Empire-Style Computers? Frenchman Takes PCs to Lap of Luxury

By webadmin on 01:00 pm Sep 10, 2012
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Emmanuelle Trecolle

Paris. Does
your laptop clash with your Empire-style interior? No problem. A French
entrepreneur has signed up a team of traditional craftsmen to turn out
PCs fit for a royal home.

Out with dull office-grey plastic —
even the slick lines of an iPad: Georges Chirita’s workshop outside
Paris turns out one-of-a-kind computers in polished brass and gold leaf,
mounted on marble with leather-clad keyboards and mice.

“When
people first fitted Louis XV chandeliers with electric bulbs, everyone
was taken aback. Now it doesn’t raise an eyebrow,” said the
Romanian-born entrepreneur, an electronic engineer who settled in France
22 years ago.

“Computers used to be seen as mere work tools. But
now the product has reached a kind of maturity, and it’s easier to start
seeing it as a luxury object,” said the 58-year-old, whose own
bookshelves heave with a mix of IT manuals and interior design books.

Luxury?
Framed by marble columns adorned with twisted gold or soaring eagles,
Chirita’s hand-made desktop computers — in one of three styles, Louis
XV, Louis XVI or Empire — positively drip with the stuff.

They also feature in-built hidden processors and a wireless mouse.

Solid
gold, jewels, initials or a coat of arms embossed on the rear of the
screen: the sky is the limit for the made-to-measure creations whose
equally luxurious price tag starts at 17,000 euros ($21,000).

Special
attention is paid to the back of the screen, Chirita explains, since
these are computers for “important people who receive other important
people — so the back must be as attractive as the front.”

While undeniably kitsch, Chirita’s desktop PCs have won a fan base from the Gulf to China and the United States.

For
the traveler, he offers gold-plated USB keys adorned with fleur-de-lys
patterns — with a 100-year guarantee — or portable hard drives
stamped with 17th-century motifs, also in gold-plate.

Chirita sent
one of his USB keys to Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee this
year, and proudly displays the thank you note he received in return from
a lady-in-waiting.

When he first launched his project in the late
1990s, Chirita built a series of models and prototypes, assembling the
computer parts himself, but he soon realized he lacked key skills on the
visual design side.

So he went knocking at the door of the
highly specialized craftsmen known in France as “artisans d’art,” whose
rare skills are often handed down from generation to generation.

More
used to restoring period homes or antique furniture, the artisans
Chirita approached were often wary of the grubby high-tech sector.

“But once they understood the idea and realized it wouldn’t demean their work,” they came around, he said.

Chirita
assembles 80 percent of the computer himself, including all the
electronics, handing over to craftsmen for the decorative elements in
marble, lapis lazuli, wrought metal or gold leaf.

Once completed
the different pieces are assembled like an intricate puzzle in his
workshop in Melun southeast of the capital, with tiny gold-plated
screws.

Chirita’s client base is 90 percent international, and he
adapts his wares to the tastes of Chinese clients who tend to go for
shinier finishes, or Gulf buyers who prefer mat gold.

He works
mostly with interior designers: “The very wealthy don’t have time to
take care of this kind of thing,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t even know
who the final customer is.”

Agence France-Presse