Ecart International: Preserving the Legacy of Timeless Design

At the age of 53, Andrée Putman embarked on a career that would significantly influence the design world. In 1978, she founded Ecart International, a company dedicated to reviving and celebrating the forgotten masters of 1930s furniture design.

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Andrée Putman, 1978 – Photo © Deidi von Schaewen

Putman’s passion and vision breathed new life into the works of designers like René Herbst, Jean-Michel Frank, Pierre Chareau, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Antoni Gaudí, and Eileen Gray. Her commitment to preserving and promoting these talents resulted in a catalogue that exudes coherence, elegance, and timeless appeal.

Reviving Forgotten Masters

Through their collaboration, designers like Jean-Michel Frank and Adolphe Chanaux became beacons of Parisian artistic life. Frank and Chanaux’s elegant sobriety and imaginative use of materials such as sandblasted oak and shagreen created works that continue to inspire contemporary designers. Their projects for notable clients like Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles and Nelson Rockefeller showcased their innovative approach to design.

This cupboard, designed by Frank and Chanaux, is made of gouged oak, another imaginative and innovative use of materials that has been incorporated into Ecart’s modern collections.

Eileen Gray, born in Ireland, continued her studies in drawing and oriental lacquer techniques in London and Paris. Architects such as Pierre Chareau, René Herbst, and Mallet-Stevens considered here work groundbreaking. Jean Badovici encouraged her to venture into architectural studies, constructing the iconic Villa E-1027 in Roquebrune. Gray’s luxurious, meticulously finished objects and her rigorous, functional style remain influential in contemporary design.

Ecart International’s Brand Philosophy

Ecart International is dedicated to reissuing furniture, lighting, and heritage objects from the early 20th century. Each piece is meticulously crafted in France, adhering to the highest standards of craftsmanship. The rugs, hand-knotted in Nepal, are another testament to the brand’s commitment to quality and authenticity.

The revival of these classic designs has allowed them to become best-sellers in the 1980s and maintain their relevance and appeal even today. These timeless creations are celebrated for their elegant simplicity and luxurious materials, including gouged oak, parchment, shagreen, straw marquetry, sandblasted oak, and shagreen as first seen in Frank and Chanaux’s work. 

From Furniture to Spaces

Andrée Putman’s journey from reissuing furniture to designing spaces was fuelled by her love for the purity of structures. She detested pompous luxury, focusing instead on the essence and framework of things. This philosophy led to creating the boutique hotel concept with the Morgans Hotel in New York in 1984. This project marked a turning point, showcasing her ability to create luxury through simplicity and optical effects. The success of Morgans Hotel opened doors to numerous other interior design projects, including hotels, boutiques, offices, and museums worldwide.

Morgan’s, often dubbed the “world’s first boutique hotel”, featured a monochrome colour palette championed by Putman, as seen here in one of the former hotel’s bathrooms (the rooms were turned into condos in 2017)

Putman’s influence extended beyond furniture. She designed hotels like Le Lac in Japan, the Sheraton at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, and the Im Wasserturm in Germany. Her work for high-profile clients included boutiques for Balenciaga, Bally, and Lagerfeld, and significant offices such as the Ministry of Culture in France. Her designs sought to reconcile rich and poor materials, explore new uses of light, and strip spaces back to their origins. She advocated for flexible living spaces that broke traditional codes, encouraging the use of spaces for various activities rather than being confined to a single function.

Ecart International Today

Forty years later, Ecart International continues to uphold Andrée Putman’s legacy. The company now collaborates with contemporary designers like Bruno Moinard, Elliott Barnes, and Olivia Putman, adding new collections that maintain the spirit of the original designs. Each piece is made in France. The company offers customisation and bespoke creations, ensuring each piece is unique, signed, and numbered.

CALAF chair designed by Bruno Moinard for Ecart

Ecart International remains committed to promoting French know-how and bringing a tradition of eclecticism and timeless quality to life. The brand’s dedication to quality craftsmanship, mindful materiality, and honesty in design has cemented its place in the design world, offering a timeless and elegant aesthetic that continues to inspire.

Ecart’s Legacy

Through Ecart International, Andrée Putman has left an indelible mark on the design world. Her ability to blend historical reverence with modern minimalism inspires and influences contemporary design. By reviving the past and reimagining the future, Putman’s legacy is a testament to her belief in the enduring power of good design, transcending trends and time. Ecart International remains a beacon of timeless elegance and innovative spirit, embodying Putman’s vision and passion for the essentials.

Today, Ecart International’s pieces are not just furniture but cherished items that bring history and sophistication into modern homes. Each piece tells a story, connecting the past with the present, and continues to enchant those who appreciate the marriage of tradition and contemporary aesthetics.

The feel-good factor of owning an Ecart International piece lies in the knowledge that one is preserving a piece of history while enjoying a product of unparalleled craftsmanship and timeless beauty.