The Toughest Project of Them All-Update Dining Area

by Liza Laserow

Swedish 19th century rustic farmers table together with Eames fiberglass side chair and a pair of French early 19th century candelabras

Dining chairs: The shell chairs were first available in the spring of 1950. The first runs of the chairs were produced in only three colors; griege, elephant-hide gray, and parchment—all of which had interesting translucent qualities. The chairs were distributed by Herman Miller and were available in their product line until 1983. Subsequently in 2003, Herman Miller introduced a modified version of the chair made of polypropylene.

Candelabras: A pair of candelabras from France with holders for six candles, made during the early 19th C  in gilt bronze and dark patinated bronze.

Ormolu is an 18th-century English term for applying finely ground, high-carat gold in a mercury amalgam to an object of bronze. The mercury is driven off in a kiln and leaving behind a gold-colored veneer. The French refer to this technique as bronze doré; in English, it is known as “gilt bronze”.The manufacture of true ormolu employs a process known as mercury-gilding or fire-gilding, in which a solution of nitrate of mercury is applied to a piece of copper, brass, or bronze, followed by the application of an amalgam of gold and mercury. The item was then exposed to extreme heat until the mercury burned off and the gold remained, adhered to the metal object.

Due to exposure to the harmful mercury fumes, most gilders did not survive beyond 40 years of age. After around 1830 no true ormolu was produced in France because legislation had outlawed the use of mercury. Other techniques were then used instead but nothing surpasses the original mercury-firing ormolu method for sheer beauty and richness of colour. Electroplating is the most common modern technique.