Born of Fire: Precious Fittings by Tina Schneider-Rading | 18th April, 2015 | Offices
From the Kremlin in Moscow to the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Cairo to some of the world’s most glamorous mega-yachts: designer bathroom fittings by THG are used whenever the brief calls for high-end luxury. So what drives the incredible success of the company from Béthencourt-sur-Mer? Traditional craftsmanship, a family heritage – and an undying passion for aesthetics.
A small figure of a child perches on top of a gold-plated tap, a drumstick in either hand. The putto seems to be awaiting his cue – although, in truth, he has long been the master of his surroundings. Here, in the bathroom of the “Regina d’Italia,” the famous 51-meter yacht owned by fashion designers Domenico Dolce und Stefano Gabbana, this particular faucet commands center stage. Creative minds and royals alike have a passion for the playfully baroque fitting “Amour de Trianon” by THG. Customers of the French company include the Kremlin in Moscow, the seven-star Burj al Arab in Dubai, the Paris Ritz – and many more of the world’s most expensive, exclusive hotels. The firm’s customers can be distilled down to one very simple common denominator: wherever glamor is at home you’ll probably also find THG faucets, showerheads and towel holders in the bathrooms.
The medium-sized company, which is headquartered in Béthencourt-sur-Mer, roughly 150 km to the east of Paris, has the initials of its founders as its name. In the 1950s, the toolmakers André Tetard and Julien Haudiquez joined forces with Alexandre Grisoni; at the end of the ’80s, Tetrad’s daughter, Laurence, took over and brought her partner, Michel Gosse, into the company.
“We have customers in all corners of the world – and for every single one we have the perfect fitting.” Michel Gosse
Only a dozen years ago, the new company director – originally a motor mechanic – had to beg for a meeting with the French crystal giant Calque. Michel Gosse had joined the company only a few years previously and THG was feeling the pressure from the competition in Germany and Italy. Although he had not trained in the trade, Gosse had two invaluable talents: curiosity and inventiveness. Gosse is someone who loves to tinker around and new combinations of materials fascinate him. He got hold of some crystal elements by Lalique and started experimenting.
Up until this point, most taps and bathroom fixtures were made of metal or, very occasionally, porcelain, and nobody could envisage crystal knobs – with the exception of Monsieur Gosse. Aided by his natural creativity, he made the traditional company fit for the international market: “The cooperation with Lalique was our breakthrough and my most wonderful moment in the company,” he says. “An international premium brand entrusting their crystal to a small manufacturer of bathroom fittings. This collaboration helped us to achieve international success.”
Today, THG works with illustrious partners such as Bernardaud, Baccarat, Daum and Christofle. From porcelain manufacturers to fine crystal ateliers, these names represent the very highest pinnacle of their respective craft in France. THG also has designers lining up to work with them, including Alberto Pinto, Studio Putman and Olivier Gagnère. The label has over one hundred collections of haute-couture pieces for bathrooms. The knobs and handles are highly polished masterpieces, embellished with horn, made of crystal illuminated from the inside, executed in the finest porcelain or beautifully silver-plated. For instance, the elegant miniature corsets with a pretty bow created by lingerie designer Chantal Thomass. In the “Baroque” collection the faucets resemble a lion’s head or a swan’s neck made of brushed silver, matt or shiny gold.
The Parisian showroom is situated on the prestigious Boulevard Haussmann and attracts interior design bloggers and stylists from around the world. This is where the deluxe THG fittings are displayed in their natural environment: bathrooms with engraved crystal wall tiles, washbasins made of polished marble, and bathtubs that are covered with the finest Hermès leather. Only last year, Gosse and his wife opened a showroom in Shanghai. The Chinese market is flourishing, and the firm’s customers here include the five-star hotels The Peninsula Shanghai and the Waldorf Astoria in Beijing.
Before taking over at the helm of the company, Michel Gosse worked his way through all its departments and today is not only married to the founder’s daughter, but to the entire company. For the 230 employees, of whom around 200 work in production, the “Patron” is a boss on an equal footing, a man for whom “we” takes precedence over the buzz of a business ego trip. “When we design a new collection,” explains Gosse, “we always focus on our customers and all their various facets. They are all so different – in their culture, religion, habits and their mentalities.”
Products made using semi-precious gems are especially popular in Russia, and are also frequently seen in bathrooms on luxury yachts. In the Middle East, women and men have their own separate bathrooms. Here, THG provides masculine, angular fittings for the gentlemen while the ladies’ bathrooms usually feature a more playful design. American customers love retro looks, and one of the best-selling products in the U.S. is an elegant industrial design with levers instead of knobs.
Gosse is particularly fond of the designs of his compatriot Pierre-Yves Rochon. A star in the interior design world, Rochon has been responsible for the interiors of many a five-star hotel. His ranges “Faubourg,” “Frivole” and “Froufrou” feature timelessly elegant fixtures that exude an effortless, typically French savoir-vivre. “Rochon is a master of uniting metal and porcelain harmoniously. This makes his collections very much in demand all over the world – which is exceptionally rare in our segment,” Gosse explains.
From prototypes to final finishing, at THG everything is produced under one roof. So which stage is the most important? “For me it is quite clearly what goes on in the foundry,” says Gosse. Working in the metal melting department, where the glowing molten brass alloy – a blend of copper and zinc – runs from the crucibles is a tough and dirty job. That’s where the brass is poured into the molds to make the basic fittings. The alloy forms when the metal has cooled. “This work requires incredible care, expertise and strength.” The end product of this unique combination is perfection.
The plating studio is Gosse’s favorite place in the company: “This is where the items are plated, with gold or rhodinated silver, with copper or nickel. It is the shiny highlight of the company,” he jokes. It is also the place where 40 different alloys are used to create an unrivalled choice of finishes. The company’s artistry and craftsmanship were recognized recently when it was awarded the prestigious French “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” quality label by the French government. THG’s creations are now “living heritage” which officially puts them up there in the illustrious category of French national treasures. And one cannot help but feel that the true heritage of this unique company is the recognition that bathrooms are definitely a family affair. TSR