Glossary

Maison Charles

French manufacturer Maison Charles is one of the oldest French family lighting companies still in operation today. The company is known for early reproductions  antique lighting  and its later fantastic nature-inspired lamps in bronze and gilding.

Maison Charles (sometimes called Maison Charles et fils) was founded in 1908 by the Frenchman Ernest Charles, who bought the Ullmann Bronzewerke. The company originally reproduced antique lighting in bronze. It quickly became known for its high quality work with the material and made a name for itself in the professional bronze art community. Charles’ eldest son Emilie Albert took over the company in 1920 (when it was often called Maison Charles et fils or Maison Charles & Son) and his brother Pierre followed him in 1932. During the 1930s the company was known as Charles Frères.

During the late 1950s, Ernest Charles’ grandsons Jean and Jacques joined the company. Jean studied interior design and wood sculpture at the École Boulle in Paris and Jacques had a qualification in applied arts and interior design. In 1960, Maison Charles moved to new premises in the Marais district of Paris. It was here that Chrystiane Charles (1927-2013), Jean’s wife and respected bronze artist and sculptor, created the Charles Collection – the iconic Maison Charles pieces. Inspired by nature and classicist styles, the Charles Collection (1960) became the brand’s signature style and represented major competition for the famous French lighting company Maison Jansen. Chrystiane’s most popular designs are the Pineapple, Epi Mais (Ear of Corn), Pomme de Pin (Pine Cone), Lotus and Médicis lamps.

In 1965, Jacques designed the Inox collection, which featured stainless steel tubes that defined the era and can be seen in the iconic Organ Lamp (1965).

Jean, Jacques and Emile Charles all died in the same year, 1970, the cause is unknown. Chrystiane Charles—who won the gold medal at the Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Beaux-Arts—became artistic director and chair, a position she retained until 1982. The following year, she created a self-titled collection that included several signed and numbered sculptural lamps in the classic style of Maison Charles. During her 25 years with the lighting company, Chrystiane designed more than 300 models, including the Amaryllis, Alizee, Orchid and Tulip lamps (1971-72). She won the Lampe d’Or design prize at the Salon International du Luminaire de Paris exhibition in 1978 with her Feuille d’Eau lamp and in 1981 with her Orchid lamp.

In 1982, architect Laurent Charles joined the firm and designed a new range of contemporary and classic lamps. Laurent’s design approach resulted in very architectural and geometric lamps. The collection consists of models such as Athos, Archeo, Tenere, Quasar, Linea (all 1980s) and Colisée (1984, Lampe d’Or Design Prize).

In 1989, Maison Charles expanded its business and began furnishing luxury hotels and restaurants. In 1997, Laurent was appointed chairman and managing director while Chrystiane became honorary chairman.

In 2001 the company was bought by Michael Wagner and the workshops were moved to Saint-Denis. Maison Charles continued to produce a wide range of lighting collections, including Holly Hunt’s Saint-Honore (2004), Jean Boggio’s Mascarade collection (2006), Philippe Parent’s Meter collection and Grille lamp (both 2006), Guillaume Vincent’s Delight lamp (2007), Luc Gensollen’s Bubbles Collection (2008) and others.

In 2014 Emmanuel Bossuet was hired as artistic director. Today the company focuses on producing custom-made pieces for private clients, art galleries, architects, interior designers and dealers. Maison Charles only produces its bestsellers in small series. Maison Charles lamps produced in the 1950s are very popular on the vintage market, especially among lovers of neoclassical,  Hollywood Regency  and glamorous styles of the 1970s.

Contact
Opening hours:
  • Monday
    closed
  • Tuesday - Friday
    12 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Saturday
    10 a.m. - 4 p.m.