Barely a mile wide, the Isle of Bréhat on the northern coast of Brittany is best known for its pink granite cliffs, warm weather and thriving exotic plants — earning itself a reputation as ‘the island of flowers’.
It was on this tiny idyll that, in 1948, Jean and Lola Pluet sought to build a new boathouse, which would not only provide the couple with a place to live, allowing them to pass on the family home to their children, but also house Jean’s beloved fishing boat, the Zant-Budoc.
The couple were introduced to Georges Blanchon, who would establish the company Bureau de Coordination du Bâtiment (B.C.B, or Office for Building Coordination) in 1951, and the architect Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967). During the Second World War, Pluet, Blanchon and Jeanneret had all been associated with the French Resistance in Grenoble.
With construction of the boathouse underway, Jeanneret collaborated with Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) on furniture for the interiors. Jeanneret, Perriand and Blanchon had met in Paris in the 1920s while working in the atelier founded by Jeanneret and his cousin, the pioneering artist, architect and writer Le Corbusier (1887-1965). Jeanneret and Perriand went on to design some of the most iconic furniture of the pre-war era.
Jeanneret’s design for the boathouse comprised a small cabin with a boathouse in the basement, and living spaces across two floors. The building was named Tan a Dour in Breton — translated as ‘Fire and Water’ — after its two most defining features: the indoor fireplace and the ocean it looked out on.
The furniture Jeanneret and Perriand were commissioned to create for Tan a Dour would be treasured by Jean, Lola and their family for almost 70 years. On 19 November, it comes to auction for the first time in Christie’s Design sale in Paris.
From a set of eight chairs (below) to a statement dining table, the bespoke pieces for the boathouse are ‘characteristic of French furniture of the early 1950s, and stylistically representative of Perriand and Jeanneret at that time’, says Flavien Gaillard, Christie’s Design Head of Sale in Paris.
‘The dining table [below] is a classic Jeanneret design and has an amazing patina,’ Gaillard points out. There are also hanging wooden desks designed by Perriand and Jeanneret. ‘In these,’ adds the specialist, ‘you can see the freeforms shapes and ideas that Perriand and Jeanneret would develop later in their career.’
What makes these pieces so special is their unique edition size. ‘They’ve remained in the boathouse since 1951 and have never before been featured in books or catalogues,’ explains Gaillard.
From 1951, B.C.B. produced editions of furniture by Perriand and Jeanneret which had previously been undertaken by l’Équipement de la Maison. With many of B.C.B.’s furniture commissions now lost or divided, the Pluet Collection is one of the few surviving collaborations between Blanchon, Jeanneret and Perriand that’s still intact.
‘This is the first time these pieces have come to market,’ says the specialist. ‘They’ve been consigned directly from Jean and Lola’s family. This is an amazing opportunity for collectors to own unrestored pieces by Perriand and Jeanneret with perfect provenance.’
Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Le Corbusier, Jeanneret and Perriand collaborated on some of the most iconic furniture designs of the period, including the ‘B306’ chaise longue chair, which was sold at Christie’s Paris in 2011 for €121,000.
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All three left left Paris at the start of the German occupation in 1940: Le Corbusier moved to Vichy, Jeanneret joined the Resistance, and Perriand travelled to Japan and then on to Vietnam, where she remained until 1946. Upon her return to France, she established her own independent design practice.
Jeanneret’s furniture now regularly commands five-figure sums at auction, while a major retrospective of Perriand’s career at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, which runs until February 2020, illuminates her important contribution to modern design, art and architecture.