The Woman Behind Le Corbusier’s Iconic Chaise Almost Didn't Get the Job
In 1927, at just twenty-four, Charlotte Perriand waltzed into Le Corbusier’s atelier. She asked for a job and was swiftly rejected with the now infamous line, "We don’t embroider cushions here." She was neither amused nor deterred. She designed a bar made of curved steel, glass, and aluminum for the roof of Paris’ Salon d’Automne, the annual design festival. Pierre Jeanneret, Le Corbusier’s cousin and collaborator, brought him to see her design. Le Corbusier was so impressed by Perriand’s skill that he apologized and hired her as a furniture designer.
There were few female designers working at the time and Perriand made significant contributions to Le Corbusier’s furniture collection. In 1928, she worked with Le Corbusier and Jeanneret to design the LC4 Chaise Lounge. Le Corbusier called it the "relaxing machine" for its simulation of the body’s natural curves. It’s since become on of the most popular pieces to emerge from his studio. The trio often collaborated, but the credit for the LC4 Chaise Lounge is largely attributed to Perriand. She posed for the publicity shots lounging on the chaise in what was then considered a daringly short skirt, a short sleeve sweater, and a necklace made of ball bearings.
She’s been called one of the most influential furniture designers of the early modern movement. She worked for many years with glass, molded aluminum, and steel before moving onto cane and woodworking. "There is one thing I never did," she remarked late in life, "and that was flirt. That is, I didn’t ‘dabble,’ I created and produced, and my job was important."