Within just ten years, a French entrepreneur has revolutionized the marble, marquetry, and artistic tapestry markets. Heading up her studio-workshop in the Batignolles neighborhood in Paris, Valérie Maltaverne is both radiant and charismatic. Having started her career in film, this energetic woman is completely devoted to the creative process – from the meticulous first sketches, which incorporate iconic, industrial design features and take more than a year to perfect, until production by the finest French artisans.
Each piece requires months, if not years, of patient, determined work, as seen in the brand’s Galet lamps paying tribute to Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. “It took us more than a year to fine-tune our innovations and form parts in resin without casts or seams,” says the cofounder of the YMER&MALTA studio. “This was a first in the resin lighting sector.” The criteria for an art object and elegant design are met to perfection – the result of a balance between patience and initiative. “The last time this method was used was during the heyday of architect and designer Eileen Gray’s studio and the interior designers of the early 20th century,” says Cloé Pitiot, curator at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Versailles had its own ateliers working for the king, and YMER&MALTA devotes its services to French heritage in the same way. While Valérie Maltaverne, who was made a member of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2020, has relied on discretion and word-of-mouth, her rare, precious products are already featured in sophisticated interiors and private collections, and have become part of art history. Numbered and limited to series of 12, several pieces have been acquired by leading French and international museums. The cloudInChest cabinet was purchased by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, while the fallenTree bench is now part of the Villa Albertine’s collections in the United States. The designer’s objects have also been showcased in New York at the Cooper Hewitt Museum and the Noguchi Museum. Meanwhile, the studio is regularly commissioned to create bespoke furniture – a chance to express authentic French taste and innovation while reinventing historical, artisanal know-how.
For centuries, the Aubusson manufactory in the Creuse département created decorative objects designed to insulate or divide spaces in the home. However, the company never managed to adapt its artisanal weaving techniques to furniture, aside from decorative cushions. This is why the director of the Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie approached YMER&MALTA in 2015, inviting them to pursue the history of artistic tapestry and transform this French tradition into an everyday, contemporary luxury.
Valérie Maltaverne and the weavers from the Aubusson factory spent five years carrying out experiments in a tireless process of trial and error, inventing new knots and searching for different textures and colors until they achieved what they wanted. Tapestry had finally become furniture! This collaboration led to the creation of seven pieces, including two benches: one clad in couture tapestry, and another offering an immersion in the forest of Versailles at dawn. Another object, a powerfully wild cabinet, boasts two woven bears. Tapestry is featured alongside burned oak on a contemplative bench, and becomes a carpet imitating the icy, white water of the French Alps. For the first time in its history, it expands to sculpt the lichen and rocks of a polar landscape reflected on a console. And in a true tour de force, YMER&MALTA has even transformed tapestry into a supportive material with the Le Troupeau stool!
Previously used for royal architecture and sculptures by the masters, marble was both monumental and cold. YMER&MALTA took an opposite approach by creating a collection of lightweight, translucent, mobile objects. As part of this challenging project, Valérie Maltaverne worked with the most talented marble artisans to refine the material while conserving its inalterable resilience. Through patience and extensive experiments, new techniques were developed to transform the solid blocks into translucid sheets.
A series of ten uniquely luxurious objects were created, using black and white marble to bring the prestigious sculptures of old into modern interiors. The lamps are incredibly sophisticated and infuse every space with a sleek light. The ethereal shelves float gracefully on the walls and the occasionally openwork forms are astonishingly delicate. At the height of refinement, marble becomes furniture, sculpted to create the pure, essential shapes of stools or pedestal tables. For both the white Carrara marble and black Marquina marble, Valérie Maltaverne personally selects each block in Italy. The resulting collection combines the rarity of precious materials with the guarantee of fine French taste.
By creating a marquetry furniture collection, the studio drew on the know-how of one of the most renowned crafts in the French heritage sector and rejuvenated it through collaborations with contemporary designers. Thousands of pieces of wood from dozens of different, precious varieties were assembled by master cabinetmakers using modern, original designs. The surfaces covered in these silky scales are nothing short of luxury marquetry, blurring the lines between furniture and haute couture.
The cloudInChest cabinet is akin to a cloud of pixels set in motion by light reflecting off the wood. The dark, elegant Black Snake Blues coffee table stretches out like a royal python. On the Plane Tree bench, camouflaged with white ebony, sycamore, pear, and lemon wood, overlapping sections create a visual illusion and disguise the subtle drawers. Last but not least, in a stunning tribute to the great André-Charles Boulle, a master wood inlayer at the court of Louis XIV, the Illusion coffee table in ebony is sublimely set with copper, brass, aluminum, and tin. One thing is for sure: We haven’t heard the last of marquetry, the “sleeping beauty” of the design world!