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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    Orrefors Glasbruk is a Swedish glassware manufacturer. An ironworks was established in 1726 on the property of Halleberg ( the Orrefors estate), Socken, Småland. Read More →

  • Zanussi Italian manufacturer and design firm

    Zanussi Italian manufacturer and design firm

    Antonio Zanussi established the household appliance firm in Pordenone in 1916. It was initially a workshop for repairing stoves. His sons and Guido and Lino took over on his death in 1946, and under them, the firm began its rise. Read More →

  • Concorde a design classic

    Concorde a design classic

    Concorde was developed jointly by British Airways and Air France. Concorde was the first and remained the only supersonic civilian aircraft to be put into commercial service. Read More →

  • Brandewijnskom – brandy bowls for birth ceremonies

    Brandewijnskom – brandy bowls for birth ceremonies

    Brandewijnskom. Brandy bowls were made in Holland and Friesland in the 17th and 18th centuries.Read More →

  • Theodor Bogler (1897-1968) German ceramicist and designer

    Theodor Bogler (1897-1968) German ceramicist and designer

    Theodor Bogler (1897 – 1968) studied at the Bauhaus and the University of Munich. He designed a 1923 mocha machine in ceramics for serial production. His earthenware kitchen containers by Velten-Vordamm ceramic factory were shown at the Bauhaus Exhibition.Read More →

  • Archizoom avant-garde Italian design studio

    Archizoom avant-garde Italian design studio

    Four architects—Andrea Branzi, Gilberto Corretti, Paolo Deganello, Massimo Morozzi—and two designers—Dario Bartolini and Lucia Bartolini—founded Archizoom this Italian avant-garde design studio in 1966 in Florence, Italy. They focused on exhibition installations and architecture and designing interiors and goods as part of the Italian Anti-Design or Radical Design movement.Read More →

  • Jasper Morrison (b.1959) British Designer quirky, understated furniture

    Jasper Morrison (b.1959) British Designer quirky, understated furniture

    Morrison produced quirky, satiric, understated furniture. His 1986 South Kensington flat was widely published in design magazines. He designed 1988 Door handles I and II, and a 1989 range of aluminium handles produced by FSB in Germany. Read More →

  • Matteo Thun (b.1952) Italian ceramicist and designer

    Matteo Thun (b.1952) Italian ceramicist and designer

    We reject design as an issue of taste! We follow a different strategy: Simplicity. We always search for the iconic form and create things that people can understand intuitively. We, Read More →

  • Affichiste French for Poster Designer

    Affichiste French for Poster Designer

    Affichiste. Name (literally ‘poster designer’) taken by the French artists and photographers Raymond Hains (1926-) and Jacques de la Villeglé (1926-), who met in 1949 and created a technique to create collages from pieces of torn-down posters during the early 1950s. These works, which they displayed for the first time in 1957, were called affiches lacérées (torn posters). Read More →

  • Robert Oxenaar (b.1939) Designer of Dutch Banknotes

    Robert Oxenaar (b.1939) Designer of Dutch Banknotes

    Robert Oxenaar (1929 – 2017) Designer of Dutch banknotes and stamps. Head of the Art and Design branch of the Dutch postal service. Helped launch a new generation of Dutch designers in the 1970s, including notables like Gert Dumbar.Read More →

  • George Sowden – British/Italian Designer

    George Sowden – British/Italian Designer

    George James Sowden is a British designer. He was born in Leeds and active Italy. Between 1960-64 and 1966-68, he studied architecture, Gloucester College of Arts. Read More →

  • Herbert Bayer (1900 – 1985) American multi-disciplined designer

    Herbert Bayer (1900 – 1985) American multi-disciplined designer

    Herbert Bayer was one of the Bauhaus’s most influential students, teachers, and proponents. Most of Bayer’s photographs come from the decade 1928–38, when he was based in Berlin working as a commercial artist. He designed the show Road to Victory (1942), which would set the course for Steichen’s influential approach to photography.Read More →

  • IDSA professional organisation of American industrial designers

    IDSA professional organisation of American industrial designers

    IDSA’s mission is to provide a platform that both elevates public awareness of design and strengthens the connection between design and business. One of the primary ways we accomplish this is through our vast portfolio of awards programs, which recognize designers for their achievements and contributions to the industrial design profession.Read More →

  • Minimalism – Less is More

    Minimalism – Less is More

    Minimalism is an art historical and critical term. The purest forms of minimalism include cubes and spheres, plain, unadorned surfaces, and solid colours. Adolf Loos’ famous quote, “Ornament is a Crime,” has become catchphrases for the minimalist design movement.Read More →

  • Masakichi Awashima (1914 – 1979) Japanese Glassware Designer

    Masakichi Awashima (1914 – 1979) Japanese Glassware Designer

    After studying design at the Japan Art School in Tokyo, Awashima worked for artisan Kozo Kagami, who had studied Western glass methods in Germany from 1935 to 1946. Read More →

  • Hiroshi Awatsuji (1929 – 1995) Japanese Textile Designer

    Hiroshi Awatsuji (1929 – 1995) Japanese Textile Designer

    Hiroshi Awatsuji (1929- 1995) was a Japanese textile and graphic designer: born in Kyoto. He was considered the first Japanese textile designer to be recognised for contemporary design rather than for traditional art and craft. The main characteristic of his work was over sized motifs.Read More →

  • Frei Otto (1925 – 2015) German Architect designs that soared

    Frei Otto (1925 – 2015) German Architect designs that soared

    The late German architect Frei Otto’s work can be seen all over the world in pavilions and sports stadiums. His impact on the Olympics is huge, from the design of Rio’s Maracana stadium to the tent-like roofs he made for Munich in 1972. He influenced a generation of British architects, including Norman Foster, Michael Hopkins and Nicholas Grimshaw. Otto’s influence can be seen in the lightweight fabric roof of Lord’s cricket ground (1987) and the bubble-like domes of the Eden Project (2000).Read More →

  • Bill Stumpf, inventor of the modern swivel chair

    Bill Stumpf, inventor of the modern swivel chair

    In 1976, the Ergon chair was introduced by Bill Stumpf, a designer for Herman Miller. It had a foam-filled back and seat, gas-lift levers to change the height and tilt. The Ergon was based on the new science of ergonomics, first used to design aeroplane cockpits.Read More →

  • RIP – Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion designer, dies 84.

    RIP – Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion designer, dies 84.

    Issey Miyake died on August 5, 2022, in a Tokyo hospital of liver cancer. He founded the Miyake Design Studio in 1970.Read More →

  • Jean Schlumberger (1907 – 1987) French jewellery designer

    Jean Schlumberger (1907 – 1987) French jewellery designer

    Jean Schlumberger (1907–1987), one of the most accomplished artists of the twentieth century, produced objects of unrivalled beauty. He was a man of exquisite taste, a jeweller who created extraordinary jewelled statements with a feeling of depth and life. Read More →

  • Everything Old is New Again – Glass Making Techniques

    Everything Old is New Again – Glass Making Techniques

    Manufacturers and designers recreated some ancient Egyptian and Roman glassmaking processes in the early 20th century.Read More →

  • Pavel Hlava (1924 – 2003) Czech Glassware Designer

    Pavel Hlava (1924 – 2003) Czech Glassware Designer

    He was best known for his cut and engraved glass. Hlava enhanced a number of innovative technologies, both in terms of conception and manufacturing. These featured melted silver leaf and other materials, as well as skeleton moulds for shaping glass.Read More →

  • Henry Van de Velde (1863 – 1957) Belgian artist, architect, interior designer

    Henry Van de Velde (1863 – 1957) Belgian artist, architect, interior designer

    Henry van de Velde was a Belgian architect, industrial designer, painter and art critic. He worked in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.Read More →

  • Christian Barman (1898–1980) British industrial designer

    Christian Barman (1898–1980) British industrial designer

    Christian Barman was a key first-generation British industrial designer during the interwar years. He is best known for his 1936 electric iron for HMV, which he started designing in 1933. He studied architecture at Liverpool University and ran his practice until Frank Pick invited him to join London Transport as a Publicity Officer in 1935.Read More →

  • Ukiyo​-e, Pictures of the floating world

    Ukiyo​-e, Pictures of the floating world

    Ukiyo-e, translated as “pictures of the floating world,” has captured wisps of the natural beauty that one sees every day. These prints are a record of 18th and 19th-century life in Japan and had a profound effect on the great Western artists of the time.Read More →

  • Marcel Guillemard (1886 – 1932) French Decorator & designer

    Marcel Guillemard  (1886 – 1932) French Decorator & designer

    Marcel Guillemard (1886 – 1932) was a French decorator and furniture designer. He was born and professionally active in Paris.Read More →

  • George Nelson (1907 – 1986) American voice on design

    George Nelson (1907 – 1986) American voice on design

    George Nelson (1907 – 1986) was an American industrial designer. His Storagewall shelf system, which he made in 1945, changed the way offices worked. The Marshmallow sofa from the 1950s is one of his best-known pieces.Read More →

  • Hiroshi Yamano – Exquisite Japanese Glass Designs

    Hiroshi Yamano – Exquisite Japanese Glass Designs

    Kiroshi Yamano is a Japanese Glass Designer. He studied at the Tokyo Glass Crafts Institute to 1984 and Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, to 1989. Read More →

  • Walter Landor (1913 – 1995) Leader in Corporate Identity.

    Walter Landor (1913 – 1995) Leader in Corporate Identity.

    Walter Landor (1913 – 1995) was a leading expert in corporate identity and brand design. His clients included Coca-Cola, Fuji Films, Philip Morris, and the World Wildlife Fund. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has dedicated a collection to him.Read More →

  • The Osterizer is a retro classic

    The Osterizer is a retro classic

    The Osterizer from 1953 is still a popular classic blender. Even though they were originally designed for home use, they now feel like high-tech caterers’ equipment.Read More →

  • Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau  (1925) Looking into the Future

    Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau  (1925) Looking into the Future

    L’Esprit Nouveau. The pavillion was named after Le Corbusier’s magazine, L’Esprit Nouveau, which he started in 1920 to spread the word about his own work and that of other artists of the time.Read More →

  • Alessandro Mendini (b.1931) Italy’s famous design thinker

    Alessandro Mendini (b.1931) Italy’s famous design thinker

    Alessandro Mendini (b.1931) played an important part in the development of Italian, Postmodern, and Radical design. He was co-founder of Studio Alchymia (with Alessandro and Adriana Guernero) in 1976. He was awarded several international prizes, including the Compasso d’Oro in 1979, 1981, and 2014. In 2011, he was awarded with the title Doctor Honoris Causa of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan.Read More →

  • ‘Moderne’ Style of Art Deco Popular in the 20s & 30s

    ‘Moderne’ Style of Art Deco Popular in the 20s & 30s

    Moderne was a decorative style that was mostly about how things looked on the outside. Moderne architecture was most noticeable in public buildings like skyscrapers and movie theatres. Postmodernism later brought back a lot of the styles that were part of the moderne movement.Read More →

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