In the late 18th century, the pianist’s bench used throughout Italian concert halls was the Venetian grotto stool, known for its distinctive shell-like form—inspired by the Rococo period, when furniture was more playful, ornate, and curvaceous. Today, Leah Cumming breathes modernity into vintage pieces such as the Venetian grotto stool through her bespoke furniture company Maison Madeleine.
“I had this idea of taking such a detail-oriented, well-crafted piece and turning it into a contemporary barstool that is functional but still emulates the original shell design,” Cumming tells Robb Report about her Seaside Shell Barstool.
Maintaining the shell design was important to Cumming—who previously worked as a designer for firms such as Nickey Kehoe and Jenni Kayne—as she says she’s always felt a sense of peace by the water. She recalls a childhood spent on boats with her father, an avid sailor; her teenage years were spent in Paris, where walks along the Seine River evoked the same calmness she felt near the sea. Later, Cumming attended college in Boston then moved to Hong Kong after graduation, both cities where proximity to the ocean was a major draw. “I now live in Los Angeles and find myself feeling at ease being close to the water,” she says. “California’s rugged coastlines are so imperfectly perfect to me and fill me with inspiration.”
Nautical and coastal references, therefore, are prevalent throughout each of the 10 pieces of Maison Madeleine’s inaugural collection, which includes pieces like the Wave Daybed, Gather Scalloped Dining Table, and Le Salon Scalloped Coffee Table, all handcrafted in LA.
“The style is French meets coastal, contemporary chic, with a twist on iconic European designs,” says Cumming. Her love and appreciation for an old-meets-new-world aesthetic dates back to her time in Paris, where she first appreciated the narrative of antique furniture at flea markets. “I remember being totally enamored by such beautiful pieces and objects with such rich history,” she says.
Cumming found that the best way to recreate the vintage furnishings she fell in love with—many of them in the Art Deco style—was to integrate these coastal motifs. “It felt like a way to make my pieces more playful while remaining elegant,” she says. Case in point: the curves on the wave daybed are a subtle way to reflect the ocean’s undulations. “I like the idea of someone spending a long day on the beach or by the coast and coming back after to take a long nap on the daybed in a sundrenched room.”
Maison Madeleine’s collection is crafted with natural woods—solid oak wood, walnut, alder, and burl wood on the coffee and dining tables, and reclaimed wood for the L’Habits Reclaimed Wood Dresser. Cumming felt it was important to maintain the neutral hues, offering both dark stains to match the original aesthetic of the sophisticated antiques that inspired the collection, but also light finishes to cater to the needs of modern design and coastal beach house. “These pieces should serve as the anchor for any space,” she says.
Regardless of where they may appear, Cumming simply hopes for them to be enjoyed. “I want these pieces to have life brought to them,” she says. “You can go into a lot of homes and get a sense of whether there’s life in the home – despite the pieces being super beautiful, they should be used.” shopmaisonmadeleine.com