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In an unassuming workshop in southern France, a handful of technologists and carpenters are quietly transforming thin planks of smooth maple and walnut wood into fully functioning wireless keyboards and speakers  - the very first of their kind in the world.

Between the seven of them, they produce about 100 pieces in a week.  Circuits are built in to impossibly smooth shards of wood grown in the French alps and keys are laser engraved, but most of the time in this workshop is spent sanding, buffing and polishing.

“The smooth touch and feel of our products is because of this,” explains Orée’s. founder and CEO Julien Salanave. “About 50% of the production time is spent on this one job.  It’s a key skill.” 

To say that Julien didn’t plan for it to work out this way is something of an understatement.  His idea to create technology that would last more than a couple of years using materials other than plastic or aluminium came about in 2012, but the road to production was a long one.

“Originally we tried to outsource the production,” Julien explains.  “We tried the US and Asia for manufacturing but everyone said it was impossible to produce at scale.”

That’s why, after 18 months, he and designer Franck Fontana assembled a team of compagnons – carpenters who have spent anywhere between 3 months to several years working with different master craftsmen in the profession’s traditional ‘Tour de France’ – to bring Orée to life. 

Because laser cutting burnt the (decidedly miniscule) sides of the keyboard’s keys, thus apparently ruining the ‘overall aesthetic, Julien and his fastidious craftsmen developed a completely innovative production method incorporating hacked milling machinery, inherited savoir-faire and a few new tricks.

The resulting wooden keyboards, trackpads, speakers and phone cases have been described as “flawless.”  The individual grain and eventual patina on each wooden product bring personality to traditionally lifeless equipment, redefining what high-tech and ultra-modern can look and feel like.  And as soon as people feel it, they react.

“When we exhibited in London, we had 400 visitors a day coming to the stand,” Julien has said.  “We were showcasing three boards, one of which I had connected to an iPad so people could actually try it. It was quite fascinating to see the reactions. Basically, when people first saw it, they couldn’t believe it was a real keyboard and put forward one finger as if they were scared of it.  When they pressed on it and a letter appeared on the screen it provoked an amazing reaction in them.”

Until now, Orée has only been available at Harrods, Selfridges, Merci and Colette, and in the company’s homeland has earnt the nickname “the Hermes of high tech.” 

“In a world of technology gadgets that are highly impersonal, made of standard materials and designed for rapid obsolescence, we identified a growing aspiration for lasting personalized objects that would have a soul and put people in touch with the most natural material on earth,” explains Julien.

Hermes indeed.


Orée keyboards, trackpads, speakers and phone cases are now available online and in our Sydney and Melbourne pop-up shops.  

With help from Humans Invent and Les Numeriques