Born in Paris in 1927, he studied stone carving and clay modelling at the École Camondo before working at Thonet in 1954.

Here he designed a range of desks, chairs and cabinets which exhibited a functional minimalism similar to the work of Florence Knoll.

In 1958, he began designing for Dutch company Artifort and the relationship continued throughout his working life.

His discovery of the sculptural possibilities of upholstered furniture blossomed through the 1960s, when he developed a series of chairs with an inner structure of steel tubing, covered in foam and fabric.

The chance to work with France’s Le Mobilier National (the conservatory of state commissions of furniture and decoration) led to a series of government commissions. In 1968 he refurbished the Louvre art gallery and his Ribbon chair was one of the award-winning results.




He designed seating for Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, redesigned the apartments of the Élysée Palace for President Georges Pompidou in 1971, and went on to design furniture for Francois Mitterand’s presidential office in 1983.

His 80th birthday in 2007 was marked by a flurry of retrospectives of his work.

Fast facts


After an early functionalist phase while designing for Thonet, Paulin’s style became much more organic.

His sometimes space-aged upholstery pieces for Artifort are challenging, but their soft curves are instantly inviting and extremely comfortable.

Like Verner Panton, Paulin enjoyed colour.

Best known for

The Orange Slice chair (pictured) has been heavily copied due to its simple design, while the Ribbon chair is one of the most memorable and exciting pieces of furniture of the last 50 years.

What they’re worth

The cost of a new Paulin piece starts from $1854 for a Little Tulip chair.

Auction prices are reasonable, with a Ribbon chair (pictured) selling for $3500 at an Australian auction.

Earlier items, which are no longer in production, sell for about US$5000.

Pierre Paulin gallery