In Hagetmau, a small town in the south of Landes, a family carpentry will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2024 by delivering the most prestigious order in its history: 1,500 chairs for the renovated nave of Notre-Dame de Paris. “We have already done interesting things but this really touches on something else,” says Alain Bastiat, manager of the SME chosen to manufacture “limited and exclusive edition” seats for the most visited cathedral in the world, ravaged by the fire of April 2019. The Bastiat Sièges company, founded in 1964, is installed on 4000 m2 on the outskirts of the town formerly “capital of the chair”, as recalled by a 10 meter high example on a flowered roundabout at the entrance. From carpenter to seamstress, it employs 17 highly qualified employees.
In the cabinetmaking workshop, under a skylight, sits the prototype made for Notre-Dame: a model in light solid oak with clean lines, “visually silent”, signed by a Breton designer, Iona Vautrin. “We needed a simple chair so that it would not take up all the space and obscure the architecture and the rest of the liturgical furniture,” explains Sylvain Bastiat, 36, son of Alain and grandson, to AFP. -son of the founders Joseph and Marcelle, who joined the factory in 2022. Low, it allows the faithful to pray by resting their elbows on the back of the one placed in front of them. The seat, slightly hollowed out and tilted towards the rear, offers better comfort than the old benches reduced to ashes. The stackable chairs can also be connected to each other by a brass clip.
An order which is quantified in “hundreds of thousands of euros”, unexpected for Bastiat Sièges and its annual turnover of 1.4 million euros, and which “is long-term”: the partnership with Iona Vautrin will continue with the design of the prie-Dieu and the benches intended for the annex chapels of the cathedral.
From the native village to the Île de la Cité, the family carpentry followed a long, sometimes bumpy journey. After a golden age of the Landes chair, which began after the Great War, the horizon darkened at the dawn of the 2000s in the face of stiff competition from low-cost flat-pack furniture and Asian teak. , cheaper than French oak. When the crisis hits Hagetmau, you have to survive. Bastiat Sièges remains resolutely “anchored in the region” but must diversify its activities, says the representative of the third generation. The SME approaches designers to seek out “another type of clientele, interior designers, decorators, etc.” and create its own high-end brand, Bosc, or “forest” in Gascon. Here, 90% of the wood worked is French: oak from the forests of Burgundy, Sologne and Île-de-France.
Bastiat Sièges is establishing itself in a niche: working solid wood in a semi-industrial way - something that "few companies in France are capable of", underlines Sylvain Bastiat - while retaining internal control of all the know-how, carpentry to tapestry. In 2018, the Landes SME obtained the State label of “living heritage company”. In June 2023, Iona Vautrin was chosen by the Archbishop of Paris, Mgr Laurent Ulrich, as part of a call for tenders launched by the Revoir Notre-Dame de Paris association, pilot of the renovation project. .
The artist knew the Bosc brand and then contacted the Hagetmau company. “The flow quickly passed between us,” says Sylvain. “She sent us the 3D of the chair to make. We didn’t think long, we launched into the adventure,” continues his father. The delivery of the 1,500 chairs will take place in October 2024 for a reopening of the monument planned two months later.