New in Dallas: Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports

Sydney Perkins and Mikäel Martinie, owners of
Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports

The Architecture of Love . . . they met in Lyon, France, where she was dancing with a cabaret troupe and he, a civil engineer, was moonlighting as a lieutenant fireman. They fell in love, and as a side business, started renovating properties together in Lyon. They never imagined their fondness for old buildings would eventually turn into an architectural import business in Dallas.

As a fireman, Mikäel Martinie's specialties were hazardous materials and underground fires. "He loves structures," says Sydney Perkins, 27, who hails from Little Rock. Martinie, also 27, was born and reared in France. "He's naturally interested in deconstruction of buildings. I had a chance to see wonderful old Provençal homes being gutted and renovated."

The couple, now engaged, started out reclaiming flooring from apartments they were renovating, then began scouting for more historically significant pieces coming from the surrounding Rhone and l'Ain regions, says Perkins. "We eventually rented a warehouse near the amazingly well-preserved medieval village Treffort-Cuisiat, where our operations are based."

The medieval village, Treffort-Cuisiat, where
Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports is based.

Perkins and Martinie returned to the States earlier this year with the goal of opening an architectural imports business, landing in Dallas where Perkins had begun training with the Lone Star Circus, which does arial hoops much like Cirque de Soleil. Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports opened in the Dallas Design District in September. Perkins is still on cloud nine: "Hooray for entrepreneurship in a down economy!"

Terra cotta roof tiles, ancient stone fireplaces,
and beautifully patinated iron door (reclaimed from a
19th century neo-Gothic cathedral in the l'Ain region). At
Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports.

"We do all the hunting ourselves, which is why I think our approach is unique. Our pieces reflect a cultural move toward 'le luxe rustique', and increasing utilization of reclaimed material," Perkins told me recently. In fact, Martinie had just left for France on a buying trip for a month. "We've concentrated on importing mantels, limestone and terra cotta flooring, window surrounds and stone crosses as well as some cemetery statuary that may be a little too avant garde for Dallas... we've gotten some strange reactions for sure! We also have ironworks ranging from church guardrails to crosses and gates."

Stone and iron crosses for sale at Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports

18th century guardrail from a church in the Cote d'Or region. At
Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports

All of Martinie and Altom's inventory comes from France, but depending on budget, they hope to eventually begin deconstructing larger edifices from forts, chateaux, and chapels. They are currently organizing a project in Lozere on a partially destroyed protestant chapel form the 18th century.

Beautiful centuries-old, French terra cotta bricks or tommettes for sale
at Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports.
They come from Treffort-Cuisiat, in the l'Ain region
and date from a medieval house that was later turned into a convent.

Beautiful old gate reclaimed from a chateau in France, for sale at
Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports

Chateau Ste. Collombe sur Grand in Rhone where
Perkins and Martinie have reclaimed architectural pieces

Andirons reclaimed from Ste. Collombe, depicting Republic president Thiers.

Above, an old French gate and detail.
Large matching doors will be arriving soon.

Mikäel Martini and Sydney Perkins pose inside a Gothic
limestone window surround, reclaimed from the home
of a stable keeper or ecurien, on the grounds of a deconstructed
chateau in Cremieu, in the Rhone region.
It's one of their oldest and most prized pieces for sale.

To find out more about Martinie and Altom Architectural Imports, go to their website, and watch a video of Martinie reclaiming many of the artifacts from their sites in France.