Thomas and Claire Schlesser bring 18th- and 19th-century French style to New American restaurants. Here they explain the basics of antique kitchenware, from zoomorphe-shaped hatchets to wolf’s-teeth-jointed copper pans.
Restaurant designer Thomas Schlesser and his wife, Claire, an antiques dealer, may live in Manhattan, but they can easily reel off the weekly schedule of brocantes (flea markets) throughout southern France: Mondays in Nice, Thursdays and Saturdays in Antibes, Saturdays in Avignon. Passionate collectors, the couple scours markets and shops all over France for antique kitchen tools and decorative objects, from copper pots to earthenware terrines. While the Schlessers have nearly 1,000 pieces in their personal collection—including an exceptionally rare oil-and-vinegar cruet handblown in the 18th century—Claire also sells items through her website, objetsobjects.com.
Recently, Thomas and Claire began an unusual collaboration at New York City’s Bar Boulud, the latest project from F&W Best New Chef 1988 Daniel Boulud. Thomas’s architecture firm, Design Bureaux (design-bureaux.com), created a space that references French winemaking traditions, with elements like a table that riffs on ones used by 19th-century wine merchants. Private rooms display some of Claire’s finds, like antique corkscrews and barrel taps. The couple’s next project is a beer-centric restaurant that F&W Best New Chef 1999 Paul Kahan plans to open this summer in Chicago. (Thomas also designed Kahan’s other restaurants, Blackbird and Avec.) The Schlessers share tips and sources for collecting kitchen antiques.