Inside the showroom are hundreds of models to pick from, "but anything can be made up," offers manager and cat lover Martin Grubman. Cases are stuffed with surprises, such as knobs shaped like insects and other creatures.
The delicate art of cleaning out the crevices with a file in the hand of artisan Jacqueline Edwards.
Artisan Lora Sroka chases beads on an egg-shaped doorknob. The technique requires about three hammer taps per bead.
"People associate bronze with higher quality, and it may sound sexier, but that’s nonsense," explains manager Martin Grubman. "Technically, it’s usually brass." P.E. Guerin works almost exclusively in brass but offers a range of patinas from dusky black iron to highly polished gold. "The principal element in both is copper, and the difference is the amount of zinc. Bronze has less zinc."
Hardware hounds ask P.E. Guerin to autograph the hinges the firm makes.
The dance of hoisting an apricot-orange crucible of molten brass and pouring the 2,000-degree lava-like liquid into a sand mold.
Designers and architects are hardware junkies, and Guerin is their drug of choice. Sleek Art Deco lever handles in old gold designed by craft-lover William Sofield add warmth to Tom Ford’s Madison Avenue boutique. New York designer Brian McCarthy reaches for old gold hardware from the three Louis (XIV, XV, XVI), but he designed irregular egg-shaped silver doorknobs with a hand-hammered finish for himself. Tony Ingrao prefers his Louis XIV lever handles and hinges in mixed metals (pewter and antique gold). White House decorator Michael Smith is partial to nickel, but from a range of periods, including Adam, Regency, and Empire. On one point designers are firm: Plan your hardware early in the process, because it’s obvious if it’s an afterthought.
Furniture mounts, capitals, and bases are part of the mix shelved in the firm’s pattern room, where labels detail each drawer’s contents.
A chased fox head faucet handle and chasing tools.
A foundry worker’s tools include makeup brushes to clean the small gullies, called runners and gates, through which the molten metal is poured.
Colored ground pigment used to create patina.
A grotesque mask pattern may have accompanied P.E. from France, where he originally founded the company in 1857. Finished in mixed metals (pewter and old gold), this mask spouting water can be found in the home of the company’s current owner, P.E.’s great-grandnephew, Andrew Ward.