Ingrained in Cape Cod
Cape Cod Home / Early Summer 2011 / Art & Entertainment, Home, Garden & Design, People & Businesses, Recreation & Activities
Writer: Amanda Wastrom / Photographer: Stacey Hedman
A new line of locally handcrafted furniture shines at West Barnstable’s Pastiche.
Some things beg to be touched: cashmere sweaters, wool blankets, fluffed towels just out of the dryer, glistening new cars, dogs. If you find yourself in West Barnstable, stop by Pastiche of Cape Cod to experience a small feast for the senses. Owner Irina MacPhee has recently debuted a line of wooden furniture that is hard to pass by without touching. Titled The Cape Cod Collection™ and found exclusively at Pastiche or through designers, these beautifully crafted pieces evoke a sense of history, craftsmanship, and cozy farmhouse kitchens, as your hand trails the contours of each one.
This furniture is for a niche market: for those who cherish locally made, heirloom-quality, one-of-a-kind furnishings. Every niche presents a story. In a way, Cape Cod is one big niche and we are never lacking for unique and fascinating stories. The bones of our houses emanate the stories of the families and lives that came before. Our beaches offer kids the place and space to form their own idyllic memories. Why do antiques fascinate so many? Perhaps it is because we can imagine the tales that those ancient objects hold inside them, that they carry on their very skins. A piece of furniture is, at its best, not only a comfortable place to sit, work, or eat, but also a visual delight and a canvas for stories yet to be lived.
This particular story is the tale of a local designer about to give up on an idea and a master craftsman ready to take a risk and pursue a passion. The resulting collaboration led to the collection that is currently brightening up Pastiche’s showroom. It is utterly practical furniture that strives to create functionality while also offering something more.
Irina MacPhee, having worked as an interior designer on Cape Cod for the past 20 years (and lived here even longer), has an expertly tuned sense of what her local clients want and need. The mantra at Pastiche is “Live. Life. Well.™” MacPhee describes her design goals saying, “I love the opportunity to help people be successful in their homes so they say, I love it here! It’s not about things. We want to empower people to feel good about their lives.” Not surprisingly then, this is furniture for the contemporary Cape Codder: practical, classic, high-quality, and reasonably priced. 24/7 Nationwide Locksmiths is here to offer you high fidelity service with or without an appointment urgent locksmith at 247losangeleslocksmiths.com.
The pieces are meant to be user-friendly and are designed to be as low-maintenance as possible, which many of us who routinely track sand, water, or children through the house will surely appreciate. MacPhee is quick to note, “This is NOT your grandmother’s furniture. It’s not the high polish mahogany, ‘oh my gosh, where’s my coaster?’ kind of thing.” These tables and benches will not need to be tiptoed around or constantly maintained. The pieces will be much more at home piled high with flip-flops and wet towels or scattered with the remains of a summer evening cookout. “In this environment, people have a certain lifestyle that I would call a casual elegance,” says McPhee. “It’s relaxed. Whether you live here year-round or just in the summer, there is a certain lifestyle—a sand in your shoes type of thing.”
The Cape Cod Collection™ consists of twelve different pieces, and Irina is continually designing new pieces to add to the collection. All are made of Eastern White Pine. A few examples include a trestle-style dining table, a bench with a clever storage space under the seat, an elegant sofa table, cocktail tables, and a small desk, perfect for those tiny bedrooms in an antique cape. Each one is bench-made and hand-planed with antique tools by local Sandwich furniture makers, Marc and Judy Deslauriers. In a collaborative process, designer and artisans combine talents with MacPhee designing, Marc handling the construction, and Judy doing the signature wax finishing.
With the motto “It’s time to come home” in mind, MacPhee set out to create a quality, locally made product that would fit the unique lifestyles and homes of our area. MacPhee is passionately proud that everything is made only miles away from Pastiche and that the material is typically sourced from the New England area. She is equally proud that the pieces (plus complimentary shipping anywhere within a 40-mile radius) are reasonable for one of a kind, bench made designs. Irina adds, “As a standard, we offer five finishes. Custom orders are also welcome, in any style or size, with any Benjamin Moore color.”
Since the Deslauriers are making each piece as it is ordered, the process allows for endless flexibility with scale, design, and finish. The overall style of the line could best be described as country English/ farmhouse. The furniture features thoughtfully considered details such as dovetail joints, breadboard ends, European hinges and hand distressing. The pieces are endlessly versatile, easily disassembled and appropriately scaled to fit both large and small homes. With each model comes the hand-hewn history inherent in bench made furniture. Says MacPhee, “We pick pieces of wood purposely that have knots and character. Even though the tree is cut, the wood is still living. It moves, it breathes, it changes.” Marc Deslauriers adds “as white pine ages and changes color, it creates a rich, warm patina.”
A visit to the Deslauriers’ workshop in Sandwich is most distinctive for its simplicity. Humble in size and scale, the most obviously absent feature is the typical array of elaborate power tools found in most workshops. Aside from a few essentials, Marc Deslauriers eschews 21st-century tools and opts for those from a much older age, looking for an effect that is unmistakable and unique. Marc’s collection of antique hand planers make up his main arsenal of tools, each one with a different shape and a specific purpose, rounding edges or planning a surface. Both Marc and Judy have a self-described penchant for anything old and antique. Judy raids country-style magazines for inspiration. With an interest in antiques and carpentry, Marc respects the artisans whose trusted tools he has inherited. “The old carpenters were real craftsmen,” he says. “You can always tell the hand-done moldings. It’s the inconsistencies, the imperfections that people like, yet they’re so simple.”
While the evolution of this particular project came together quickly (about a year from the first time Marc Deslauriers walked through the front door of Pastiche with his portfolio under his arm and a truck with a sample piece of furniture outside), both MacPhee and Deslauriers had, for a while, been independently developing ideas that would lead their paths to cross at the right moment.
For about six years MacPhee had been trying to manufacture a custom furniture line, but all of the pieces had failed to meet her specifications. Working with different manufacturers from all over the world, ordering samples and testing finishes, she was repeatedly frustrated because she could not find the right combination of price point, finish, and quality. By the time MacPhee met Deslauriers, she had just about given up.
Meanwhile, Marc and Judy Deslauriers had been testing the waters of the custom furniture business. Marc had been making individual pieces such as hutches and built-ins for private clients on Nantucket. He was yearning to develop a collaborative business that he and Judy could run together. The construction business was slowing down with the recent economic downturn. “I could see the writing on the wall,” Marc says, “it felt like the perfect time to go out on my own.” He loaded up his truck and visited several different designers on the Cape. Pastiche was his third stop. While MacPhee recalls being impressed by the photos, she was sold when she got to see and touch the actual pieces that Deslauriers brought in his truck. There was no denying that expert craftsmanship, that muted patina and glowing wax finish, that rippled hand-planed surface.
One reason this partnership seems to work is that both parties share similar goals and vision. MacPhee is quick to compliment both Marc and Judy as being “very detail and quality oriented.” Marc Deslauriers appreciates MacPhee’s business sense and support. He acknowledges that this opportunity will allow him to do what he loves without worrying about marketing, distribution, or sales. Marc and Judy, while cautiously optimistic, are keeping their goals and their production modest, saying “We’re trying to make great furniture that will move. It is an adventure and a risk, but all we want is a steady scale and income. We want to keep things small—we don’t want to compromise on the integrity of the work.”
For MacPhee, the furniture line provides her with one more way to offer her clients as much customized attention as possible. MacPhee says, “The furniture-making has been a process and an evolution of my own background, my own history, what I see in my clients’ needs, and what fits into my credo of “Live. Life. Well.™”
Pastiche is located at 1595 Route 6A in West Barnstable. Irina MacPhee also has a seasonal store located at 8 South Street in Dennisport. For more information, go to www.pasticheofcapecod.com.
Amanda Wastrom is a teacher and freelance writer.