Charlotte Perriand

The redoubtable Ms. Perriand

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Above:  Charlotte Perriand at the Corbusier Studio in Paris. Photo by:  Pierre Jeanneret.

“There is one thing I never did, and that was flirt. That is, I didn’t ‘dabble’. I created and produced and my job was important. There was mutual respect, mutual recognition.” 

–Charlotte Perriand

charlotte perriand shelving pine aluminium walnut

Charlotte Perriand shelving from the Mexico House, Paris. Made from pine, impressed aluminium, walnut, and stained wood. Manufactured by Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé 152. Photo: Phillips


It cannot go unnoticed that many women Modernist designers have lived incredible lives. Forgoing the fact that forging a career at a time when very few women could break into the male-dominated (sometimes outright misogynist) world of architecture and design theirs is often a noteworthy story that goes beyond their design legacy. Charlotte Perriand is one such designer.

Charlotte Perriand young corbusier studio

Charlotte Perriand at the Corbusier Studio in Paris. Photo by: Pierre Jeanneret

charlotte perriand lounge chaise prototype corbusier 2072

Charlotte Perriand reclining on a prototype Chaise Longue (model no. 2072) 1930’s at the Corbusier Studio in Paris. Photo by: Pierre Jeanneret

Born in Paris in 1903 Perriand attended the École de L’union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs (School of the Central Union of Decorative Arts) to study furniture design. After graduating in 1925 she applied to work at Le Corbusier’s studio in 1927 and he, rather famously, rejected with the reply, “We don’t embroider cushions here.” Undaunted Perriand renovated her apartment with a large bar made of aluminum, glass, and chrome which was to be recreated at the Salon d’Automne. It was at this exhibition she caught the attention of Le Corbusier’s partner (and cousin) Pierre Jeanneret who would eventually convince Corbusier to offer her a position in his studio.

charlotte perriand tunisie bookcase

Charlotte Perriand ‘Tunisie’ bookcase designed for the student rooms of ‘La maison de la Tunisie’, University of Paris. Produced by Les Atleliers Jean Prouvé, 1953. Photo: Gagosian Gallery


In the 1930’s Perriand moved away from steel and chrome as they were proving increasingly too expensive to work with and began using more traditional materials like wood and cane and also incorporating handcrafted techniques into her design. These were said to inspired by the vernacular furniture of Savoie where her grandparents lived and which she visited often as a child.

charlotte perriand sideboard walnut enameled screen noguchi lamp eileen gray

Sideboard designed by Charlotte Perriand. Made from walnut and enameled wood it was produced by Steph Simon in 1958. Also shown an Eileen Gray wood block screen and Noguchi lamp. Photo: Gallerie Downtown


Moving up within the cultural circles of Paris Perriand travelled to Japan in 1940 as an advisor for industrial design to the Ministry for Trade and Industry. However in 1942 she was forced to leave Japan as an “undesirable alien” but a naval blockade prevented her from returning to France and was forced into exile in Vietnam. However life for Perriand would continue as it was here she met and married her second husband, Jacques Martin, and had a daughter, Pernette.

charlotte perriand old

Charlotte Perriand (1903 – 1999)


After the war Perriand returned to France and revived her career as an independent designer and continued her collaboration with Jean Prouvé. For the remaining 25 years Charlotte Perriand continued to work on some high profile projects and it is only within the past 10-15 years that she is finally receiving the full credit she deserves for many of the pieces that have been solely credited to Le Corbusier – which I don’t think he would have minded at all as despite his initial rejection of Perriand, they became lifelong friends.

On 27 October 1999 Charlotte Perriand died at the age of 96. A life well-lived.

charlotte perriand cp1 wall light 60s france

Wall lights (model cp1) designed by Charlotte Perriand. Made from enameled metal they were produced by Steph Simon, France in 1962.

charlotte perriand wardrobe corbusier 50s

Double wardrobe designed by Charlotte Perriand (with Le Corbusier). Made for Brazil House of the University of Paris 1957. Photo: Phillips

charlotte perriand nuage wall shelf oak enameled metal

Charlotte Perriands’s ‘Nuage’ wall mounted shelf. Made from oak and enameled metal it was produced by Steph Simon, Paris in 1962.

mauritania bench charlotte perriand mahogany cansado paris 50s

The Mauritania bench with storage designed by Charlotte Perriand. Made from Mahogany and designed for Cité Cansado, it was produced by Steph Simon, Paris in 1958. Photo: Phillips

tokyo lounge chair charlotte perriand oak 50s france

The ‘Tokyo’ lounge chair designed by Charlotte Perriand. Made from oak it was produced by Steph Simon, France in 1954. Photo: Ross Floyd for Wright

stool charlotte perriand bcb 60s wood

Stools designed by Charlotte Perriand. Originally made for Les Arcs ski resort, Savoie, France, they were first produced by BCB in 1965. Photo: Meribel Berger Gallery