Born in Paris on October 24, 1903, Charlotte Perriand graduated from the Ècole de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in 1925, and in the same year presented an initial collection of objects and furniture at the Paris Decorative Arts Exhibition. Two years later, she ended up in Le Corbusier’s studio, where she became involved in interior design research and development. It was during these years that she also began her collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret. The trio produced several pieces for the 1929 Salon d’Automne, including the tilt-back chair and the Grand Comfortarmchair, which would remain icons.
In addition to architecture and interior design, Perriand also cultivated a passion for photography, and in 1928, together with Herbst, Bourgeois, Fouquet, Sandoz, and Puiforcat, formed the avant-garde group L’unité de choc. Between 1933 and 1937, she produced the Art Brut and Objets Trovés series. During the same years, during the Spanish Civil War, Charlotte Perriand took part in demonstrations alongside the Republicans, frequenting the intellectual circles of the Communist Party, where she met the likes of Juan Miró and Pablo Picasso.
Charlotte Perriand’s personal and artistic formative years were particularly influenced by the many trips she had made since her youth. In the early 1930s, Perriand traveled to Moscow, then to Asia, and in 1941, she was in Japan, invited by the Japanese government to work as a consultant for the domestic production of industrial design. While in Japan, Perriand explored traditional techniques and production with materials such as straw and bamboo. This study led her to revisit her own designs, as shown by the chaise longue Tokyo, made of bamboo, and the tabouret berger, made of wood. After a sojourn in Vietnam (1942–1946), Perriand returned to Europe and worked on numerous interior design projects, collaborating with such prominent figures as Fernand Léger. Between the 1950s and 1960s, in collaboration with architect Le Corbusier, Perriand worked on the interiors of the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille.
Appreciated for her unmistakable style, the French designer and architect received multiple commissions, both public and private, and in 1961 she worked on the redesign of the interior of the United Nations Building in Geneva. Perriand’s designs and achievements reflect her innovative conception of living, marked by the need to have a thorough understanding of materials in relation to the way space is lived in and occupied.
Speaking of Perriand, it is impossible to overlook her passion for the mountains, which is also reflected in several of her works. Many of the French designer’s achievements, in fact, are dedicated to high-altitude living, sports and tourism: these are individual pieces of furniture, modular units of interiors on which entire buildings would later be developed.
In addition to her work, Perriand made her mark on history in her own way by virtue of her ability to assert herself in a world that at the time was deemed a preserve of the male gender. The designer managed to emerge and gain prominence in a field hostile to women, who were generally kept on the sidelines and excluded from any major projects. Aware of her role and social relevance, the French designer would not pass up on the chance for provocation, both in her private life and her work. Charlotte Perriand revolutionized the figure of women in the collective imagination, and put herself forward as a woman who worked on the home front, turning it into her place of production.
She died on October 27, 1999, in Paris.