The formidably talented Charlotte Perriand has left a lasting mark on how we think about furniture today.
Charlotte Perriand studied furniture design for five years. Finding the beaux art tradition a complete bore, she turned to the emerging 'machine age' style of modern design captured in the bicycles and cars, on the roads of France.
When a friend introduced Perriand to the work of Le Corbusier, she felt as though she had finally found a kindred spirit; someone who had the same 'spirit of enquiry'. One of the early modernists, Le Corbusier designed furniture that was stark and highly functional. Like Perriand, he believed that good design, for the masses, would improve society.
Charlotte Perriand headed to his studio as quickly as she could, to apply for a job. She was quickly shown the door with these scathing words from Corbusier 'we don't embroider cushions here.'
Corbusier soon regretted his prejudice when he saw the chrome and glass Bar that Perriand created for the Salon d'Automne. He apologised and invited her back as one of his many underpaid assistants.
Perriand had great success with a series of furniture with chrome steel frames. Her ambition grew over time and she soon began experimenting with different materials such as wood and cane, creating beautiful, functional pieces that everyday people could buy.
In the 1940s, she spent time in Japan as a industrial design advisor. She spent the following years, during WW2, in Vietnam, learning weaving and wood working techniques. This Eastern influence can be seen in some of her later pieces, where she used materials such as bamboo.
All in all, Charlotte Perriand brought a humanitarian presence to industrial modern design. Her rich legacy of experimentation and risk taking has influenced the work of the many designers who have proceeded her.