The long and productive relationship between designer René-Jean Caillette (1919–2004) and the pioneering French furniture manufacturer Charron started in the late 1940s and lasted into the mid-1970s. The outcome of their rich collaboration resulted in an innovative series of furniture. Caillette experimented with novel forms and methods informed by his engineering background, integrating artistic creativity with low-cost mass production techniques and materials to define a new style.
Founder Georges Charron discovered Caillette’s work in 1950. At the time, Caillette was self-producing, editing, and displaying his furniture at the Salon des Arts Ménagers (Household Arts Show), an annual exhibition held in Paris presenting domestic appliances, furniture, and home designs. Charron was drawn to the modernity and simplicity of line in Caillette’s designs, as well as to the intelligent mechanical systems Caillette created for his furniture.
Charron exhibited Caillette’s work when the company opened their first shop in 1950. A few years later, Caillette recommended hiring additional designers to expand the Charron offering, including Joseph-André Motte, Alain Richard, and Genevieve Dangles — designers of a younger generation than Caillette but whose approach to research and design resonated with Caillette’s own practice. These collaborations marked the beginning of a new shop and a new department at Charron called Groupe 4, so named because the group was launched in 1954. It continued until 1957 when Richard and Dangles left to work for other companies. Motte and Caillette continued to design for Charron for several more years.
The output of designs by Groupe 4 were produced to meet a diverse range of price points and purposes. Some models were designed for mass production at a lower cost while others were more luxurious and belonged to the “prestige” category. All Joseph-André Motte’s projects in Africa were furnished by Charron, which ultimately led to the establishment of a factory in Mali in the 1960s specifically to manufacture these works. Many pieces had a limited production run because they failed to be commercially successful. These were often first presented at furniture fairs or were models of a specific size or material made for a certain client for a public or a private commission. This cabinet with white Formica was likely a part of a special commission for a private client who ordered it directly from Charron and kept it for many years. No archival traces of the edition have been located in magazines of the time nor in the Charron catalogues.
Caillette continued working for Charron until 1974. Throughout three decades of collaboration, the designer developed a personal relationship with the Charron family for whom he created several unique commissioned pieces including two designs for the Charron country house — a vanity designed for Madame Charron’s bedroom and a glass and white lacquered desk also for Madame Charron. This desk is similar to a model that Caillette created in 1958 for Charron, but the structure was covered with wood veneer and the drawers were of a slightly different design. A number of commissions produced by Charron have been made available in Demisch Danant’s inventory.