How an unknown embroiderer created iconic furniture for Le Corbusier: Charlotte Perriand
How an unknown embroiderer created iconic furniture for Le Corbusier: Charlotte Perriand

She created all the furniture that became the masterpieces of Le Corbusier - and he sent her at first to embroider pillows. She studied traditional technology in Vietnam and made armchairs from metal tubes. Her creations were kidnapped, glorified and elevated to a cult …

Charlotte Perrian in her youth

Charlotte lived for almost a century - until her last days, remaining the same brave, decisive and original. She found the heyday and death of modernism, survived two world wars, worked with Le Corbusier, never remaining forever in the shadow of a genius. Her parents worked in the fashion industry in Paris, and Charlotte was no stranger to design as such from a young age. As a child, she was sent to her grandparents who lived in the villages - a simple rural life, austere, but not devoid of charm, furniture, the joy of work were imprinted in her mind and already in maturity became an inspiration for a new stage of creativity.

References to folk art have always remained in Charlotte's works

She was only twenty-four when she, with a school of applied arts behind her, came to take a job at the design firm Le Corbusier, which he organized with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. The famous architect looked at her and grumbled that they were not embroidering pillows here, and that women were not suitable for anything else. Charlotte left with nothing. The next day Le Corbusier went to one of the furniture exhibitions in search of "content" for his project and new ideas. Suddenly, among familiar and boring things, he saw interesting projects of a designer unknown to him - steel, simplicity and purity of lines, confident geometry … “Perrian? Who is he? I want to meet him! " Imagine Le Corbusier's surprise when it turned out that the talented young designer Perriand was that daring girl whom he refused to hire yesterday!

Refuge Tonneau skiers' house, a project by Charlotte Perrian and Pierre Jeanneret

But Pierre was fascinated not only by Charlotte's creations, but also by herself - energetic, fit, with a short haircut and extravagant homemade beads made of bearings … Charlotte was a recognized style icon, a good athlete, inquisitive nature and an incorrigible optimist. A real passion flared up between her and Pierre. Their love and creative union lasted ten years.

Interior designed by Charlotte Perrian Interior designed by Charlotte Perrian Interior designed by Charlotte Perrian

The three of them worked on projects of a new environment for modern people. Their creations are signed with three names, however, according to Charlotte's memoirs and information from family archives, it was she who was the creator of the very iconic furniture, which for many years later was associated only with Le Corbusier. Today, justice has triumphed, and many projects of those years have been reissued under the name of Charlotte Perrian. Even those who have never heard of it know this furniture - an armchair with a metal "frame", a luxurious chaise longue (in the famous advertising photo, the creator herself is reclining on it), strict chairs and stools …

The famous chaise longue designed by Charlotte for Le Corbusier Armchair designed by Charlotte Perrian

Charlotte loved sports - alpine skiing, mountaineering, long hikes. She also attracted Pierre Jeanneret to her walks. Wandering through the forests around Fontainebleau, lovers sought inspiration and invented new forms of art. They collected compositions from the found twigs, pebbles, shells and animal bones in order to photograph them later. This meditation practice they acquired ar brut - many years before the term was re-invented and endowed with a completely different meaning.In her youth, Charlotte glorified metal, calling it the basis of modern design, and considered those who refused to use innovative technologies to be simply villains. She adored this metallic precision, clarity, power of flare, absence and at the same time sophistication of color … But, partly as a result of experiments with natural materials, partly - reflecting on her childhood experience, Charlotte gradually began to work with wood, which most modern designers simply rejected.

Interior for the Air France office

Despite the complex nature of Le Corbusier, their joint work ended on a friendly note. Charlotte has outgrown the steel pipes and hard lines that made her famous. She wanted to create something warmer, caressing, to make chairs, which, in her own words, "hug and charm." Charlotte turned to organic style - closer to nature, diverse in terms of forms and materials, more comfortable for humans. In a sense, in turning to more sensual forms, Charlotte sought reassurance - she was agonizingly disturbed by the spread of fascism, and her worst expectations were justified.

Charlotte considered herself more of an architect than a designer, although she did not complete many building projects

In 1940, she left for Tokyo at the invitation of the Japanese government to study the experience of Asian artisans. And then World War II broke out. Charlotte couldn't go home. After a short wandering, she managed to settle in Vietnam. There she met the French diplomat Jacques Martin and became his wife, and then the mother of their common daughter Pernett. Subsequently, Pernette Perrian and her husband Jacques Barsac became Charlotte's biographers and did much to preserve and popularize her heritage. After the war, Charlotte worked mainly with wood - both because she was fascinated by Asian furniture technologies, and because such furniture was more accessible than extravagant projects from metal. She wanted new, beautiful furniture created with warmth and love to appear in the homes of ordinary people.

Unlike many modernists, Charlotte Perrian worked a lot with wood

Charlotte's most ambitious work "free floating" is a ski resort in the Alps in France. The complex opened on Christmas Day 1969 and was sorely lacking in staff. Charlotte herself volunteered to help the maids - to tidy the rooms, make the beds … In addition, it was important for her to see how people settle inside her creation, how they use space, whether they are comfortable or not. But all doubts about the design disappeared as soon as Charlotte saw that the departing guests … were stealing furniture from the room!

At the age of ninety, Charlotte Perrian wrote memoirs - ironic, full of cheerful and sparkling humor. Perhaps a long and vibrant, eventful and adventurous life is Charlotte Perrian's most important design project.

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