Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Andrée Putman

Andrée Putman.
Photo via tumblr.com
Some other issues in the life of The Devoted Classicist last January prevented the mention of the passing of design legend Andrée Putman at age 87.  A current web-article in 1st Dibs Introspective offered a tribute to Madame, leaving a reminder that mention here was long-overdue. 

Andrée Putman.
Photo via DeZeen.
I had the great pleasure of first meeting Andrée Putman in 1980 when I was an employee of Beyer-Blinder-Belle Architects & Planners in New York City.  The firm had been hired by Phyllis & Fred Pressman (of the store Barney's) to renovate a beach house in Southampton, Long Island, they had just bought.  The office was set up as a team format and I was assigned to contribute as the historic preservation component.  It was a 1920s Norman style cottage with the most charming potential, sited directly on the dunes.  Sadly, it was that location that proved to do its undoing, and long-story-short, the house was demolished before much design development to renovate the existing house was accomplished.  But, fortunately, I was on the team long enough to meet the Parisian interior designer that the Pressmans hired for the project, Andrée Putman.  Her concept was to decorate the house, not in the French provincial style, but with classic modern furnishings from the 1920s and 30s, and a monochromatic color scheme in only black, white, and grays.  My friend Peter DeWitt was project architect and he designed a new house that was a larger, somewhat post-modern version of the original house and it was furnished as planned by Putman.  (Although Fred Pressman died in 1996, Phyllis Pressman, who remarried, still owns the house to my understanding).

Ecart's 'Satellite Mirror' by Eileen Gray, 1927.
Photo via Ecart, Ralph Pucci.
Andrée Putman did not become well-known in the U.S., however, until the 1984 success of Morgans Hotel in New York City.  It opened to great fanfare at the forefront of the rise in the trend of boutique hotels in this country and helped make Putman a 'name' in the U.S. design media.

Ecart's 'Bergere' by Jean-Michel Frank, 1930.
Photo via Ecart, Ralph Pucci.
Andrée Putman's fame in hotel decoration followed with acclaim for other prestigious interior design projects, including the interior scheme for Air France's Concorde.  But Putman's greatest influence in twentieth-century design was through her furniture company Ecart, available in the U.S. through Ralph Pucci.  As well as producing some of Putman's own designs, Ecart ("trace" spelled backwards) re-issued some of the great designs of the 1920s and 30s by Jean-Michel Frank, Eileen Gray, Robert Mallet-Stevens, and others, making them available after decades out of production.  Studio Putman has been headed by daughter Olivia Putman since her mother's retirement several years ago.

More about Andrée Putman may be found in books available for purchase at discount from The Devoted Classicist Library.  The 2005 book by Stephane Gerschel, PUTMAN STYLE, gives biographical information as well as examples of her work.  The 2009 book ANDREE PUTMAN: COMPLETE WORKS by Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York, is a monograph of the grand dame's work from 1980.

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11 comments:

  1. John,
    So interesting. I was lucky to meet her and see her in action, when she came to Bloomingdale's in NYC and did a model "room" there- I also then met Mario Buatta, Jacques Grange, and Alberto Pinto ! Wow! NY at its hottest. Thanks for the post.

    Dean

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    1. Dean, those model rooms at Bloomingdale's were really a design event at the time. Someday, I'll tell you about a related story involving Amelda Marcos.

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  2. I stayed at Morgans in NYC in a rather large suite and remember how much I enjoyed the interior design. I had no idea it was created by Putman. It was just so incredibly chic - especially the staff in the lobby in their black ensemble and wonderful good looks!

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    1. Columnist, hotelier Ian Schrager hired Giorgio Armani to design those particularly good-looking uniforms. Although Philippe Stark's once-famous lobby of the Royalton, another Schrager hotel, was scrapped in a renovation a few years ago, Andrée Putman was brought back in 2008 to refurbish the Mogans on Madison Avenue. Thanks for your comment.

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    2. I don't suppose it was Armani who designed the particularly good looking staff. My mistake on attributing the Morgans we stayed in to Putman - it must have been the Stark creation. My other half reminded me that the taps, (which you might normally come across in a kitchen) were a particularly tiresome obstacle when trying to wash one's face, and that it was all too black and white tiles. Different recollections, obviously, although I now remember some of those irritants!

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    3. Columnist, Putman did the interiors of the Morgans hotel on Madison Avenue, but all of Schrager's hotels have an association with the Morgans name; I am sorry to have been vague about that. And yes, it was Mr. Schrager that chose the faces and bodies, both female and male, to wear the Armani uniforms (a complete departure from the traditional brass button bellhop) and represent the image of the hotel. Although I liked the Surreal quality of the Delano hotel in Miami Beach, I am not particularly a P.S. fan.

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  3. mohammed sadiq ullahJuly 11, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Thanks for sharing this great Post dude

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  4. The mirror by Eileen Gray is one of my all-time favorites – as modern today as it was in 1927 and I think, if it's still available, will be the one in our yet-to-be-remodeled bathroom.

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    1. Blue, other sources may have it as well, but this image is from the current catalog of Ecart through Ralph Pucci.

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  5. I first came across Mme Putman in a magazine in a furniture shop in Christchurch, New Zealand (where I later saw someone in the street who looked very like her with that distinctive nose).. Then I came across her in a number of ooks, and via her I came across that other genius Eileen Gray.
    Both have helped me to find my own style as a decor amateur who doesn't have much money.
    In Paris in 1999 I eschewed Versailles in favour of visiting Ecart Internaitonal where I saw all this amazing furniture though the lady herself had only recently sold the firm. Ittook the opportunhity to sit in a Transat, but like a fool back home I didn't buy a Bibendum available for 800 bucks.
    The late NZ architect Peter Beaven thought Putman the greatest interior designer in the world. May she rest in peace.

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