Charlotte Perriand

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Charlotte Perriand
Charlotte Perriand in Japan, 1954.
Born (1903-10-24)October 24, 1903
Paris, France
Died October 27, 1999(1999-10-27) (aged 96)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Alma mater Ecole de L'Union Centrale de Arts Decoratifs
Occupation Architect
Spouse(s) Percy Kilner Scholefield

Charlotte Perriand (24 October 1903 – 27 October 1999) was a French architect and designer. Her work aimed to create functional living spaces in the belief that better design helps in creating a better society. In her article "L’Art de Vivre" from 1981 she states "The extension of the art of dwelling is the art of living—living in harmony with man’s deepest drives and with his adopted or fabricated environment." [1]

Early life[edit]

Perriand was born in Paris, France to a tailor and a seamstress. In 1920, she enrolled in the Ecole de L'Union Centrale de Arts Decoratifs ("School of the Central Union of Decorative Arts") to study furniture design from 1920 until 1925. One of her noted teachers during this period was Art Deco interior designer Henri Rapin.[2]


Siège pivotant (1927), Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

After applying to work at Le Corbusier's studio in 1927 and being famously rejected with the reply "We don’t embroider cushions here", Perriand renovated her apartment into a room with a large bar made of aluminum glass and chrome. She recreated this for the Salon d’Automne, gaining notice from Le Corbusier's partner, Pierre Jeanneret, convincing Corbusier to offer her a job in furniture design. There, she was in charge of their interiors work and promoting their designs through a series of exhibitions.[3]

In 1928 she designed three chairs from Corbusier's principles. Each chair had a chromium-plated tubular steel base. At Corbuiser's request a chair was made for conversation: the B301 sling back chair, another for relaxation: the LC2 Grand Comfort chair, and the last for sleeping: the B306 chaise longue.


In the 1930s, Perriand’s focus became more egalitarian and populist. Along with designing furniture and living spaces, she was also involved with many leftist organizations such as the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires, and Maison de la Culture. She also collaborated with the Jeunes in 1937 and help to found The Union des Artistes Modernes.[4] In her designs from that period, rather than using chrome, which proved to be expensive, she began to use traditional materials such as wood and cane, which were more affordable. She also used some handcrafted techniques which she displayed at the 1935 Brussels International Exhibition.[5] Many of her designs from this period were inspired from the vernacular furniture of Savoie where her grandparents lived—a place she visited often as a child.


In 1940 Perriand traveled to Japan as an official advisor for industrial design to the Ministry for Trade and Industry. While in Japan she advised the government on raising the standards of design in Japanese industry to develop products for the West. On her way back to Europe she was detained and forced into Vietnamese exile because of the war. Throughout her exile she studied woodwork and weaving and also gained much influence from Eastern design. The Book of Tea which she read at this time also had a major impact on her work and she referenced it throughout the rest of her career.[6]

In the period after World War II (1939–45) there was increased interest in using new methods and materials for mass production of furniture. Manufacturers of materials such as formica, plywood, aluminum, and steel sponsored the salons of the Société des artistes décorateurs. Designers who exhibited their experimental work at the salons in this period included Perriand, Pierre Guariche, René-Jean Caillette, Jean Prouvé, Joseph-André Motte, Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq.[7] Charlotte Perriand took part in the design of the ski resorts of Les Arcs in Savoie. In the 1950s she designed for various corporate service spaces. Perriand's main goal as a designer was to develop affordable, functional, and appealing furniture for the masses.

Some of her work includes:

  • Meribel ski resort
  • The League of Nations building in Geneva
  • the remodeling of Air France's offices in London, Paris, and Tokyo

Charlotte Perriand collaborated with Jean Prouvé through the rest of her career.[citation needed]

The Chaise Longue[edit]

Perriand was familiar with Thonet's bentwood chairs and used them often not only for inspiration but also in her designs. Their chaise longue, for this reason, bears some similarity to Thonet's bentwood rocker although it doesn't rock. The chair has double tubing at the sides and a lacquered sheet metal base. The legs unintentionally resemble horse hooves. Perriand took this and ran with it, finding pony skin from Parisian furriers to cover the chaise. Perriand wrote in a memoir, "While our chair designs were directly related to the position of the human body...they were also determined by the requirements of architecture, setting, and prestige".[8] With a chair that reflects the human body (thin frame, cushion/head) and has decorative qualities (fabrication, structural qualities) they accomplished this goal. It wasn't instantly popular due to its formal simplicity but as modernism rose, so did the chair's popularity.

Personal life[edit]

In 1926 Perriand married her first husband, Percy Kilner Scholefield, and converted their attic apartment into a 'machine age' interior. In 1930 they separated and she moved to Montparnasse.

She died three days after her 96th birthday.


  • 1927 Is interviewed by Le Corbusier on an October afternoon. After a brief glance at her drawings she is rejected and Le Corbusier bids her farewell with the dry comment "We don't embroider cushions here." She leaves her card with him regardless, and later that year invites Le Corbusier to see her installation at the Bar sous le Toit filled with tubular steel furniture at the Salon d'Automne. Her creation, Nuage Bookshelf, impresses him resulting in an invitation by Le Corbusier to join his studio at 35, rue de Sèvres to design furniture and interiors.[9]
  • 1928 Designs three chairs with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (the LC2 Grand Confort armchair, the B301 reclining chair and the B306 chaise longue) for the studio’s architectural projects.
  • 1929 Creates a model modern apartment in glass and tubular steel to be exhibited as Equipment d’Habitation (Living Equipment) at the Salon d’Automne.
  • 1930 Travels to Moscow for a Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM) conference and designs fixtures for the Pavilion Suisse at the Cité Universitaire in Paris.
  • 1932 Starts work on the Salvation Army headquarters project in Paris.
  • 1933 Travels to Moscow and Athens to participate in CIAM conferences.
  • 1934 Designs the furniture and interior fixtures for Le Corbusier’s new apartment on rue Nungesser-et-Coli.
  • 1937 Leaves Le Corbusier’s studio to collaborate with the artist Fernand Léger on a pavilion for the 1937 Paris Exhibition and to work on a ski resort in Savoie.
  • 1939 When World War II begins, she leaves Savoie to return to Paris and to design prefabricated buildings with Jean Prouvé and Pierre Jeanneret.
  • 1940 Sails for Japan where she has been appointed as an advisor on industrial design to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
  • 1942 Forced to leave Japan as an "undesirable alien" but is trapped by the naval blockade and spends the rest of the war in Vietnam, where she marries her second husband, Jacques Martin, and gives birth to a daughter, Pernette.
  • 1946 Returns to France and revives her career as an independent designer and her collaboration with Jean Prouvé.
  • 1947 Works with Fernand Léger on the design of Hôpital Saint-Lo.
  • 1950 Designs a prototype kitchen for Le Corbusier’s Unité d'Habitation apartment building in Marseille.
  • 1951 Organises the French section of the Triennale di Milano.
  • 1953 Collaborates on design of the Hotel de France in Conakry, Guinea
  • 1957 Designs the League of Nations building for the United Nations in Geneva.
  • 1959 Works with Le Corbusier and the Brazilian architect Lucio Costa on the interior of their Maison du Brésil at the Cité Universitaire in Paris.
  • 1960 Collaborates with Ernő Goldfinger on the design of the French Tourist Office on London’s Piccadilly.
  • 1962 Begins a long-running project to design a series of ski resorts in Savoie.
  • 1985 Retrospective of her work at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
  • 1998 Publication of her autobiography, Une Vie de Création, and presentation of a retrospective at the Design Museum in London.
  • 1999 Dies in Paris.


  1. ^ Mcleod
  2. ^ Postiglione, Gennaro (2004). One Hundred Houses for One Hundred European Architects of the Twentieth Century. Cologne: Taschen. p. 308. ISBN 978-3822863121. 
  3. ^ Hinchman
  4. ^ Mcleod
  5. ^ steel to bamboo
  6. ^ Mcleod
  7. ^ "Les Salon des Artistes Décorateurs". Demisch Danant. 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2015-04-11. 
  8. ^ Hinchman
  9. ^


  • Charlotte Perriand by Elisabeth Vedrenne. Assouline, November 2005. ISBN 2-84323-661-4.
  • Charlotte Perriand: A Life of Creation by Charlotte Perriand. Monacelli, November 2003. ISBN 1-58093-074-3.
  • Charlotte Perriand: An Art of Living by Mary McLeod. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. December 2003. ISBN 0-8109-4503-7.
  • Charlotte Perriand and Photography: A Wide-Angle Eye by Jacques Barsac. Five Continents, February 2011. ISBN 978-88-7439-548-4.
  • Charlotte Perriand: Livre de Bord by Arthur Ruegg. Basel: Birkhauser (Princeton Architectural Press); 1 edition, December 2004. ISBN 3-7643-7037-8.
  • Charlotte Perriand: Modernist Pioneer by Charlotte Benton. Design Museum, October 1996. ISBN 1-872005-99-3.
  • Charlotte Perriand: Un Art D'Habiter, 1903-1959 by Jacques Barsac. Norma Editions, 2005. ISBN 978-2-909283-87-6.
  • Die Liege LC4 von Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret und Charlotte Perriand (Design-Klassiker by Volker Fischer. Basel: Birkhauser. ISBN 3-7643-6820-9.
  • From Tubular Steel to Bamboo: Charlotte Perriand, the Migrating Chaise-longue and Japan by Charlotte Benton. Journal of Design History VOL.11, No.1 (1998)
  • Hinchman, Mark: History of Furniture. New York: Fairchild Books, 2009. 493-96. Print.
  • Barsac, Jacques: Charlotte Perriand: Complete Works. Volume 2: 1940–1955. Zurich: Scheidegger & Spiess, 2015. ISBN 978-3-85881-747-1.

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