In DESIGN

The legacy of Andrée Putman lives on under the sensitive leadership of her daughter Olivia, now steering the family’s eponymous Paris studio in her own contemporary direction

As a designer, Andrée Putman was as ground-breaking as she was prolific. Recognisable by her red lipstick, side-swept bob, and serious photo face, Putman was responsible for the boutique interiors of some of fashion’s leading names, including Yves Saint-Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. She was credited with designing the world’s first boutique hotel, respected for her cult film sets for Peter Greenaway, and known for her signature black-and-white checkerboard motif. This sassy grande dâme of design launched her eponymous label in 1997. She even reworked the interior of the Concorde jet. Refusing to let age get the better of her, Putman carried on designing into her eighties. When she died last year at the age of 87, the design world mourned, but her studio continues under the direction of her accomplished daughter, Olivia Putman.

Andree and Olivia Putman by Xavier Bejot

Andrée and Olivia Putman by Xavier Bejot

A designer in her own right, Olivia has been at helm of her mother’s company, now known as Studio Putman, since 2007. She ventured into her first professional adventure by transforming old factories into artists’ studios and exhibition spaces, shortly followed by work as a landscape designer. Taking on a parent’s widely respected legacy, several years after she was first asked, is not without its challenged, but rather than browbeating, Putman Junior remains level-headed as she explains, “I am trying to create my own style without forgetting her legacy – but influence from her is certain, as she educated me.”

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Golden Rouge lamp by Studio Putman for Lalique

Golden Rouge lamp by Studio Putman for Lalique

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Jour de Fete lamp by Studio Putman

Jour de Fete lamp by Studio Putman

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Such pragmatism weighs into much of Putman’s design philosophy. “We try to be sociologists when we work for public spaces and more psychologists when working on private projects,” she reveals. With this in mind, she is direct about her feelings for contemporary design, suggesting that it, “Calm down a little. I believe we’ve reached a time where people are fed up with design for design’s sake.” She cites her work for Lalique, where she was formerly creative director, such as an eleven piece collection of chandeliers, sconces, and desk and floor lamps in satin-finished crystal cylinders entitled Orgue, as a personal favourite, but also describes how she enjoys the challenge of a private customer brief. “When you work on private residences you have to guess what the client is not telling you,” she says. “Most of time, you have to guess what their needs are, because they don’t really know themselves.” As for her upcoming work, she teases that “two big exhibitions” will soon be taking place in Hong Kong, a location not unfamiliar to the Putman brand. When not designing, Putman has another full-time job as the mother of four boys.

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Le Temps des Collections, Rouen, by Studio Putman

Le Temps des Collections, Rouen, by Studio Putman

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Sketch for LAN Airways VIP Lounge by Studio Putman

Sketch for LAN Airways VIP Lounge by Studio Putman

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Musing recently about the ‘Putman style’, Olivia settles on, “A high dose of nostalgia linked with a futuristic vision”. How does she reconcile her own aesthetic approach with this? “I like design when it seems obvious,” she says. “What I am trying to achieve is to give a kind of soul to the objects that accompany our everyday life.” Working for the likes of Serralunga, Fermob, and Emeco, her precise, elegant style combines elements of classic French flair and balance with a modern simplicity that feels both chic and relevant. The Studio Putman approach, in Olivia’s own words, is, “To be both abstract and clear at the same time. Ours is a complex blend of values, habits, and ways of being. It’s really more like a way to live and to think.”

Cover graphic for Selections magazine The Design Issue by Olivia Putman

Cover graphic for Selections magazine: The Design Issue by Olivia Putman


A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Design issue #26, on page 116.

More: "With Eyes Wide Open" Olivia Putman curated pages for Selections
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