Heritage and Creation, a Passion for Wood

Inspired by his parents who were automaton makers, Benoît Marcu trained in the best Parisian workshops to become a cabinetmaker and furniture conservator in Saint Denis, North of Paris.

By Fédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

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Although the French word “ébéniste” (“cabinetmaker”) appeared in the 18th century to name the craft of making furniture, the activity dates back to the Middle Ages. Gilding, varnishing, marquetry veneer: techniques evolved with artistic movements, and the restoration of antique furniture requires exceptional skills. 

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Benoît Marcu has a passion for furniture and decorative objects from the 17th to the 20th centuries. He trained in the best workshops to take part in the conservation of this heritage.

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An artistic childhood  

Benoît Marcu is a cabinetmaker and designer: he restores antique furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries. Before starting his own studio, he grew up in his parents' workshop to the poetry of old fabrics and the rigour of mechanics in a small village near Provin, in Seine et Marne.

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His parents' house was always full of treasures: "there was a leaky roof… but also plenty of organs and music boxes...". Growing up in a family of collectors was a real awakening to art. He remembers going back to his father's workshop after school to work metal on the lathes. 

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La formation

"My two brothers and I were lucky to evolve in a paradisiacal world". The three of them have all taken an artistic route: "One of my brothers is a watchmaker, and the other one is a photographer". Passionate about antiques, Benoît turned to restoring antique furniture and trained as a cabinetmaker. 

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The workshop

Benoît Marcu quickly moved to the Paris region "where you can find all the best places to learn". In 1990, he founded his own studio in Saint-Ouen, known for its flea markets.  "It's more a community of merchants, but I have customers who sometimes take the opportunity to come and see us". Last year, he moved his workshop next to his house in a suburban area of Saint Denis. 

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Le patrimoine mobilier

His job as a restorer is to bring a second life to pieces of furniture, following in the footsteps of the artist who initially assembled them. He mainly works with marquetry furniture, made with wood veneers and other materials. 

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"We have had beautiful achievements under all artistic periods - Louis XIV, the regency ... The Louis XV style is beautiful, one of my favourites”. Each style has its own specific techniques: to repair an 18th century marquetry, for example, you need bone glue".

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"I always say that the restorer is a conductor. The piece of furniture conducts the process, it's up to me to harmonise everything in order to find the right balance and a general harmony ". 

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Perpetuating the tradition 

For Benoît, the most interesting part is to pass on his expertise. At the workshop, there are three of them working on the projects: "We work together on each project, and even if I have more experience than my employees, we all contribute.

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The job requires being perceptive, maniacal, precise, rigorous... and passionate about art history. "In restoration you have to constantly question everything. Each piece of furniture has its own problem, so it’s never boring".

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Sharing is caring

"To share his expertise with the public, Benoît organises tours of his studio with the Departmental Tourism Committee, where he receives groups of ten people, three or four times a year. 

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Although his typical clientele is mainly collectors, decorators and antique dealers, these open doors also attract private individuals.

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The human value

For Benoît, it’s crucial that his studio isn’t only open to museum pieces, but also to individuals, to maintain human connections. "We are also at the service of the heritage that lives in people's homes. The sentimental value comes into account, we must not forget it. For projects that are a little complex, he likes people to see their furniture dismantled. 

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Restoring people's heritage allows him to enter their lives, their families, to discover their personal stories. "If they bring me a chair to restore, I'll take care of it even if it doesn't have much market value. There's poetry that comes into it”. 

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Contemporary creation 

In addition to the restoration services, Atelier Marcu started a contemporary creation studio which has been taking off for the last two years. The team builds together pieces from scratch: "we want the person who buys the furniture to feel the same emotion we had to create it". In 2018, the studio presented a complete collection at the Revelation show at the Grand Palais. 

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The workshop takes pride in the high quality of the finishes. But what makes it really unique is the use of mechanisms, as Benoît never lost the love for the automatons of his childhood. 

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