Culture

Maison Jansen: Glamorous furniture icon

The name JANSEN will always be associated with French know-how in interior design and architecture. For a century, the House of Jansen embodied French elegance in furnishings throughout the world. It is this singular history that I propose to relive today, with an emphasis on the “crazy” years (1920-1970) that made the reputation of this prestigious interior design company, which was among the most influential of the 20th century. It is also an opportunity to rediscover the work of French decorator Stéphane BOUDIN, to whom Maison Jansen owes a great deal.

Maison Jansen coffee table, black opaline and blackened iron and gilded brass base, 1950s. As a furniture and decoration company, Maison Jansen made its own furniture.
Photo credit : Design Market
Maison Jansen coffee table, side view, black opaline and blackened iron and gilded brass base, 1950s.
Photo credit: Design Market

The story of Maison Jansen began in 1880 when the Dutch Duke Jean-Henri Jansen (1854-1928) founded the eponymous furniture house in Paris. In its early days, Maison Jansen mixed the classic styles of the past (18th and 19th centuries) with the trends of the day. For its furniture, it drew inspiration from the Anglo-Japanese style, the Arts & Crafts movement and the Turkish style. The company does not have its own production facilities, but recovers old furniture or commissions furniture designed by cabinetmakers.

Maison Jansen grew at the turn of the 20th century, its order book filled up with an international reputation. What is more, the company now makes exact copies of traditional and luxury furniture (antique designs from the Louis XIV, Louis XVI, Directoire and Empire eras). Its choice to produce traditional as well as contemporary furniture is a winning one. The company has the intelligence to work with renowned contemporary craftsmen such as cabinetmakers François Linke and Joseph Emmanuel Zwiener, and collaborates with the Art Deco decorator Jean-Michel Frank to deliver unique pieces to its customers.

Regency style desk stamped François Linke, circa 1890, violet & Satinwood
Pair of Louis XVI style bedside tables mounted in gilt bronze, made by Joseph Emmanuel Zwiener for Maison Jansen, late 19th century.
Carved wooden desk in the French modern neoclassical style, made by Jean-Michel Frank. A similar model was designed by Jean-Michel Frank for Maison Jansen in the 1930s.

At the time when Art Deco was making inroads in France, Maison Jansen had already acquired an international reputation. three characteristics mark this house, which specialises in interior design. Firstly, it masters the entire production and furnishing chain: from the design of furniture (drawings) to the overall fitting out of rooms, villas and palaces, including their manufacture. It is the first design company to have made its name a brand. Finally, it is the first design company in the world.

Jansen House, Art Deco sideboard.

But it was under the impetus of the French decorator Stéphane Boudin (1888-1967), who joined the company in 1920 and became its director, that Maison Jansen became a key player in luxury furniture. Thanks to his talent, the company was now able to design entire décors. Stéphane Boudin knows how to mix historical periods, he integrates history into the scenography of the rooms he designs and the great ones of this world praise the “dramatic” impression of his design. Maison Jansen works in total autonomy, since it markets and distributes its projects, in addition to the manufacturing that it carries out.

Under the direction of Stéphane Boudin, Maison Jansen became the official decorator for royal families and leading figures in the social world (the royal families of Belgium, Iran and Serbia, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Olive Baillie, Coco Chanel, the Rockefellers, the oil magnate Charles Bierer, etc.).

Leeds Castle dining room, designed by Stéphane Boudin, circa 1935. For Lady Olive Baillie, owner of the magnificent Leeds Castle in Kent, Stéphane Boudin redecorated many rooms. She was the last owner of the castle, which can be visited today and in which the rooms decorated by Stéphane Boudin have remained unchanged
Lady Baillie’s room, Leeds Castle, decorated in 1936 by Stéphane Boudin in the Regency style
Yellow Drowing Room, Leeds Castle, decorated by Stéphane Boudin, 1938.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in their Parisian salon designed by the decorator Stéphane Boudin, 1964 Photo credit © Horst P. Horst for Vogue.

In the 1930s, Maison Jansen’s Parisian workshop employed up to 700 high-level craftsmen! (cabinet making, upholstery, lacquering, gilding, bronze, lighting). Over the years, the company hired some of the great designers of the time, such as Pierre Delbée and later Serge Robin. The Maison Jansen trademark? A timeless style, inspired by the best of the Decorative Arts of past periods, combined with a high quality of execution of the furniture pieces. The company excels in the search for past design (shapes, colours and materials) which remains timeless, whatever the period. It represents a French chic with a certain refinement in the marriage of styles

Pair of wall lights in metal painted in imitation of coral, gilded metal and shells. Design: Pierre Delbée for Maison Jansen, (1950-1965).
Oak desk covered with parchment, design by Serge Robin for Maison Jansen, 1979. Photo credit: Aladin Antiquités.

Among the emblematic projects undertaken by Maison Jansen and Stéphane Boudin was the renovation of various rooms in the White House as requested by Jackie Kennedy in 1961-1962. Stéphane Boudin, together with the self-taught American antiques dealer Henry Francis du Pont, supervised the renovation of the decoration. Thus, Boudin began by taking care of the “Red Room“. He advised that the walls of the room be upholstered in cherry silk (pinkish red), a proposal that was approved by the First Lady. And it was again on his advice that an American Empire style was chosen for the Red Room, with furniture upholstered in cherry red silk to match the colour of the walls

View of the Red Room, White House, Washington D.C., after the restoration by Maison Jansen, 8 May 1962 Photo credit © Robert Knudsen, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Stéphane Boudin photographed by Jackie Kennedy in the Treaty Room of the White House, 1960s.

During the renovation of the various rooms in the White House, Stéphane Boudin so impressed Jackie Kennedy that she entrusted him with the complete artistic direction of the GreenRoom, the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office! Moreover, to avoid offending American public opinion with the intervention of a French interior decorator, the Kennedy administration carefully avoided mentioning the director of Maison Jansen atfirst..

The Blue Room of the White House after its renovation supervised by Stéphane Boudin for Maison Jansen, photograph taken around 1963. For the Blue Room, Maison Jansen created a special model of the Blue Room to indicate where to place the furniture and other design elements.
The Green Room in the White House after its renovation, photograph taken around 1963. Stéphane Boudin was a major influence on Henry Francis du Pont for the style of the room’s furniture. In 1971, the walls of the room were reupholstered in a green moiré fabric, a choice made by Jackie Kennedy in 1962 on the advice of Stéphane Boudin.

After this golden interlude in the 1960s, Maison Jansen continued its activity and produced furniture that was more accessible and that the customer could customise (“Jansen Collection” by Pierre Deshayes). Nevertheless, the gradual disappearance of the great royal and noble families, the reduction in the number of large bourgeois homes and the lack of adaptation to the evolution of tastes and modern design precipitated the end of the adventure. In 1989, Maison Jansen closed its doors. Today, collectors are snapping up some of the most beautiful models signed by the famous Parisian house that made the great ones of this world dream so much..

François Boutard