The idea of French Maison came years ago when we, having worked many, many years in the interior design and construction industries, were called upon to source certain custom-made and artisan-made items for our projects. In researching what was available here in the United States, we were hard pressed to find what we needed that was crafted to the level of artisanship and quality that we were looking for. We knew though, that these types of quality, hand-made, custom-made and artisanal goods were readily available in Europe as we had previously visited several ateliers and workshops in Paris and the French countryside for other projects. As we did more research on these items for our clients at the time, it dawned on us that these types of goods should be more readily available in the United States and that we should be the ones to provide the opportunity for homeowners and professionals to have access to these types of quality goods here in the United States.
Our mission is to provide the opportunity for residents of the United States to have access to fine, custom-made, hand-made, artisanal building materials, furniture and home décor from Europe and beyond. Our vision is to create a renaissance in the appreciation of truly custom-made, artisanal home improvement and décor items rather than the mass produced, factory made items that are presently abundant in the US.
Our goal is to provide access to fine building materials, furniture and home décor--made to order by French artisans—from furniture to interior and exterior doors; from curtain and drapery fabric to custom made chandeliers and much more. The photos on our website are only a small portion of what we have to offer. In addition, we conduct private, guided, customized buying tours of the flea markets and artisan workshops of Paris and the French Countryside for the professional and non-professional alike.
The chestnut is the most useful tree in the world. There are 4 major species – American Chestnut (Castanea dentata), European Chestnut (C. sativa), Chinese Chestnut (C. mollissima) and Japanese Chestnut (C. crenata) and 9 less important species of the genus Castanea in the world. Considering the importance of chestnuts as a high carbohydrate food source for thousands of years, and the beautiful, rot-resistant wood that is used from everything from vineyard stakes, fence posts to siding and bridge timbers, and was a major source of tannin for tanning leather, is there any tree that provides this range of uses and value? Oaks, pines, and fruit trees each provide single uses for timber or food, and many have a larger total monetary value for the that use or crop than chestnuts. However, no tree species in history has offered such a wide range of uses or importance. It is little wonder that chestnuts have been grown by every major culture and transported in conquests and explorations to every continent where it could be grown.
The European Chestnut is native to the forests of the Caucasus region around the Black Sea. Chestnut is thought to have gotten its name from the city Kastanis in what is now Georgia on the east side of the Black Sea and has been cultivated in this region for thousands of years. The Arabic word ‘kastanat’ and Persian word ‘kastana’ originate from the Sanskrit word ‘kashta’ which means tree. Chestnut was the most important tree species in ancient eastern Europe.
Today, much of the mountain regions of Italy are chestnut forest, both cultivated for nut production and uncultivated, that is used for timber and coppice. There are grafted orchards with trees that are 500 years old still being harvested every year. The 1000-year-old Chestnut of a Hundred Horses still lives on the side of Mt. Etna, which sheltered Joanna of Aragon and a hundred knights and horses.
Spain, France and Portugal all have thriving chestnut export industries, as well as Turkey. Most of the other European countries that can grow chestnuts have established industries that provide nuts for their local economy.
Chestnuts were present in North America during the Eocene Epoch, beginning over 50 Million years ago. During the Pleistocene Ice Age 18,000 years ago, chestnut was pushed south as the temperate forests retreated to the warmer climate near the Gulf of Mexico. As the glaciers receded, chestnut trees moved north as the temperate forest expanded. The chestnut tree became one of the dominant species in eastern North America from what is now southern Maine, growing west to the Great Lakes and south to the Gulf Coast. The heart of the range was the Appalachians, where in some areas it made up almost 100% of the forest. In the cool, moist, temperate rainforest of the Smoky Mountains, trees grew 12' or more in diameter, and over 100' tall. The incredible mast production of the chestnut was the primary food for all wildlife and game species - bear, deer, elk, squirrel, the huge flocks of turkey, and was a key food for Passenger Pigeons.
The early explorers such as Hernando de Soto and colonists of America found this extensive primeval forest. Early accounts described the nuts as knee-deep under the trees during harvest! The rot-resistant timber was also prized, for the trees could be cut, and sprouts from the stumps regrew rapidly into straight-grained lumber. J. Russell Smith, the famous plant explorer, said "By the time a white oak acorn grows a baseball bat, a chestnut stump grows a railroad tie".
However, in 1904, a bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was accidentally introduced from China into New York City that killed off virtually the entire population of American Chestnuts throughout its range from Maine to Georgia. The Chestnut Blight was easily the greatest ecological disaster in American history, though it is almost forgotten today. Over 30 million acres of chestnut forest were killed in 40 years! Much of this loss occurred during the Great Depression, so the impact on both the mountain people that ate chestnuts, and the game that depended on it in the fall, was doubly devastating.
Few alive today remember what these forests were like, just like the WWII veterans, most are gone now. My grandfather Dr. Robert Dunstan described the Smoky Mountains being like a sea of white with chestnut blossoms in the early summer. What remains of the original chestnut forest exists today as wood in houses, barns and furniture. As the trees died out, they were logged and many of the areas of the country that were built during the 1930s were constructed of chestnut lumber. Today it is hard to find chestnut wood – it has to be obtained from salvagers and recyclers from old buildings being torn down.
America today is the only country in the world that can grow chestnuts that does not have an extensive chestnut industry. This is in great part due to the loss of the American chestnut. Unless you are of recently European or Asian heritage, chestnuts have become lost in our memory. Americans have not grown up with chestnuts as part of their food culture. Everyone can sing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” but few have ever eaten a chestnut, especially the younger generations.
USES OF WOOD
Chestnut wood has up to 20% tannin content, the highest of all tree species. This makes the wood extremely rot resistant. Chestnut trees, especially when grown in forest settings, grow straight and make excellent lumber which were cut into durable straight-grained planks or could be split easily for fencing and posts. Dr. Robert Dunstan described how you could put a chestnut fence post in the ground for 50 years, pull it up, turn it over, and get 50 more years out of the other side!
Because of this rot resistance, chestnut wood was used for shipbuilding, bridge timbers, railroad ties, exterior siding, barn and house posts and beams, flooring, doors, windows, exterior trim and any other area that was exposed to the weather. Chestnut tracks were used in the invasion of Normandy in WWII to get over the sandy beaches. Chestnut was also made split rail fences, fence posts, vineyard trellises, water well-casings, wine casks, barrels, baskets, furniture and caskets. Chestnut is truly a tree that carries people from cradle to grave.
Chestnut trees were coppiced for various uses. When the tree is cut, the stumps send up multiple sprouts very readily (this is seen today in America, where the roots survive the blight underground, and send up shoots again and again, to become re-infected with the blight). The coppice shoots were harvested at various cycles depending on the use. Vineyard trellises and stakes were cut after only 2-3 years, fence posts after 10-20 years, whereas saw logs were cut on a 50-70-year basis. Today there is still a strong demand for chestnut timber as an alternative to chemically treated pine for exterior uses.
In Linville NC, chestnut bark was used as shingles for siding many of the houses in this community. This was a traditional Appalachian building technique, and many buildings survive today, including the beautiful All Saints Episcopal Church, in which the entire building- beams, rafters and siding, was made of chestnut in the 1910. Unfortunately, today, 100 years later, there is no more chestnut wood left, so Tulip Poplar bark has become a substitute, but it does not have the rot-resistance of chestnut.
Submit a photo of someone wearing or using some of our merchandise with our wonderful logo next to something or with something in the background that is recognizable or unique to a location but yet that does not have the name of the location in the photo so that there will be a challenge to guess the location. Make sure that the logo is visible and legible and that the photo is good quality, you don't need to add the logo separately like we did here. If we use your photo, we'll send you a $50.00 gift card! You will be asked for your permission to use the photo.
We plan on posting a new photo every week on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. The first person on any of these sites to guess the location that the photo was taken at will win a prize consisting of a merchandise item of our choice! You submit your response simply by responding or replying to the post! No purchase or monetary entry fee necessary.
French Maison LLC and its agents are the ultimate judges and arbiters of the contest and will decide who is actually first over all the social media sites using time stamps on the responses.