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Andre Sornay

Andre Sornay was a French modernist designer known for his modular furniture designs and signature Cloutage technique, a way of using nails as decorative trim. In 2004, he was the subject of an exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many other museums and international venues since. Born in 1902, Sornay lived and worked most of his life in Lyon, France. This provincial location made for relative stability, but limited wider awareness of Sornay's work; he was not well-known during his career. He began in the trade by making reproduction furniture for the family business but soon shifted into modernist design. Sornay developed the Cloutage technique in 1929, after finding that hammering a row of nails along the edge of pieces allowed him to add a modern look to furniture while still experimenting with different styles, forms and construction techniques. In the 1940s, while working on wartime housing for refugees, he created a modular furniture system that has been called a precursor to IKEA’s hex-key system. This system used twistable metal poles to disassemble and move the furniture. Despite his success, Sornay stopped producing furniture in the 1950s and unfortuantely, much of his work burned in a studio fire. Sornay’s works were brought to public attention in 1986 by Lyon gallery owner Michel Giraud; he would also curate the 2004 exhibit in New York, and still handles much of the artist's work. Andre Sornay furniture is considered a rare find in the antique world, and there are a growing number of collectors. Pieces include the French Fruitwood Settee from 1950, an upholstered Art Deco piece with exotic fruitwood legs and a sleek, modern silhouette, and a circa-1925 marquetry storage cabinet with an ornate inlay of Macassar ebony, oak and walnut root.