French furniture designer Charlotte Perriand (1903–1999) was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. She is often mentioned alongside Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, with whom she worked for the majority of her career.
At the age of twenty-four Charlotte Perriand approached Le Corbusier and asked to join the designer’s famed studio. Le Corbusier famously turned her away, stating “we don’t embroider cushions here.” Months later, after seeing her Bar Sous Le Toi at the Salon D’Automne exhibition in Paris, he apologized and hired her on.
Perriand worked for him for ten years, collaborating with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret on numerous projects, most notably a set of tubular steel chairs that would become one of her most well-known designs. (Wright)
Below are some of Perriand’s most famous pieces, all of which are, in my opinion, design masterpieces.
1928, Swiveling Armchair
The Swiveling Armchair (or Revolving Armchair) was one of Perriand’s first designs working under Le Corbusier. As previously mentioned, this tubular chair is one of Perriand’s most renown designs. She designed this “softer” office swivel chair in 1928 after being hired by Le Corbusier the year before.
Perriand softened the rigidity of the tubular frame with a stuffed cushion resting on coil springs. Because the frame and the upholstery required considerable handwork, the chair was relatively expensive and manufactured in limited numbers. (MoMA)
1953, Ombre Chair
Designed in 1953, and first revealed in Tokyo, at the “Synthèse des Arts” exposition in 1955, the Ombre chair was inspired by traditional Japanese wood-working techniques, and is an emblematic design of this time period and one of Perriand’s most celebrated works.
1954, Tokyo Bench
Perriand’s Tokyo Bench was designed in 1954 and manufactured by Takashimaya, in Tokyo, Japan. The bench was also one of Perriand’s featured peices at the “Synthèse des Arts” exposition in 1955, as can be seen in the image above.
Along with the Maison du Brésil bed, it is one of my personal favorite pieces from Perriand’s extensive collection of designs!
“Personally, I shared Sori Yanagi’s views on avoiding decorative excess while creating practical items.” (Charlotte Perriand, A Life of Creation p. 146)
1955, Forme Libre Table
Designed by Perriand around 1955 in France, the “Table Forme Libre” was manufactured by French carpenter André Chetaille.
Charlotte Perriand met André Chetaille (1906–1978) at the time she was working on the competition for the University Housing at Antony, in 1950–51.
He became her favorite carpenter who realised her most beautiful wood creations. (Charlotte Perriand, Christie’s)
1959, Maison du Brésil Bed
In 1959, Perriand designed the “Maison du Brésil” bed in France as part of an ensemble of “student room” furniture designs for the Cité Universitaire in Paris.
Built in a spirit of postwar idealism, this compact and versatile space represented a modernist blueprint for independent living and an investment in citizens of the future.
It was one of ninety-five such study bedrooms designed for Brazilian students at the Cité Universitaire in Paris. The university offered residence halls for different nationalities set in a landscaped park on the site of a former military base, with shared dining, cultural, and recreational facilities.
Perriand was brought in to develop a modular scheme for the interiors of the Maison du Brésil, a building designed by one of her longtime collaborators, the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, and the Brazilian architect Lúcio Costa. (MoMA)
Other notable Perriand works that should be mentioned are her “Tilting Lounge Chair model B 306”, designed alongisde Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, as well as her signature bookcases, amoung which the “Nuage” book-case and bookshelf.