The Mobilier national, guest institution at FAB PARIS 2023

As the guest institution at FAB PARIS 2023, the Mobilier national is exhibiting the “FABuleux” installation in a space designed by Paul Bonlarron, designer-decorator and winner of the Mobilier national Design Parade 2022 prize.
The richness of the Mobilier National’s collections is combined with the dynamism of contemporary design.

The Mobilier national, supporting arts and crafts since the 17th century
& a major player in contemporary design and the promotion of French-style decorative arts.

As a supporter of crafts and creation since the 17th century, Mobilier National’s mission is to ensure the preservation and restoration of its unique collections, to perpetuate and pass down exceptional craftsmanship.
As a major heritage site, the institution is also an important actor of contemporary creation and the promotion of French decorative arts.


Le Mobilier national
Mobilier national owns a collection of tens of thousands of furniture pieces and objects meant to furnish and decorate the official buildings of the Republic in France and abroad. More than three hundred and forty women and men work daily to maintain, practice or promote the institution’s excellent know-how, in Paris and throughout France.

The Gobelins and Beauvais manufactories are dedicated to tapestry, the Savonnerie manufactory to rugs, and the Puy-en Velay and Alençon workshops to lace. The Research and Creation workshop (Atelier de Recherche et de Création – the ARC) promotes creation and contemporary design in France. Seven restoration workshops are in charge of various specialties of wood, metal and textile.



The ARC : the Research and Creation Workshop

Created in 1964 on the initiative of André Malraux, the ARC (Research and Creation Workshop) is responsible for producing furniture based on the designs and models of creators. Since its inception, in collaboration with some of the major figures of international design, it has realized over six hundred furniture pieces, all included in the national collections.

The ARC is currently made up of twelve technicians, spread across two workshops, one for wood and the other, metal. The technicians are trained in traditional techniques and open to new manufacturing processes, integrating the use of digital machinery, so as to adapt to the most contemporary of designs and production techniques.

Items made by the ARC are used to furnish the Republic’s official institutions, alongside pieces from the Mobilier national collections. These consist of over 100,000 pieces dating from the 17th century to the present day (furniture, tapestry, rugs, chandeliers, lace, embroidery, silks, etc.). These are regularly showcased during retrospectives and/or exhibitions.


FABuleux, imagined by Paul Bonlarron

Winner of the Mobilier National Design Parade 2022 Award, Paul Bonlarron benefited from a nine-month creative residency at the Mobilier National. While there, he developed his Cabinet aux mirages, produced in close collaboration with the ARC wood and metal workshops.

Designed to house the Cabinet aux mirages, the FABuleux installation seeks to immerse spectators in a phantasmagorical living room, furnished with pieces from the Mobilier National’s collections. The space takes its inspiration from films like La Belle et la Bête by Jean Cocteau (1946) or Peau d’Âne by Jacques Demy (1970), where a sense of wonder is expressed by bringing the furniture items to life and sprinkling the textiles with sparkles akin to stars; in short, playing with illusions that blur the boundaries between reality and imagination.

Mythology à la française is embodied in fanciful creations that seem to come alive as soon as one looks at them. As visitors walk through the space, they may have the strange feeling of no longer being alone: under the rustle of a tapestry work, the legs of an armchair transform into griffon claws ready to pounce.


Armand -Albert Rateau et René Piot, Mantel screen “Les Oiseaux d'or”, 1925

Armand-Albert Rateau & René Piot
Mantel screen “Les Oiseaux d’or”

Gilded wood, tapestry of Beauvais trim
(Mobilier national – GMT 21318)
© Mobilier national

Kim Hamisky, Table, 1989

Kim Hamisky

Red-stained solid alisier, metal
(Mobilier National – GMC 401)
© Mobilier national

Further away, René Piot’s Oiseaux d’Or (Golden Birds) fly into the brilliant light of a screen. Jules Leleu’s chest of drawers is transformed into a whimsical wooded grove, leaving mother-of-pearl flowers to blossom on its surface, whose ice-like reflections catch the eye. This game of appearances is also embodied in Kim Hamisky’s trompe-l’oeil tablecloth, whose pleated wood defies gravity and questions visitors about the palpable nature of things.

By superimposing eras and styles, FABuleux leaves room for material daydreams and engages viewers on an imaginary journey where furniture becomes the silent narrator of extraordinary tales.

Jules Leleu, Chest of drawers, 1941

Jules Leleu
Chest of drawers

Rio rosewood, ebony, mother-of-pearl, bronze
(Mobilier national – GME 17238)
© Mobilier national


The Cabinet aux mirages

Taking inspiration from Renaissance “secretcabinets”, Paul Bonlarron constructed a carefully staged cabinet, capable of manipulating perspectives akin to small mirror theatres, with its drawers hidden inside other drawers.

Thanks to a constant dialogue with the ARC technicians, this piece of furniture, which can be modulated or adjusted depending on what is presented, may be deployed on different axes, at 360 degrees.

The Cabinet aux mirages is constructed in the manner of a miniature building, comprising twenty drawers that are revealed via different mirror effects. The illusions thus produced give rise to staircases that unfold to infinity; mirascope windows that imitate volumes; niches with inverted perspectives; drawers that transform into kaleidoscopes, etc.


Paul Bonlarron, Cabinet aux mirages, 2023

Paul Bonlarron
Cabinet aux mirages

Elm burl, mirror-polished stainless steel
(Mobilier national – GMC 750)
© Paul Bonlarron


Making use of anamorphoses (distorted projections), the central space is surmounted by balconies with screen-printed marquetry whose proportions are simulated by an oblique mirror. An ensemble of mobile objects in turned aluminium, installed on the roof of the cabinet, are intended to be placed in the different drawers as desired.

The exploration of the Cabinet aux mirages is punctuated by numerous surprises, triptychs, precious objects, and even a perfume drawer, preserving its fragrances in the centre of the cabinet.

The close collaboration between the designer and the ARC’s wood and metal workshops made it possible to merge the structural and mechanical requirements of the project.

Cabinet aux mirages, détail

About Paul Bonlarron

Follow his journey on his Instagram account