By the numbers, Gregorius/Pineo has outdone itself: The maker of furniture re-creations based on 15th-to-18th-century European and Asian antiques has introduced 40 designs and 25 finishes with its 2005 collection, when in a typical year it adds just five new pieces. But instead of representing a break from tradition, Gregorius/Pineo’s prolific year draws heavily from the Los Angeles company’s past—and from the heritage of its home city.
Company founders René Gregorius and Stephanie Pineo first met more than two decades ago while working together at an antiques shop in Los Angeles, a city that has long been a wellspring of reproduction artists. “If you think back to the early days,” says Gregorius/Pineo’s principal and design director George Massar, referring not to his company but to Hollywood, “studios were looking for artisans who could create furniture for the movies they were producing, so the market in Los Angeles attracted a lot of these artisans.” Dealers throughout Southern California enlisted these craftspeople to re-create antique furniture, says Massar, to adorn larger homes in which actual vintage pieces appeared too small. The reproduction business blossomed in L.A., as did, years later, Gregorius/Pineo and its relationships with the city’s craftspeople.
Gregorius/Pineo’s present-day partnerships with a dozen workshops—ironworkers and glass manufacturers among them—are the cornerstones of the company’s accomplishments. “These are truly artisan workshops,” says Massar, who manages an in-house staff of six designers, “and they work with us in executing ideas and treatments to create.”
The company’s substantial 2005 collection “really pulled from all of the workshops,” says Massar, citing the Loire Chair as a case where a partner was especially instrumental. The piece as Massar originally envisioned it—upholstered and bearing a frame wrapped entirely in linen crackle surfacing material—posed several challenges. Creating such a finish requires wetting and stretching the linen, applying various glues, and then stretching the material again while it dries. After the linen cracks, it is wetted once more so that it can be shaped and molded to the piece. The composed piece then dries for several weeks before receiving layers of lacquer and color. Before beginning this complex series of steps for the Loire Chair, which is based on an original from the Loire Valley, Massar consulted one of his partners. “I asked the finisher [what would] enable me to wrap it in this linen crackle, how to seam it, so that we could take it back to the upholstery shop and have it upholstered,” he says. Ultimately, based on the finisher’s advice, Massar modified the frame to accommodate a reveal, or open channel, on its inside panel for securing the linen wrap and the upholstery panel. Other items in the collection, such as the Monet Sofa and the Chinese Chippendale Chair, demonstrate the contributions of upholsterers and artists of chinoiserie.
Through such partnerships, Gregorius/Pineo maximizes its clients’ options with increasingly large, and diverse, collections. “It’s not just traditional, it’s transitional—it can be contemporary,” says Massar of his company’s varying furniture designs, which he attributes to the artistic aptitudes of their creators. “You can have wonderful ideas, but if you don’t have the talent to execute the products, they would just remain ideas.”