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Andree Putman

The late Andree Putman spoke of “the interiority of emotion, of emptiness and of the inner scenography of space,” reports Joseph Giovannini in The New York Times (1/21/13). That is to say, she was a “member of the Left Bank intelligentsia in Paris” and spoke in “the lingua franca of the Latin Quarter avant-garde.” While she “never formally studied design or architecture,” she designed hotels, retail stores, “furniture, crystal, carpets, tableware and flatware” and even “refreshing but elusive scents.” She designed a movie set and a skyscraper, too. She was also “one of her own most arresting creations,” with a “tsunami of auburn hair crested over her Mount Rushmore features,” dressed perhaps in “a black slash of a skirt and a lace bustier under a creamy jacket big on shoulders.”

Early on, she collected “forgotten 1930s French Modernist pieces” from flea markets, and marketed them through her own company, Ecart International, which evolved into a design practice. She designed residential projects for friends, which “attracted the attention of fashion designers like Thierry Mugler, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, who hired her to create stores for them in France and overseas.” Her breakthrough project was the Morgans Hotel in New York, a “hushed, monochromatic environment” that “became the prototype of the new boutique hotel, a small, artistically designed answer to standardized mass-market hotels.”

She described her style as “the perfect balance between discipline and revolt,” and “eschewed what she considered the ‘vulgar’ cliches of luxury — ‘too much Louis and too many flowers,’ as she put it — in favor of simple lines and a few good pieces.” She once wrote: “Materials are not objects, like letters in a vocabulary … They have connotations, they belong to a code, like shapes or words.” She also “believed that good design should come at accessible prices,” telling House Beautiful: ” Of course style and money have nothing to do with each other … Good design is pure and simple, and I am interested in that family of things that will never date.” Andree Putman was 87.