Historic Decorative Arts | P.E. Guerin in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village

By Patrick Mauler

Manhattan is not the obvious destination to travel a few centuries back in time. Having been born in Switzerland I would first think of France, England, or Italy. Yet there is such a destination here, and though it is slightly low-key it is well-known among the elite of the design world.

Imagine now walking in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world and coming head-to-head with a metalwork foundry.

Foundries have a hard time surviving in the western world because of the mass production trend, but here is one housed across several floors in the trendy Greenwich Village of Manhattan. 

Sounds like a dream, right? But no need to close your eyes. You would miss the entry. P.E. Guerin is like a specialty gift store for interior designers and architects, or really anybody with an interest in craftsmanship and custom-designed and executed decorative hardware. 

Entering this space, the showroom has an atmosphere of its own. Far from a mass production foundry, P.E. Guerin feels like it would fit right into the Renaissance, where artisans congregated to create and exercise their hard learned craft to produce art of the highest standard. 

Maybe this feeling also translates through the fact that this artisanal foundry is a family business, transmitted through four generations, and where the current owner started working from a young age. From the management to the craftsmen, a kindness and creativity permeates the space. If you pause for a moment you may sense these vibrations resonate through the floors and walls. 

Taking a few more steps, the pattern room is the origin for the amazing pieces P.E. Guerin produces daily. Of course a lot of these pieces are not available for public viewing, as they are custom-made pieces for designers, architects, and historical relics. In this room I definitively have to keep a strong foothold, as the multitude of drawers filled with patterns is simply overwhelming. Centuries of knowledge and craft are held here, overflowing, and awaiting application in the creation of new products. 

Countless high-end designers have furnished their residential projects, institutional projects, and their own private residences with P.E. Guerin decorative hardware.

P.E. Guerin was founded in the 1857 in New York. Throughout the 160 years in business the family has collected patterns from estates in France and England, and historic American residences. P.E. Guerin preserves these treasures and makes them available to clients who desire to bring them to life. 

After this step, curiosity of the production side is a given.

P.E. Guerin uses the sand casting method, which is becoming increasingly rare these days and requires relatively more attention to detail in the hand finishing of each piece.

Talking to the artisans, I can sense their commitment to the task and that the act of accomplishing their craft is really nourishing. Every station within the company has people with specialist knowledge. Indeed the art of artisanal high-end foundry metalwork has long been lost in western countries. So the artisans who come to work at P.E. Guerin, no matter their background, have to relearn their craft on location.

Over the years, some have invented new tools and many have refined their knowledge. It now becomes clear that what I actually felt at the beginning was this pulse and heartbeat that holds through everything and is bathed in passion. It is passion that drives people and allows their friendliness and creativity to breathe through everything. Everyone here aims to produce the highest quality hardware.  

This is how I start to realize that this foundry has its place in Manhattan. Its enduring existence through to our modern age is certainly a little miracle. But somehow it has thrived through the decades, and if everything goes perfectly well that will continue. P.E. Guerin does produce unique products that are incredibly well designed. Certainly it will be a challenge to keep the foundry going through the years or even the centuries to come, but we certainly hope it will continue to provide an avenue to preserve these decorative arts.

 

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