Jean-Michel Frank (1895 – 1941) French Interior Designer

French Art Deco Rattan Chairs Design Jean-Michel Frank for Ecart International
French Art Deco Rattan Chairs Design Jean-Michel Frank for Ecart International

Jean-Michel Frank (1895 – 1941) was a French interior decorator and furniture designer. He was born in Paris and professionally active in Paris and New York.

Eugenia Errazuriz’s passion for simplicity and purity affected his approach to his design work, and he combined modern lighting fixtures with provincial Louis XVI furniture.

Biography

After World War I, he worked as a cabinetmaker at Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann’s studio in Paris, where he met decorator Adolphe Chanaux, who had collaborated with André Groult and Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann on the 1925 Paris ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.’ 

Paris in the 1920s

From 1927 to 1933, Frank most likely designed for the Desny firm. In the 1920s, he was the first to use white-leaded wood (with his stable of designers). In 1932, after a year of collaborating in a decorating business with workshops in La Ruche (with Chanaux), opened the shop, 147 rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré, Paris. He sold pieces designed by Frank and Chanaux and associates such as Emilio Terry, Diego and Alberto Gio.  

Initially, Frank’s designs were hard-edged and rectilinear, owing to Le Corbusier and Robert Mallet-Stevens, respectively. Frank received the commission to decorate the rooms of the Vicomte and Vicomtesse de Noailles’ villa in Hyéres between 1924—33 through Mallet-Stevens. 

Two Essential Interiors of the Twentieth Century

Frank’s 1929 decorations and furniture for rooms of the de Noailles’ Hétel Bischoffsheim mansion, place des Etats-Unis, Paris, were among the essential Modern interiors of the century. The beige vellum walls contrasted subtly with the Macassar ebony furniture and a Modernist carpet on an ancient parquet floor. Ivory was used to trim the massive bronze door. Shagreen, leather, and lacquer were used on the sofas and chairs, and shagreen, leather, and lacquer were used on the tables and screens. ‘Pity, the burglars, got everything,’ Jean Cocteau joked, referring to the lack of furnishings. 

Own Home

In Frank’s own home in 1930, straw was placed to the ceiling and walls to simulate grained marquetry. Chairs, a ‘tuxedo’ sofa, and a white leather screen were arranged around dark gypsum tables. Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and Etienne-Louis Boullée’s ambitious 18th-century projects piqued Frank’s curiosity, as did Emilio Terry’s. 

Frank’s art began to take on a more theatrical tone, and he experimented with increasingly complex forms. He began to work more closely with the Giacometti’s in the mid-1930s, commissioning their white plaster and patinated bronze ornamental items. 

Theatrical Setting – Guerlain Salon

Frank built a theatrical setting for the Guerlain salon with trompe l’eil effects with them and others, including Bérard. Elsa Schiaparelli commissioned Frank to decorate her rooms on Boulevard Saint-Germain. The main room’s bright chintz was offset by black, including black porcelain plates in the dining area. Baron de l’Epée, Lucien Lelong, and Philippe Berthelot were among the other clients. Frank’s demeanour was mirrored in his melancholy office, dubbed “the Confessional.” 

Parsons Table

He designed the so-called Parsons (or T-square) table from his lectures at the Parsons School of Design in Paris. He moved to New York in 1940 with the help of interior design firm McMillen. He had previously created the interiors and furniture of Nelson A. Rockefeller’s New York apartment in 1937 and apartments for M. Templeton Crocker in San Francisco. 

Death and Legacy

After barely one week in New York, he jumped to his death from a window of the Hotel St. Regis, depressed and lovesick. Despite only having a ten-year career, he had a significant impact. 

Only one Frank project has survived to this day: Count Cecil and Countess Minie Pecci Blunt’s three-room apartment on the third floor of a 16th-century palace near Rome, completed in 1930. In 1986, Ecart International, and later Palazzetti, began producing Frank’s canapé for Charles de Noailles’ Paris home, which was the forerunner of the ‘tuxedo’ sofa and other models.

Jean-Michel Frank in our partner stores

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

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    Kastholm was apprenticed as a boy to a blacksmith and worked at that trade for five years in the United States before returning to Copenhagen to study design. Between 1954 – 1958 he studied at the Bygingsteknisk Skole, Frederick, under Arne Jacobsen. In 1959 the Grafisk Høskole. After graduation, he practised architecture and furniture design in Beirut.Read More →

  • Zdeněk Rossmann (1905 – 1984) Czech Book Designer, Architect

    Zdenek Rossmann featured image

    He was a member of the Devétsil group from 1923 until its closure in 1931 and the Brno Devétsil group 1923-27. He designed publications, including Pasmo (1924—27) and the Fronta compendium (1927). His work was based on the principles of Bayer and Tschichold.Read More →

  • Abram Games (1914 – 1996) British graphic and industrial designer

    Abram Games in the Studio

    In acknowledging his power as a propagandist, he claimed, “I wind the spring and the public, in looking at the poster, will have that spring released in its mind.” Read More →

  • Gordon Russell (1892 – 1980) British furniture maker and designer

    Gordon Russell furniture featured image

    He began working at his father’s modest antiques restoration workshop in 1908, where he learned various crafts and oversaw repairs. In 1910, he began designing furniture. After World War I, he manufactured furniture in the style of Ernest Gimson. Read More →

  • Emmy Roth (1885 – 1942) German / Israeli Silversmith

    Inkwell circa 1925 by Emmy Roth

    In 1916, she established her workshop in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Her early work was influenced by the Baroque, but her later work was more straightforward, as evidenced by her fruit dish in The Studio, 1929.Read More →

  • 8 Interior Design Trends from 1966

    The 1960s was a period of rediscovery in interior design – an opportune reawakening to the merits of forgotten favourites that were abandoned, perhaps not because they had become cliches. Interior Designers returned to past design, materials and ideas not because they evoked nostalgia but solely because they are good and contribute something of value to the way they lived at the timeRead More →

  • 1950s bathroom designed by Marcel Breuer

    Marcel Breuer Bathroom featured image

    This classic mid-century interior is roomy, with clay tile countertops designed to take suds, wear and water. The clay tile tub and recessed shelf, dramatically reflected in the mirrored storage wall, are sparkling and bright.Read More →

  • Malvine Tcherniack French Decorator

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    In the 1920s, she designed ceramics, textiles and wallpaper and domestic items for the Primavera department store of the Au Printemps department store, Paris.Read More →

  • Lino Tagliapietra (b.1934) Italian Glassworker and Teacher

    Lino Tagliapietra glassware

    From 1956, Tagliapietra taught glassmaking with Archimede Seguso and Nane Ferro; 1966—68, designed glass for Venini, Murano; until 1968, for Murrina; from 1968, taught glassmaking at Haystack School and Pilchuck School, Stanwood, Washington. Read More →

  • Soichiro Sasakura (b.1949) Japanese Glassware Designer

    Soichiro Sasakura featured image

    He worked for Sasaki Glass, for which he designed the 1988 San Marino glassware range.Read More →

  • Roberto Pamio (b.1937) Italian Architect and Designer

    Roberto Pamio featured image

    He became active in 1961 as an architect and furniture and industrial designer; (with Renato Tosso) collaborated on furniture and lighting; had clients including Zanussi-Rex, Peguri, Stilwood, Arclinea, Cidue, FAI, Leucos, and Arflex.Read More →

  • Mintons – British Ceramics Firm

    Minton Ceramics Manufacturer

    Thomas Minton bought a pottery in Stoke-on-Trent in 1793 and, in 1796, began production of inexpensive blue transfer-printed earthenware. His son Herbert Minton became director in 1836, expanded the range of wares, and hired artists. Read More →

  • Fred G. Minuth (1884 – 1966) American Silversmith

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    Fred G. Minuth was an American Silversmith. He was professionally active in Chicago.Read More →

  • Jessie Marion King (1875 – 1949) Scottish illustrator of children’s books

    Jessie Marion King featured image

    Jessie Marion King (1875 – 1949) was a well-known Scottish illustrator who specialised in children’s books. She also painted pottery and crafted bookplates, jewellery, and fabric. King was a member of the Glasgow Girls, a collective of female artists.Read More →

  • Oscar Barnack (1879 – 1936) and the first 35mm camera

    Leica 1 designed by Oscar Barnack

    The Leica 1, the first functional 35 mm camera, was introduced in Germany in 1925, making photography much more accessible to the general public.Read More →

  • Oscar Tusquets Blanca – Spanish painter, architect and designer

    Gaulino Table - Walnut by Oscar Tusquets Blanca

    Oscar Tusquets Blanca is a Spanish painter, architect and designer. He was born and is professionally active in Barcelona, Spain.Read More →

  • Alison Milner – British Designer in Eclectic Materials

    Alison Milner featured image

    Her aesthetic is clean and clear – reducing, simplifying and uncovering underlying patterns. She prefers to inject gentle humour, visual poetry, narrative and a sense of place into her work.Read More →

  • Silver and twentieth-century design

    Silver and twentieth century design

    The impact of silver metal technology has driven the development of modern furnishings throughout the 20th century. The transformation of a chair into a sculptural statement, for example. Interior metal objects have not always been at the forefront of modern design within a multi-function. With the emphasis on warmth and comfort in the home, the scope for a wide range of metal products for this domain is not there.Read More →

  • Kisho Kurokawa (b.1934) Japanese Architect and Furniture Designer

    Kisho Kurokawa featured image

    In 1960, at the age of 26, he made his debut into the world as one of the founders of the Metabolism Movement.  Read More →

  • Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959) Japanese Artist and Designer

    Yoshitomo Nara featured image

    Nara grew up in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, about 300 miles north of the Tochigi Prefecture. His exposure to Western music on the American military radio station Far East Network in Honshu influenced his artistic imagination early. Later, he would provide cover art for bands including Shonen Knife, R.E.M., and Bloodthirsty Butchers.Read More →

  • Oscar Niemeyer (1907 – 1912) Brazilian architect and designer

    Oscar Niemeyer featured image

    Oscar Niemeyer (1907 – 1912) was a Brazilian architect and designer. He was born in Rio de Janeiro. He studied architecture at the National School of Fine Arts, Rio de Janeiro.Read More →

  • Gunilla Jung (d. 1939) Finnish silversmith and lighting designer

    Gunilla Jung glass and lighting

    Gunilla Jung was a glass and lighting artist and Silversmith. She designed glassware for Karhula (later Iittala) in the 1930s at the Institute of Applied Arts in Helsinki. Maybe best known for her pioneering lighting projects, such as in Helsinki’s Savoy Theatre. Taito created her first silver designs and, later in the 1930s, others by Viri and Kultaseppät. She worked with Frans Nykänen, who at varying times was a director at both silversmithies.Read More →

  • John Eberson (1875 – 1954) American Designer famous for the atmospheric theatre

    John Eberson - Atmospheric Theatre Design

    John Eberson was an american designer who was known for his cinema décors. One of his earliest, the 1923 Majestic Theatre in Houston, Texas, was a loosely recreated garden of a late-Renaissance palazzo in Italy. Through his workshop Michelangelo Studios, he was was successful at producing elaborate plasterwork for his theatre décors in Spanish, Moorish, Dutch, Chinese and other styles.Read More →

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