Hand-crafted lighting, earthenware pots, carbon steel pans, raw brass and copper taps and sinks, marble basins: suppliers are artisans or small family-run firms producing timeless designs for The French House. In this post, the founders Mark and Elke share with us how they built The French House.
What was the inspiration for The French House?
France has a history of fostering artisanal businesses producing hand-crafted items: from copper pans made in Revel, to pottery from Le-Poet-Laval, to wooden spoons made in the Jura region, (which is where Elizabeth David originally sourced them). Mark and Elke Housden could not resist the allure of the French lifestyle and twenty years’ ago set about exploring the country’s brocante markets, second-hand book shops and discovering unique crafts as inspiration for what was to become The French House.
Who makes the products for The French House?
Over time, Mark and Elke established relationships with craftsmen and small family firms throughout Europe which still produce their unique range: from French-style door knobs and knockers, fireguards and tools, to indoor and outdoor lighting and artisan wares.
Tell us about your range of lighting.
The ceramic rise and fall light, ideal for over a dining table, is an example of a pendant light inspired by one discovered at a flea market. Modified from the original, a master mould was produced which is still in use 10 years on. The design of the ceramic table lamps was influenced by a bright yellow lamp found at the brocante. The Glass Collection features prismatic pendant lamps and wall lights influenced by holophane lighting, which was popular in France 80 years’ ago.
French Old School Lamps are made by spinning metal over a mould. The metal is pushed against the mould with a bar by hand as it spins, creating each unique shape and producing original pendant lamps in limited quantities. A handful of family run companies produce the Metal Lighting range. The ‘Raw’ Collection workshop is run by Jean who, with his sister and mother, have been creating lighting for The French House since 2005.
Zinc outdoor lanterns are treated with acid. The acid wash creates an individual patina for each lantern, which subtly changes over time by the effects of weather and age. Craftsmen acid-wash, cut, beat, form fretwork, solder and transform utilitarian zinc into these individually made products.
How about the cookware?
Clay pots were used by man since the Neolithic age and across many cultures: the Moroccan tajine, the Spanish cazeula and France has many regional variations – from the Alsace baeckeoffe, the daubiere from Provence, to the cassole from Toulouse (for cassoulet). The main advantage of earthenware is to slow cook and preserve moisture, which allows the fragrant mingling of flavours. A favourite of chefs, The French House also offers carbon steel frying pans, made by a company in the Lorraine region since 1830. This type of pan is a favourite of professional chefs and is ideal for cooking steak.
What other kitchen items are popular?
The raw brass and copper kitchen taps, matched with brass and copper basket wastes; hand-made, subtly hammered brass sinks; beautiful marble sinks for kitchen and laundry; pine chopping boards, retro kitchen clocks and glassware, tea towels, terracotta tableware, candlesticks and more.
What is the future of The French House?
There’s currently a small range of furniture, including French school chairs and mid-century style dining chairs, and this year The French House hopes to expand the furniture collection and launch a new range of mirrors.