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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Charlotte Perriand

When 24-year-old Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) went to Le Corbusier's studio in 1927 and asked for a job, he reportedly showed her the door and said, "We don't embroider cushions here." According to the story, he was forced to eat his words and ask her to come to work for him when he saw the rooftop bar Perriand had created in glass, steel and aluminum.

Perriand was born in Paris, the daughter of a tailor and a haute couture seamstress, and trained at l'École de l'Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs. She married a year after graduation and moved with her husband to a small rented apartment, which she gutted and turned into a Machine Age marvel. That marriage ended in 1930.

With Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in 1928, she designed three chairs: the LC-2 Grand Confort armchair, the B301 reclining chair and the B306 chaise longue.

Publicity shots of the chaise featured Perriand with crossed legs wearing a shockingly short skirt for the day and a necklace of industrial ball bearings.

An even more provocative shot showed her on the chaise with the necklace lying broken on the floor.

A liberated Perriand

Before hiring Perriand, Le Corbusier had furnished his exhibitions and buildings with ready-made furniture, such as that manufactured by Thonet or Maples. While working for Le Corbusier, Perriand was responsible for overseeing production of prototypes, organizing exhibitions and supervising the installation of interior furnishings for Le Corbusier's buildings.

In 1929 she was one of the founding members of the Union des artistes modernes and organized their first exhibition in 1930. By 1935 she was exploring her own ideas in interior design, and her association with Le Corbusier ended in 1937, although she continued to collaborate with Jeanneret. Her preference in materials, by this time, had turned from metal and glass to wood. She later collaborated with Jean Prouvé, Georges Blanchon and Fernand Léger.

In 1940 Perriand was invited to Japan to act as an advisor on industrial art. Because of World War II, she was asked to leave in 1942, but the naval blockade forced her to remain in Viet Nam for the duration of the war, where she married her second husband and gave birth to their daughter Pernette.

When she returned to France in 1946, she revived her solo career, but she was persuaded to collaborate with Le Corbusier on his Unité d’Habitation apartment building in Marseilles. One of her most important non-collaborative commissions were the conference rooms for the United Nations office in Geneva.

Perriand described her working life as "a sincere and constant search for a modern living art."

From, and

Ventaglio table

Freeform table

Bench with storage

Petalo tables


Nuage Bahut cabinet


Leather stack chairs

Wall mount desk

Bar stools


  1. your posts on designer profiles make such interesting reads...i come back to eahc one and re read them whenever that u are posting them

  2. Wow, found your blog today, really inspiring. I will come back;)

  3. @Sudha: That's such a kind thing for you to say. I'm glad you enjoy them that much.

  4. @Cinna: Welcome to the blog. I'm always happty to hear from new readers. I hope you come back often and enjoy what you find each time.

  5. What a bold woman!

    Today's my blogiversary, come on over because I'm hosting a giveaway! My first-ever ;)

  6. A designer as interesting as her designs. I'd try that freedom thing but I'm afraid I'd be locked up!

  7. @Tanya: Can you imagine the moxie it took to walk into Le Corbusier's office and demand a job, especially at age 24? I love this woman.

  8. My name is Dana, and I'm a researchaholic: After using the word "moxie," I was curious as to its origin, so I looked it up. Turns out my using it to describe Perriand's actions in 1927 is a bit anachronistic, because the word comes from the name of a soft drink that was introduced in 1930.

    I need to get out more. I know. ;)

  9. @DearHelenHartman: I'm so much older than you are that if I tried it, I'd be shot.

  10. @auseuildelavie: And thank you for the kind words. I hope you come back to read my posts often.