The Chairs of Maison Gatti – Villemer, France - Atlas Obscura
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Villemer, France

The Chairs of Maison Gatti

Since 1920, one small company has defined the distinctive chairs of Paris' sidewalk bistros. 

Of all the landmarks that Paris is famous for, from the Eiffel Tower, to the Champs Elysees, to Notre Dame, the one which gives the city a large part of its character is the sidewalk cafe.

All across the City of Light are corner cafes and bistros where Parisians and tourists alike sip on wine, citron presse, or simply a beer, and watch the city’s life go by. Sitting at one of the distinctive circular bistro tables, if you look at the back of the similarly distinctive rattan chairs, you will likely see a small metal stamp marked, “Maison J. Gatti - Fabricant depuis 1920.”

The most iconic of these distinctive rattan chairs have been made by hand, by one company, since the days of the Jazz age. From the grandeur of the Georges V hotel, to the sumptuous elegance of the grand Belle Epoque, to cafes such as la Rotonde Montparnasse, Gatti chairs have helped define the Paris mystique. When Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Satre would convene at les Deux Magots, or when Ernest Hemingway would spend his afternoons working at the Cafe de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, they would have likely been seated at a chair made by Maison Gatti.

The actual chairs are still made by hand today, as they were nearly 100 years ago, in a quiet suburb of Paris called Villemer, about 30 miles to the south. Constructed from malacca cane and beech, the sidewalk bistro chairs have remained virtually the same, made by artisans whose skills are passed down from generation to generation.