Though French Heritage is only twenty years old, the roots of the company began years before, as part of a family passion for antiques. When co-founder Jacques Wayser was a child in France, he, his sister Christianne, and his brother Alain, would follow their parents on their weekly visits to the Paris antique market and throughout the French and English countryside. There, Jacques and his siblings learned how to shop for and collect antiques. Antiques, after all, were the family business. Jacques’ grandfather opened his first shop nearly a century ago.
Jacques recognized at an early age how beautifully made antique furniture was. The delicate carvings and rich finishes held their splendor despite their age. This, he noted, was the result of incredible craftsmanship, an art that seemed to be lost in the modern age.
As a young man, he worked in the family antique business. But after meeting his American-born fashion-model wife, Henessy, they decided to strike out on their own. Their vision was to create a company that specialized in creating heirlooms for the future, using the same techniques once employed by the master craftsman of Europe. These reproductions would be better than ordinary mass-produced furniture. They would capture the look and feel that can only be found in genuine antique furniture.
Together, Jacques and Henessy started French Heritage in Los Angeles in 1981. His expertise was the French furniture while she infused the normally stodgy furniture world with the creative excitement of the fashion industry. His knowledge of hancrafted furniture coupled with her sense of style and her knowledge of the American market made them perfect partners.
The first collection introduced by the new company was Richelieu, in 1984. Richelieu was a breakthrough in the furniture industry. The were pieces elegantly crafted using mortise and tenon joints, dovetailed drawers, and pegs instead of nails. For the first time, the French furniture was antiqued and distressed to look like genuine antique furniture. It was an innovation that changed the way antique reproductions looked forever.
The 1990’s saw great expansion. In 1993, the company debuted the popular Maison Provence collection, a grouping of antique French country designs. The next year, they introduced their high-end collection, De Bournais, beautifully handcrafted furniture with beeswax finishes.
In 1995, two limited edition collections were launched: Camelot, inspired by the French furnishings found in the White House and Country Club, reminiscent of the great country manor homes.
The Schooner collection, fashioned from the furniture used on 19th century schooner ships, was created in 1996. On the eve of the millennium in 1999, La Collection de la Liberte’ was introduced to celebrate the 200 years that France and America have enjoyed close ties. These furnishings were reproduced from pieces owned by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the famous designer of the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of this international friendship.
In the new millennium, the company continues to expand with new showrooms, added factory space and the introduction of French Heritage concept stores.
The story doesn’t end there. French Heritage and its family will continue to grow, with love for the joys of family life, a passion for beautifully made furniture, and the delight of a sunny day on which to enjoy both.