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.
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.
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).
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.
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 “.
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.
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…