In 1934, Charlotte Perriand designed an easily constructible holiday house, with two bedrooms, a fully fitted kitchen and a sailcloth-covered deck, elevated on piloti. She called it ‘La Maison au bord de l’eau’. During this year’s Design Miami, nearly 80 years later, the house, which won second prize in a competition run by the progressive magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (the first prize winner has since disappeared without trace), was finally constructed on Miami Beach. Now it will be sold, presumably to an art collector with an equivalent passion for design.
Louis Vuitton, who has sponsored the project, first made contact with Charlotte’s daughter Pernette in January 2012, when Julie de Libran visited the archives to find inspiration for the Icones collection which she designs. Louis Vuitton later suggested creating an unrealised Perriand piece (finding the archive full of unmade project), and the house won the toss. ‘I never thought they’d say yes,’ says Pernette.
With aluminium walls, sliding doors, and an unimaginable number of details for happy living (shelves under tables to keep napkins; fold-up, storable sun-loungers; double glazing, a double sink), the house is an apotheosis of Modernist principles brought to life. Designed to be erected by water, its iroko floors and okuma walls were also chosen for their insect-repellent qualities. Entirely contemporary by today’s tastes, it was, unsurprisingly, considered utterly de trop in 1934. ‘No one was interested in building it. The reaction was one of dislike to horror,’ says Pernette.
She continues, ‘Charlotte was dedicated to creating small living spaces. Her mission was to eliminate anything unnecessary but always to concentrate on the flow of light and air. Then you can live in the smallest of spaces.’ Charlotte’s own apartment in the 7th, where Pernette and her husband Jacques Barsac now live, is just 58 sq m spanning two storeys.
‘Charlotte designed for the workers, not for the bourgeoisie,’ says Pernette. The context of Miami during the glamorous Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami, might not meet those conditions. But it was a real pleasure nonetheless to see such a perfect rendition of such a worthy piece of design.