Jean Prouve’s design instinct

Jean Prouve's instinct for design led him to create a number of iconic pieces of interiors including desks and chairs, often marrying together metal and wood. In 1934 Prouve received an order for 800 folded chairs, this commission inadvertently meant that he became a serious contender in mass produced furniture.

Jean Prouve’s early life

Jean Prouve was born in Paris in 1901. A self taught metal worker, Prouve is considered by some to be the best French designer of the 20th Century. His instinct for design is palpably raw and many of his works have withstood the test of time. His vision for uniting functionality with style has meant that his work has long been appreciated by those who seek strong design with durability.

The scarcity of steel

The scarcity of steel during WW2 led Prouve to experiment with wood and other more obtainable and for the time, experimental metals. In addition to this growing interest in designing interiors, Prouve also designed and built a number of prefabricated houses. Prouve's prefabricated one-room homes are much sought after, one sold for $2.5million in 2013. He also designed and built homes for the homeless in his native Nancy.

The Tolix chair

In 2015, the Tolix chair and stool range has proved its unwavering popularity.  Numerous establishments that want hard-wearing chairs opt for the Tolix range. Among these restaurants is Jamie's chain who have matched the Tolix with Jean Prouve's other creation, the Prouve chair, mimicking the old school design. The miscellaneous collection of chairs work well in this mismatched fashion. The restaurants' design has been influenced by various interior design influences including rustic Italian and contemporary industrial chic, all of which complement the Tolix. The steel frame is available in the raw 'galvanised' steel look and also in various bold colours such as teal or peacock blue, both proving very popular at present.

Artistic family influences

Prouve grew up in an artistic household, his father was the painter and sculptor Victor Prouve and was a founding member of the Art Noveau School in Nancy. His upbringing fueled Prouve's appetite for creativity and design, even though Prouve desired to become an engineer, the family's limited financial means meant that at the age of 15 he enrolled as an apprentice to the artisan blacksmith Emile Robert in Paris.

Paris and Nancy, France

In 1923, after serving in the military, Prouve returned to Nancy and set up his own studio, taking on commissions making grills and balconies. Aware of the limitations of working with wrought iron, he began to experiment with materials such as steel and aluminium and methods such as arc-welding, to create the folding chair for example.  At this early stage in his career, Prouve began to create designs that would come to define his career. By 1947, Prouve acquired a factory, and established Maxeville. There with 200-employees he produced furnishings and prefabricated homes and schools.

Prouve’s popularity in the 21st Century

Since 2002, with the cooperation of Prouve's family, Vitra has been reproducing many of Prouve's designs.

In employing innovative metals and combining with wood, Prouve's designs broke new ground and have undoubtedly inspired countless designers since.

You can purchase the Tolix stool, and chair with arms, as well as the Prouve chair from our website.