Above: Promotional Image for Artifort showing several designed by Pierre Paulin. Photo: Paulin Archives
Born in Paris in 1927 to a French father and German-speaking Swiss mother, Pierre Paulin was a renowned and influential furniture and interior designer. After failing his Baccalauréat in high school, Paulin went to study to become a ceramist in Vallaurius on the French Rivera and, shortly thereafter, as a stone-carver and sculptor in Burgundy. However, after injuring his arm in fight the dream of becoming a sculptor had ended. This lead Paulin to the Ecole Camondo in Paris and upon graduating he found work with the Gascoin Company in Le Havre where he gained an interest in Scandinavian and Japanese design, the influence of which can be seen in Paulin’s early furniture designs.
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After gradating Pierre Paulin had his debut exhibition at the Salon des arts ménagers in 1953. His success of this exhibition landed him on the cover of the magazine Maison Française which lead Paulin to be noticed by the long-established Thonet Furniture company. Paulin’s work for Thonet, while refined and elegant, would become a far cry for the sinuous and curvilinear designs that went on to become his signature style. After four years of working with Thonet, and reportedly wanting to escape what he referred to as, “the tyranny of good taste”, Paulin found himself working for the Maastricht-based Dutch manufacturer Artifort. This long-standing partnership would lead to Pierre Paulin’s most innovative and influential work.
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In Paulin’s early days at Artifort he began experimenting with new matirials and forms. He would stretch swimwear and similar materials over traditionally made chairs. It was these experiments that lead to Paulin’s first design for Artifort, the internationally successful and iconic model 560 – or ‘Mushroom’ chair – considered today one of Artifort’s most successful pieces. Paulin spoke of the Mushroom chair saying, “It represented the first full expression of my abilities. I considered the manufacture of chairs to be rather primitive and I was trying to think up new processes.” Bolstered by this early success, and with the full support of his employer behind him. Paulin was now felt unstrained in what he could create and he pushed the boundaries of furniture form, color, and style. Paulin’s designs became rounder with comfortable and invited shapes in bold colors that were in perfect step for the ensuing decade becoming the stylist vanguard of the 1960’s.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s he was invited to decorate and furnish several important places. He designed the furnishing and spaces for the private living, dining, smoking, and exhibition rooms of the Elysée’s private apartments of Pompidou in 1971. In 1983 he furnished the office of François Mitterrand. And in 1979 Paulin launched his own consultancy working for Calor, Ericsson, Renault, Saviem, Tefal, Thomson, and Airbus. In 1994 Pierre Paulin retired to Cévennes in southern France but he would still continue designing furniture. Pierre Paulin passed away in June of 2009. Whether it is for his early designs working in the classic post War modern style or for his tremendous body of work for Arifort – with their clean lines, sensual feel, and shapes that cradled the body – Paulin’s legacy as a an brilliant and uncompromising designer will endure.
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