Pierre Chareau

Pierre Chareau was a French architect, interior and furniture designer, particularly celebrated for the Maison de Verre (or ‘Glass House’) in Paris, and for his pioneering juxtapositions of unexpected materials and styles.

A prominent member of the prestigious Société des Artistes Décorateurs, a group formed in 1901 to foreground French design, Chareau was nevertheless forced into exile by the Nazi Occupation, spending his final years in obscurity in New York.

Born in 1883 in Bordeaux, where his father was a wine merchant, Chareau started out as an apprentice tracer at the Paris outpost of Waring & Gillow, a British furniture and design firm, rising to become lead designer.

In 1924 he set up on his own, selling soft furnishings and his innovative furniture and lighting. His combinations of wood and metal, rough and subtle, French decorative arts opulence and industrial Modernism earned him the swift and fervent support of Paris’s upper middle class, several of whose apartment interiors he designed.

Chareau also designed for filmmakers and theatre, collaborating with the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens on furniture for director Marcel L’Herbier’s films, and stage sets for Merchant of Paris at the Comédie Française in 1929.

Together with his wife, Dollie, Chareau championed and collected modern art, hosting salons for artists, writers and musicians. He also sought out and worked with artisans, especially ironsmith Louis Dalbet, his co-collaborator on the Maison de Verre.

Commissioned in 1928 by Dr Jean Dalsace and his wife, Annie, the Maison was built into a three-story space carved underneath an existing 18th-century hotel particulier (the top-floor occupant refused to move). Its glass-block and steel façade concealed an ingenious interior of interlocking forms, such as sliding soundproof doors, rolling ladders and retractable staircases.

For the space, Chareau also designed chairs, stools and desks for the house, including the wood-and-metal desk MB405, a coat rack, a game table and a telephone booth with an automatic light. The Maison’s furniture and the Dalsaces’ art collection were sold at Christie’s Paris in October 2021.

Chareau's ascent came to an abrupt halt when he and Dollie fled Paris for New York in 1940. There, Chareau became friendly with artist Robert Motherwell, who commissioned him to design a radical home-cum-studio in East Hampton using surplus Quonset huts (a prefabricated portable structure designed to be shipped in pieces to military outposts) that Motherwell had acquired from the Navy. Showcased in Harper’s Bazaar, the house wasn’t favourably received.

Indeed, Chareau struggled to find work in America, and he and Dollie came to rely on giving cooking lessons to wealthy Americans and selling their art collection — including a Modigliani sculpture to the Museum of Modern Art. In 1950, though, a proposal Chareau pitched to them for a show of his works was rejected, and he died later that year, disappearing from architectural history until 1966, when Richard Rogers wrote about him for Domus magazine.

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE, MODEL NO. MB106, CIRCA 1924

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PAIR OF 'LA548' WALL LIGHTS, CIRCA 1923

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

A 'RELIGIEUSE' FLOOR LAMP, MODEL SN31, CIRCA 1923

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BUREAU 'MB 624', VERS 1929

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BUREAU 'MB 744', LE MODÈLE CRÉÉ EN 1927

Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)

LAMPADAIRE 'RELIGIEUSE SN31', LE MODÈLE CRÉE EN 1923, CELUI-CI EXÉCUTÉ VERS 1927

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950) ET D'APRÈS UN CARTON DE JEAN LURÇAT (1892-1966)

BERGÈRE ‘MF 1002’, LE MODÈLE CRÉÉ VERS 1924-1927

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

MIROIR ÉCLAIRANT 'MG 311', VERS 1929

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PAIRE DE FAUTEUILS ‘MF 219’, VERS 1923

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE 'SN 9', VERS 1930

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BIBLIOTHÈQUE ' MU 1030', CRÉÉ POUR DANIEL DREYFUS, PARIS, VERS 1930

JEAN LURÇAT (1892-1966)

PARAVENT 'LES ARLEQUINS' À QUATRE FEUILLES, PIÈCE UNIQUE, VERS 1924

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE-BIBLIOTHÈQUE ‘MB 960’, VERS 1930

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BUREAU 'MT 876', DIT 'DACTYLO' OU 'BUREAU DE SECRÉTAIRE', PIÈCE UNIQUE, ET SON TABOURET ‘SN3’, VERS 1927

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PAIRE DE FAUTEUILS ‘SN 37’, LE MODÈLE CRÉÉ VERS 1923

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PORTE-MANTEAU 'SN 39', VERS 1932

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE BASSE, VERS 1930

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

VESTIAIRE ' SN 39', LE MODÈLE CRÉÉ VERS 1932

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE BASSE, VERS 1930

Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)

CANAPÉ 'MB960' ET TABLE BASSE ATTENANTE, VERS 1928

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BUREAU 'MB405', LE MODÈLE CRÉÉ EN 1927

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PAIRE DE FAUTEUILS 'MF 172', VERS 1924

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PAIRE DE BERGERES 'MF732', VERS 1924

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

RARE FAUTEUIL 'MF220', VERS 1922

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE 'MB 106' À QUATRE ÉLÉMENTS, VERS 1924

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE BASSE ‘MB 130’, VERS 1923-1925

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

FAUTEUIL 'MF 732', VERS 1923

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BUREAU ‘EB 754’, VERS 1927

Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)

TABLE TÉLÉPHONE 'MB152', VERS 1925

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

MEUBLE DE LINGERIE , PIÈCE UNIQUE, VERS 1930

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

A RARE SUSPENSION SEAT, CIRCA 1925

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE BASSE 'MB130', VERS 1923-1925

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

RARE GRAND VASE 'PF213', VERS 1930

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE 'MB 106', VARIANTE À TROIS ÉLÉ MENTS, VERS 1924

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

MEUBLE D'APPLIQUE À JOURNAUX 'MT 407' OU 'MD 362', 1922-1926

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PAIRE DE FAUTEUILS ‘MF 208/217’, VERS 1923

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

A PAIR OF BERGERES, CIRCA 1920

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BUREAU ‘MB 673’, VERS 1927

Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)

APPLIQUE ÉVENTAIL, VERS 1926

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

LAMPE ‘LP 180’ DITE ‘MASQUE’, VERS 1924

Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)

PAIRE DE FAUTEUILS, MODÈLE 'MF172', VERS 1924

Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)

RAMPE LUMINEUSE, VERS 1926

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

TABLE BASSE, VERS 1930

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

PAIRE DE FAUTEUILS ‘MF 208⁄217’, VERS 1923

Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)

LUSTRE 'LT753', VERS 1926

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

ÉTAGÈRE ' PD 698 ' , VERS 1928

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

AN 'MF 1050' ARMCHAIR, CIRCA 1924

PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)

BUREAU DE DAME ‘MB 1055’, VERS 1927 ET CHAISE ‘MF 275’, VERS 1924