Culture

Andrée Putman, chic French design in 6 works

The name Putman alone evokes a certain idea of French chic. A chic that is not flashy, but sober and elegant. Andrée Putman is a singular figure in French architecture and design, immediately recognisable by her long figure, her asymmetrical haircut, and her always impeccable look. She left behind a remarkable body of work, marked essentially by her enthusiasm for interior architecture and a pronounced taste for discreet refinement that leaves nothing to chance. A look back at a career that was built up over time, through six emblematic works.

Andrée Putman
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Born into a bourgeois family of bankers and notable people, Andrée Putman (1925-2013)initially set her sights on music, encouraged by her pianist mother. However, the rigidity of classical musical education curbed her enthusiasm. However, something in her childhood gave her a taste for beautiful things, especially architecture. As a child, she spent a large part of her summers at the Abbaye de Fontenay, a magnificent Cistercian complex bought by her grandfather in 1906. Later, she would explain that she was “nourished” by the geometry of the place, and in particular the play of light.

Starting from nothing, except for a 1st Prize in Harmony from the Conservatoire, Andrée Putman gradually developed a passion for painting, architecture and decoration. She began working as a journalist specialising in “home” and “decoration” for several magazines, including Femina and Elle. In 1958, she became a stylist for the Prisunic chain of shops and married the collector, publisher and art critic Jacques Putman. Through him, she met artists such as Pierre Alechinsky, Alberto Giacometti and Niki de Saint Phalle

In 1971, she co-founded the company Créateurs et Industriels with businessman Didier Grumbach, and introduced young talented designers such as Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. Seven years later, she created her own company, Ecart, which made a name for itself by re-editing design furniture from the 1930s (René Herbst, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Pierre Chareau, Eileen Gray, etc.). Then she made a fundamental shift towards space design: in 1984, she designed the Morgans Hotel in New York. She gained international fame and her career took off. On this occasion, she asserted certain principles of the “Putman style”: the famous black and white checkerboard, simple lines, pure structures and minimalist but classy decoration.

For the Morgans Hotel in 1984, Andrée Putman imagined and designed bathrooms with simple porcelain stoneware laid in a black and white checkerboard pattern, an inexpensive material. A bold move that launched her signature. On either side of the bathtub are two metal basins, like a boat cabin.
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View of the Morgans boutique-hotel, designed by Andrée Putman. For the Morgans, she invented the concept of a boutique-hotel. The floor is made of porcelain stoneware in a checkerboard pattern. A motif that she uses throughout the hotel: on the carpets, on the bed rails, as a frieze in the corridors and even in the lift.
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Morgans Hotel, interior design by Andrée Putman. In 2008, the decorator and interior designer once again modernised the hotel, remaining faithful to the minimalist spirit of the 1980s design.
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Interior of the Morgans Hotel, design by Studio Putman
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A suite at Morgan’s Hotel in New York, interior design by Andrée Putman, 1984
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In 2009, Andrée Putman designed the “Morgans” chair for the American brand EMECO. This chair was specially designed for the Morgans Hotel in New York during its renovation in 2008, 25 years after the hotel’s opening.
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After the Morgans adventure, Andrée Putman went on to work on a series of interior architecture projects: she designed hotels, including Le Lac in Japan, the Im Wasserturm in Germany and the Sheraton at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. She also designed boutiques for the brands Balenciaga, Bally and Lagerfeld. In 1984, she designed the office furniture for Jack Lang, then Minister of Culture. From 1983 to 1990, Andrée Putman embarked on a major challenge: the creation of all the interior fittings and furniture for the Lainé warehouse, a former industrial building completed in 1824 and which houses the Centre d’arts plastiques contemporains de Bordeaux (CAPC).

Mezzanine of the CAPC musée d’Art contemporain de Bordeaux, interior design: Andrée Putman, 1983-1990. Floor lamps, floor lights and waxed concrete. Andrée Putman designed furniture of great timeless sobriety, in keeping with the beauty of the place
Arthur Péquin, 2015.
Furniture for the CAPC in the Atrium of the museum, design Andrée Putman/ECART. Teak benches, meeting tables, Japanese hanging lamps, carpet, 1990. Mallet-Stevens chairs, 1984 edition.
Arthur Péquin, 2015.
Bibliothèque simple, 1984, design: Andrée Putman/ECART for the CAPC musée d’Art contemporain de Bordeaux.
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Media library of the CAPC musée d’Art contemporain de Bordeaux, design and furniture: Andrée Putma/ECART, 1990. Consultation desks, desk lamps and floor lamps. Andrée Putman has created a minimalist design where rigour, elegance and emotion reign.
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With the interior design of the CAPC, Andrée Putman has shown great artistic intelligence in designing furniture in keeping with the spirit of a very special place. In 1993, Air France naturally thought of her to renovate all the elements making up the interior of the Concorde. After all, if Andrée Putman embodies a certain daring elegance “à la française”, the Concorde represents the jewel in the crown of French aeronautics. The two convey an art of living and are made to get along.

Interior of the Concorde, design: Andrée Putman. The trademark Putman style is clearly recognisable with the black and white colour scheme on the floor.
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For Concorde, Andrée Putman did the “Putman”: elegance, sobriety, attention to detail, timelessness. Values that correspond well to the Air France style.
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Complete set of crockery for the Concorde created by André Putman for one person, mid-1990s.
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In 1997, Andrée Putman created the studio that bears her name, specialising in interior architecture, of course, but also in design and scenography. In 2000, Andrée Putman showed another facet of her protean talent. For the French goldsmith and tableware company Christofle, she designed the Vertigo line of cutlery and objects. A design in her image: a simple and pure aesthetic combined with the utilitarian function of the objects. She completed her collaboration with Christofle in 2005 with a line of jewellery, called Idole, for which she once again created a “twisted” ring for the Vertigo line. According to Christofle: “a strong idea of Parisian chic, totally timeless but always in tune with the times “.

Vertigo silver-plated centrepiece, Christofle, design by Andrée Putman.
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Silver-plated metal table top, Vertigo line, design: André Putman for Christofle.
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Silver-plated metal tray, Vertigo line, design: André Putman for Christofle. Silver-plated metal salt and pepper shakers, Vertigo line, design: Andrée Putman for Christofle.
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Necklace from the Idole collection by Christofle. Design: Andrée Putman. Idole is a refined collection of solid silver jewellery and accessories developed around the iconic ring created by André Putman.
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Andrée Putman continues to carry out major projects. In 2001, she signed the conversion of the former 19th century Pershing mansion into a delightful contemporary boutique hotel, Pershing Hall. Behind the building’s Second Empire façade, the hotel houses a vast interior courtyard with a 30-metre high plant wall designed by Patrick Blanc. Andrée Putman revamped the place to make it a quiet and discreet hotel during the day, but lively in the evening with a slightly kitschy lounge atmosphere. She creates atmospheres that are both hushed and vibrant. The decoration of the rooms remains cosy and contemporary for a soothing atmosphere.

The famous green wall of the patio of the Pershing mansion, entirely renovated by Andrée Putman in 2001. Unfortunately, the place will disappear to become an office building.
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Interior view of the Pershing Hall hotel. Chic and refined spaces designed by Andrée Putman.
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Bar of the Pershing Hall Hotel, design and layout: Andrée Putman.
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Room at the Pershing Hall Hotel. Furnishing and furniture: Andrée Putman.
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A bathtub with ball feet, a classic that Andrée Putman created for Pershing Hall. Here, the photograph is from a flat in San Sebastian (2005).
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In 2008, Andrée Putman returned to herfirst love: music. She designed a magnificent piano for Pleyel, the oldest French piano brand, Voie Lactée. It is truly a unique luxury object that blends the worlds of classical music and design. A love match between classicism and modernism. Since 2007, Olivia Putman, Andrée’s daughter, has been at the helm of Studio Putman and continues to keep the family DNA alive: the search for great refinement, a sense of detail, work on light, and awareness of the intrinsic beauty of simple materials…

Voie Lactée piano, Andrée Putman design, 2008. The exterior & interior finish is a glossy black lacquer. There is an unlimited series and a limited series of 8 pieces for a luxurious version using rare materials.
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Voie Lactée piano, design by Andrée Putman for Pleyel, 2008. The inside of the lid reveals a hand-painted midnight blue and indigo Milky Way with a constellation of stars and the cardinal points. Black and charcoal grey lacquered lid stick and music stand.
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Voie Lactée piano, design by Andrée Putman for Pleyel, 2008. A work of art…
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François Boutard