Andree Putman by Shanzay Arif


« Life is made of imperfections »[1], Andrée Putman was once caught saying this. It was this belief that transpired in her major works, which comprise of an array of materials, both rich and poor, many contrasts, and elements of surprise. Reflecting Andrée’s philosophy, she showed that through her art, like life itself, can be made beautiful through a variety of imperfections. Andrée combined black with white in her iconic design of Morgan Boutique hotel’s bathrooms in New York City, she designed the Rob. Mallet-Stevens little chair in both hammered metal epoxy paint and leather. She also designed luxury silver cutlery for Christofle with a common element of a twisted ring. She named it Vertigo. In her own words, this ring brought life to the collection: “Did it fall? Why is it asymmetrical?”, simply because life is full of imperfections[2].

Born in 1925 to a wealthy family of French notables and bankers, Andrée initially acquired her artistic education from her mother, an aspired artist although “without a stage” and frivolous pianist[3]. Although Andrée and her sister were pushed toward becoming pianists and studied the art at the Paris Conservatory, Andrée broke away from the projected life in sequestration herself for 10 years to master the craft.

Initiating her talent in design, Andrée began by emptying her room in her family’s apartment leaving it simply furnished with a steel bed, Chinese and African spoons arrayed on a bench, Mies van der Rohe chairs, a Noguchi globe chandelier and some Abstract Expressionist paintings[4]. She then worked as a journalist for various French magazines, then an interior editor and stylist leading up to a career change in the early 1980s at the age of 54 when Andrée was hired to redesign the interiors of the Morgans Hotel in New York.

Ridding it of “vulgar” clichés of luxury[5], Andrée Putman designed what became to be known as the first boutique hotel providing “contemporary travellers with accommodation resembling their contemporary style.”[6] The hotel was a major hit upon opening with its checkerboard motifs, both opaque and transparent features, and expensive and inexpensive materials. Although according to Andrée the legendary black and white bathrooms were the incidental result of a tight budget, she succeeded in highlighting her famous belief that “style and money have nothing to do with each other”[7].


A second belief that marked Andrée’s career was the belief in using objects, pieces, and materials “in that family of things that will never date”[8]. As such, Andrée also redesigned the Robert Mallet-Stevens chair, originally a simple chair considered innovative for the time as it was easily transported, stackable, and used for both private and public uses. Andrée eventually became a proselyte of modernist and minimalistic French furniture from the 1930s. These chairs have become today items of acquired taste.


The versatile talent of Andrée was not only limited to hotels, she also designed flagship stores for famous designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint-Laurent. Andrée redesigned the sumptuous Guerlain store on the Champs Elysées where the chandelier shines with a thousand lights, yet sobriety reigns in the store.


Another manifestation of Andrée’s talent is her design of the interior of the well-known Concorde plane. In 1993, Andrée redesigned the interior of the plane by introducing subtle indirect light and more spacious baggage compartments giving the interior a lighter and larger feel.[9] Taking inspiration from Japanese taxis, she designed white pique covers for the headrests.[10]


Finally, Andrée touched upon everything: luxurious, yet simple items, rough and soft materials; she designed residential spaces, hotels, products, and stores. Her variety of work reflects an unconventional freedom of choice, so free that she herself described it as a luxury in choice, making its beauty accessible by all.[11]


[1]Joseph Giovanni. “Andrée Putman, Global Designer, Dies at 87.” New York Times, January 20, 2013.

2“Andrée Putman.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, May 7, 2014.

3 “Andrée Putman | Studio Putman.” Accessed May 12, 2014.

4 Joseph Giovannini. “Andrée Putman, Global Designer, Dies at 87.” New York Times, January 20, 2013.

5 Ibid.

[6] Steohane, Gerschel. “Putman Style” New-York;(Paris): Assouline, 2005, page 92.

[7]Horwell, Veronica. “Andrée Putman Obituary.” The Guardian, January 23, 2013, sec. Life and style.

[8]Joseph Giovannini. “Andrée Putman, Global Designer, Dies at 87.” New York Times, January 20, 2013.

[9] Steohane, Gerschel. “Putman Style” New-York;(Paris): Assouline, 2005, page 100.

[10] Ibid, page 100.

[11] Ibid, page 104.


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