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Makers: Charlotte Perriand

Posted by George Sims on

Charlotte Perriand

Charlotte Perriand’s contribution to twentieth century furniture design is significant.

Sadly, somebody else gets a lot of the credit for her work.

Le Corbusier furniture is as popular today as it ever was. There’s good reason for that. It’s brilliant.

Only problem is, the man it's named after played very little part in its creation (he is alleged to have described the process of designing the furniture for his buildings as “le blah, blah, blah”).

That was left to a young and ambitious designer with a keen interest in new materials and modes of production—one Charlotte Perriand.

Of course, there is a certain irony in starting an article that celebrates someone’s creative endeavour with an account of how their famous colleague took the plaudits. 

So we’ll leave it there and head straight into a brief look at the key information you should know when shopping for Perriand furniture. 

Le Corbusier recliner

Where to Buy Charlotte Perriand Furniture

A handful of Perriand’s most famous designs are still produced by Italian furniture makers Cassina.

In the UK, Aram, the Conran Shop and Chaplins may also be able to meet your need if you really want to find something that’s never been used before. 

Vintage Perriand furniture can be sourced from the usual suspects, but don’t expect to stumble across a gem on eBay or Gumtree.

Her work has held its value very well so you’re more likely to find yourself digging deep on platforms such as Pamono and 1st Dibs.

Sadly, we haven’t sourced much Perriand during our time, but if you are on the hunt then we’d obviously like it if you checked our vintage furniture collection.

You might also want to drop in with the one of the other excellent east London vintage furniture stores that we are happy to recommend.

Where was Charlotte Perriand From? 

Perriand was born in Paris in 1903. She died in Paris in 1999.

While most of her career was spent in France, she also had a six-year stint as a design and production advisor in Japan during the 1940’s.

The time she spent in Asia had a telling influence on her output.

If you’re feeling the vibe then you might want to have a look at this bamboo reincarnation of her famous recliner

Charlotte Perriand interior design

What did Charlotte Perriand do?

Perriand was, like so many of the greats, an architect and designer. She was also a very effective interior designer whose themes have a purity and a sense of purpose that sets them apart. 

Judging from what we’ve read, we should add 'persevering in the face of some ridiculous prejudice' to that list. 

Suffice it to say that she thrived in a man’s world and some of the comments aimed at her by her famous collaborator, Le Corbusier, would make your skin crawl. 

As an example, he allegedly replied to her initial application to work in his studio with the words: “we don’t embroider cushions here”.

When she came back from Japan, he apparently told her that “I do not think it would be interesting, now that you’re a mother … to oblige you to be present in the atelier”.

But we also get the sense that such comments would either have motivated her or that they would have fallen on deaf ears. 

Her use of materials (she was at the forefront of working with metal and designing for mass production), shapes and colour identify her as a maverick whose spirit could not be dampened. 

Where was Charlotte Perriand Furniture Made? 

A lot of the early Le Corbusier collection to which she and Pierre Jeanneret (cousin of Le Corbusier and anecdotally Perriand’s lover) contributed so heavily, was made by German furniture giants Thonet.

Today, these are produced by Italian firm Cassina. 

Her designs were also produced in France by the likes of Steph Simon.

Perriand LC furniture

What is Charlotte Perriand Furniture Made From? 

The early, and arguably most famous designs, were made from tubular steel and are prime examples of furniture made for ‘the machine age’. 

This means she should be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Breuer and Mies van der Rohe.

As her career progressed, she moved on to more natural materials (she was not alone here and some commentators have argued that this shift was caused by an aversion to the literal machinations of war) so expect to see solid wood (pine, beech, mahogany) and soft finishes like caning.

How to Identify Charlotte Perriand Furniture

You’re probably less likely to see stamps, stickers or branding here than you might do with other designers. 

However, some of the Le Corbusier range will feature an etching on the frame (this may only apply to newer models).

What is Charlotte Perriand Most Famous For?

Sadly, in furniture terms at least, she is probably best known for her partnership with the Jeannerets.

However, those in the know celebrate not only her pioneering spirit but also the brilliance and simplicity of her design.

Les Arcs, a ski resort in Savoie, France, is arguably her most recognisable architectural feat.

Perriand LC2 armchair

What’s Charlotte Perriand’s Most Famous Design?

The most obvious answer is one of either the LC2, LC4 or LC7 designs. If we had to pick one, it would probably be the LC2 (above).

For what it’s worth, these are extremely comfortable chairs and if you have the space for one you’d never regret it.

However, that’s not to say we think they are her best.

Some of her 1950’s benches, which have a distinctly Japanese feel, are very, very cool.

Is Charlotte Perriand Furniture Valuable?

Yes. Sometimes to the point of silliness.

We’ve seen her wooden stools go for north of £8,000. In fact, it’s the more rustic pieces that tend to fetch the highest sums on the seconds market 

This may have something to do with the fact that it is her name, and hers alone, that is attached to them.

We can see why, given how much credit others have received for her work, collectors and enthusiasts would prefer to invest here.

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