SHAGREEN: THE BEAUTIFUL SKIN OF THE STINGRAY GRACING FINE FURNITURE FOR CENTURIES

Perhaps some of you have been noticing that the beautiful skin of the sting ray, commonly known as shagreen when it is used on furnishings in the decorative market, is showing up on

more pieces of furniture and decorative accessories these days.  Always considered a precious material, it’s popularity is a big plus for those of us who adore furniture with an added artistic touch.

 

Aisthesis/ Console de L'Eau de Là with shagreen marquetry

Aisthesis/ Console de L’Eau de Là with shagreen marquetry

 

 

Shagreen is one of the most beautiful materials to embellish furnishings.  Used by the Japanese as early as in the 8th century to cover sword handles and other smaller items, it eventually made its way into the European market and was triumphed in furniture designed for the  court of Louis XV by Jean-Claude Galluchat, a master leather worker.

 

John Lyle shagreen dining table

John Lyle/ Andrew dining table in shagreen

 

 

The type of  shagreen used in today’s furniture, and popularized in the 1920’s and 1930’s, is made primarily from a sting ray fish found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.  The skins are relatively small and the process to create the final product used by the cabinetmaker involves careful dying, stretching  and waxing, which makes the product extremely costly, especially when the process is done properly.  But it is well worth the energy, as any cabinet, box, chair, desk or accessory enhanced through the addition of  shagreen looks like a million bucks.

 

Pollaro Furniture Shagreen Club Chair

Pollaro Furniture/ AD18 Shagreen Club Chair

 

There are several fine companies and cabinetmakers that incorporate stingray into their furniture which I have purchased from in the past.   Some of my favorites are John Lyle Designs and R &Y Agousti. They make all sorts of tables and chests and accessories out of shagreen that you will find simply exquisite and there pricing is pretty much fair market value.  Actually, I’d say these furnishings have quite the proverbial   “bang for the buck,” although, I must admit,  the buck is not small.

 

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R & Y Agousti Shagreen Furnishings

 

Then there are some more exclusive furniture manufacturers where, at a much higher price point, you can  purchased some extremely fine new furniture.    Aísethesis, a company out of Paris, employs shagreen made entirely by hand, utilizing traditional French techniques…they actually call it “le galuchat” after the originator of the technique…to create some really fabulous stand alone pieces that are out of this world gorgeous. Or, for a more local talent,  investigate some of the outstanding furnishings designed and executed by Pollaro Custom Furniture or Lazlo Sallay of Buontalenti, Ltd. right here in the USA.

 

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Aisthesis/ Trinity Tables in shagreen

 

AND do not forget to look for some fabulous antiques on 1stDibs.com from the Art Deco period where shagreen was utilized extensively.

 

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So, my friends, shagreen is back on the go-to horizon today when it comes to exclusive looking furniture. Keep those eyes open when you go roaming around your favorite antique haunts or surfing the web for new furniture. Not only will you be purchasing something lovely for your home, but you will also be buying something with a long history in the realm of furniture design.

 

 

image    Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 9.26.52 AM   Aisthesis/ Trinity Tables in shagreen

 

Ciao, ciao ‘ til next time!