Fun in the Sun with Faux Bois

The Currey's dog Rives poses next to a piece of Currey & Company faux bois at Sparta Gardens.
Rives poses next to a piece of our faux bois at Sparta Gardens. 

It’s no secret that our founder Robert Currey has always been fascinated by faux bois (fake wood) furnishings. It was 2003 when he first debuted his take on the French garden furniture that is so sought after in the Paris flea markets. 

A Fascination for Faux Bois

The Currey & Company Elwynn bench in Jennifer Leonard’s garden in the lush wet Pacific Northwest. Image courtesy David Papazian.
The Currey & Company Elwynn bench in Jennifer Leonard’s garden in the lush wet Pacific Northwest. Image courtesy David Papazian. 

Since the sun is shining brightly and we’re all happy to be able to spend time out-of-doors, we thought it would be the perfect time to share with you Robert’s explanation as to why he is so smitten with faux bois, illustrated by some of our new and most popular pieces. The video below proves what an artform the making of this type of furniture is.  

About his penchant for faux bois, Robert says, “Organic structures have an appeal that has continued throughout history. I would suggest that the memory of these many manifestations is rooted in our primeval memories. Surely we sat on logs and stumps or even smooth flat rocks, lived on or under branches, used tree limbs for shelter, and developed structures from these branches. Today we still enjoy the thrill of building tree houses.   

The Elwynn Bench by Currey & Company, one of our best sellers.
The Elwynn Bench is one of our best sellers.

“This natural or organic perspective has a long history that includes root and burl furniture in both the Western and Eastern worlds, and Bentwood from Thonet. We can include brush arbor meetings in this timeline, which were revivals held during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This perspective continues today in various permeations. In some funny way, my interest in what we call ‘Faux Bois’ is the continued personal fascination with things natural and organic. 

The Luzon Console Table is new to our faux bois collection this spring.
The Luzon Console Table is new to our faux bois collection this spring.

“My early career found me selling bentwood furniture and butcher block. I moved on to include more ‘organic’ materials in my product line, such as field stone, crab orchard stone, hickory, and willow. Today, you can trace the influence of these materials and products in all of the faux bois pieces we have introduced, which includes the popular Arbor family [chair shown below] that has its antecedents in metal twig furniture. These sprang from my interest in the German tradition of rustic wooden furniture, as well as American Gypsy furniture.  

The Arbor chair, one of our long-time best sellers.
The Arbor chair, one of our long-time best sellers.

“I think about the Queen Anne leg which was a tree knot that was carved into a chair leg. Hence, the ‘root’ chair for our faux bois collection evolved. When I saw a picture of a wooden root chair in a book, I was inspired to try it in concrete. The more I think about this, the more I am motivated to work on root or log furniture, both faux and real.” And we’re so happy he did, as our concrete furniture continues to be among our bestselling products. We appreciate Robert’s vision and his desire to always be pressing into new territory, an attitude that has not waned to this day.

So Faux Bois!

The Java Small Bench is new to our faux bois collection this spring; it joins a larger bench and a chair.
The Java Small Bench is new to our faux bois collection this spring; it joins a larger bench and a chair. 

The first introduction of concrete furniture we released was simply called the Faux Bois Collection. Robert’s cohort in crime, Suzy Currey, described the history and the construction of the furniture so eloquently, we thought it would be a perfect time to reprise her intelligent look at the process that results in the strong, outdoor-worthy furniture we produce and how it has evolved over time: 

With steel framework covered with concrete sculpted to look like tree trunks and boughs, our faux bois collection, as well as its original antecedents, is anything but lightweight. And that may be part of its charm. Serious collectors are accustomed to the weight and stability, as well as paying hefty prices for the old pieces. Currey & Company’s pieces come to the market at a fraction of the prices the older pieces command. The collection consists of benches, chairs, tables, lamps, and light fixtures. The surfaces have all been treated to give a weathered appearance. The graceful forms of our furnishings belie their heavy materials. 

The Beaujon Bench, a best-selling faux bois bench from Currey & Company.
The Beaujon Bench, a best-selling faux bois bench from Currey & Company.

Rustic concrete furniture became popular in Europe after the discovery of huge quarries of clay and lime in 1824. Generations of masons sprang up specializing in this rustic craft. The rustic style was sought after as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and the overwhelming sophistication of urban décor. The French sought fake branches and tree trunks made into furniture as well as other natural forms. In Paris, whole parks were created with faux bois concrete cast with fake knots and fake gnarled bark. In the U.S. the rustic style was embraced with products of logs, twigs, branches, and roots. This “wild” rustic furniture was highly sought after on the East Coast.

Currey & Company faux bois garden furniture

Faux Bois furniture was last popular in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. Italian masons in France, who spent their evenings after the day’s work shaping these fanciful pieces for some extra money, created most of it from this time period. In the 1950’s concrete rustic furniture cropped up now and then in illustrated children’s books. Part of the charm of faux bois furniture is its durability. It does not require painting nor does it rust or rot. Time improves its appearance as mosses and lichens start to grow on the rough surfaces of the “bark.” Currey & Company has treated its whimsical furniture with stain to create an instant weathered look, but time and the elements will only increase the patina.

Happy End of Summer

The Currey & Company Elwynn Bench in the Oakland Cemetery.
The Currey & Company Elwynn Bench in the Oakland Cemetery.

We thank Suzy for the wonderful research she did to bring us up to speed on the history of this lauded furniture category. Since warm weather is far from over so as August moves into September, we hope you’ll take a look at the pieces in our faux bois collection, and don’t miss our new ones, for a garden scape or a beautifully manicured lawn. With social distancing one of the ways we can protect ourselves, our chairs and benches are perfect perches for achieving this comfortably out of doors. 

The Currey & Company Leagrave bench in the Oakland Cemetery.
The Currey & Company Leagrave bench in the Oakland Cemetery.

The images of our Elwynn and Leagrave benches in the Oakland Cemetery illustrate how beautifully our faux bois products fit into natural settings. In case you didn’t know, the historical cemetery is one of Atlanta’s jewels. Their motto says it all: where Atlanta history lives. We hope everyone is staying safe during this dramatic time in our world history.