OF ALL the morning rituals that take place in Paris, my favorite is the transformation of those whimsical, colorfully woven chairs from towering stacks to orderly rows outside the city’s brasseries, cafés and bistros. Sinewy but delicate, masculine but feminine, rational but romantic, they have always felt to me like little ambassadors, exhilarating indicators that I am truly in the city.
When bistro seating recently began showing up in American shelter magazines and friends’ houses as indoor furniture, I became fixated on owning some. They would ballast my sunny, modern Los Angeles breakfast nook. “They’re a great way to add interest to a space without introducing anything too precious,” said Dina Holland, an interior designer in Needham, Mass.
I’ve been all but unable to stop thinking about Paris since Covid made it inaccessible. So when I stumbled upon a pair of bistro stools for $94 in the clearance section of a local Target, I ignored their lack of provenance and lunged at them the way some women throw themselves to catch a bride’s bouquet. Hoping the seats would inspire the kind of languid, all-day conversations they seem to in Paris, I soon realized I had purchased the equivalent of off-brand soda. Their hollow, aluminum frames look hastily painted to resemble rattan, and the uninspired checkerboard pattern ends abruptly on two sides, leaving conspicuous bald spots.
I found comfort in the website of Maison Drucker. Although bistro chairs are available in myriad iterations from major online retailers to small boutiques, Drucker, located just outside Paris, has been making chairs for the city’s most famous restaurants since 1885. Among their clients are rival eateries Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. The former commissioned a pine green and ivory chair in a clean basket weave, the latter, an intricate pattern of triangles in pine and burgundy. Both signature chairs have been used for more than 40 years. Constructed primarily of bent rattan, their seats and backs woven either of a synthetic called Raucord or of Rilsan, a natural fiber derived from castor oil, these are the perches of Sartre, de Beauvoir and Hemingway.
Drucker, however, does not recreate exact replicas of any chairs specific to a restaurant or hotel client. As Diego Dubois, the company’s vice president, diplomatically explained, “We have dozens of people, each trying to order the Flore or Le Roch hotel chairs, and each time we unfortunately have to decline.”