubman, started in the showroom
then the catalog room (where labels bear words like "serpents")
and quickly whisked us up three flights to see where the magic happens:
That's molten brass, folks. Heated to about 2000 degrees and poured into molds made of sand. I still don't exactly get how that works, but it makes the most finely detailed lever handles out there:
But they don't pop out so perfect -- a team of finishers brushes away the sand, chisels away the excess, polishes each piece to a sheen or hand-tints them to minimize that Versace Home Collection look. Guerin (still a family-owned business, btw) also plates in any metal except chrome. Fine because I don't particularly care for chrome! He's turning a knob you most certainly won't find at Home Depot:
These folks have worked on everything from Packard Motor Cars to La Leopolda but will also turn your porcelain vase into a gorgeous lamp or replicate a favorite belt buckle. No pretense whatsoever. As Martin put it, "People ask all the time if we have a minimum. I say you have to order one." Love that.
I'm easily distracted by beautiful, shiny things and am not sure how much work I'd get done with such a bounty casually strewn about:
But they seem to manage. Reality struck when Room & Board called to say they arrived two hours early for a delivery, forcing me to miss the festive lunch afterward. Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Alas, what an inspiring morning -- artisanal craftsmanship is alive and well in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Thanks so much to Dara and Veranda and please check out this groovy little online tour (courtesy of Anthropologie, though they don't come out and tell you). Vive le Guerin!