It is everywhere – in India at least. Used by posh princes and weary workers alike, the charpoy is India’s ubiquitous, all purpose article of furniture. It consists of a simple wooden frame on four legs, with a woven mesh as seating surface.
You can sleep on it – alone or with company. You can have your breakfast on it, perch on it while doing your handwork or your homework, play Parcheesi at the end of the day, gossip late into the night with your friends, and start all over again the next day. A respectable charpoy can sit indoors as the center of attention. A worn out charpoy moves into the street to be used in public.
Wherever you use it, the ventilation of the woven mesh makes it perfect for India’s hot season. Covered with a cotton pad, it serves in cold weather just as well.
This workhouse comes westward in a stylish form thanks to Ouma Productions, a Paris-based company which specializes in elevating objects in broad use on the subcontinent to decorative status. Their elegant charpoy are just the beginning. Benches, stools, metal suitcases, whimsical cushions (and more) move through Ouma’s tasteful process to become coveted home décor sold in Europe’s style centers. In the North America, only Manhattan’s ABC Carpet and Home is listed as a stockist.
Ouma’s charpoys are solidly made of sustainably sourced sheesham wood. They are thoroughly lacquered or covered with a silvery metal surface. The woven mesh of Ouma’s charpoy is splendidly diverse: sincere jute, bright synthetics, and metallic mixes finish the charpoy to suit your tastes.
Founder Stephanie de Saint Simon is rightly proud of her forward-thinking reinvention of this ancient form. “In fact,” she relates, “a very famous trend agency recently said to me that she had spoken several times about my charpoys in her next winter forecast saying that we are going to need nomadic furniture. My charpoys are heavier than Indian ones, and so are not really nomadic. But they have several functions for us, too: indoor bed, outdoor bench with recycled ropes, a sofa, a meditation platform. In India grandparents tell stories under the moonlight on it; that’s my favorite function because then it is also a kind of magical transmission station.”
She works only with traditional artisans to make her Westward-bound charpoys. Establishing new standards was difficult at first, but “Now they like it very much. They take great care over what they do throughout the long and complicated production process.”
The materials used in the woven mesh are especially striking. When complimented on them, de Saint Simon responds, “Oh, we tried many. In fact, I always want to try new things. As soon as I am done with one I want to try another. The ropes are all handmade by artisans especially for Ouma according to my design.”
The artisans who weave the mesh are mostly older, as younger people are not learning this particular skill. “Older Rajasthani artisans know how to weave the ropes nicely. And I like the fact they are old. They are wise & have time.”
Perhaps even a little time to enjoy a charpoy after a day of weaving.
For more about Ouma Productions, visit their French-language site www.oumaproductions.com. In the United States, visit NYC’s ABC Carpet and Home to purchase.
Lounge all day on Ouma Productions’ version of the Indian charpoy