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Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Leonard Fontaine

Updated on December 9, 2013

Introduction and Background

Charles Percier (1764-1838) French Architect, and Pierre-François-Leonard Fontaine (1762-1853) French Architect are considered the first Interior Designers. They are widely known in Germany, France, England, and Europe. These two men were commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte’s (emperor of France) wife Josephine in the 1800s to restore the Château de Malmaison, a palace located in Rueil-Malmaison, France.


Projects that Pierre Fontaine and Charles Percier worked on over the years include:

  • Rue de Rivoli
  • Rue de Castiglione
  • Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
  • Château de Saint-Cloud
  • Château de Fontainebleau
  • Château de Malmaison
  • Château de Versailles
  • Château de Compiegne
  • Louver & Tuileries (the Tuileries was Napoleon's main residence)

Percier and Fontaine also compiled the book titled Recueil de décorations intérieures (Collection of Interior Decoration).

Château de Malmaison

The Château de Malmaison is located in Rueil-Malmaison, France. It was purchased by Josephine and Napoleon I in 1799 along with the Tuileries and 500 acres in 1800.The original structure was built in 1610 and Josephine had used it as her primary home until 1814 when she passed away.

Château de Malmaison


Examples of Projects

According to the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE CHÂTEAU DE MALMAISON, there are several areas of the Chateau de Malmaison that Percier and Fontaine had been commissioned on. These areas include the following:

  • Napolean's Library still remains intact from 1800.
  • Council Chamber furnished by Fontaine in 10 days and referred to as the "military tent".
  • Music Room, designed by Percier and Fontaine.
  • Dining Room, enlarged and decorated by Fontaine in the Pompeian Theme.
  • Napolean's Bedroom includes furnishings from the Tuileries.

National Museum of the Château de Malmaison


Designs and Plans


Design Styles, Themes, and Concepts - Consulate, Directoire, Empire (Neoclassical)

Design Concept or Philosophy

Persuaded as we are that this sickness, which is that of modern taste…,must find its treatment and cure in the examples and models of antiquity—followed not blindly but with the discernment suitable to modern manners, customs, and materials—we have striven to imitate the antique in its spirit, principles, and maxims, which are timeless.—Percier and Fontaine, Recueil de décorations intérieures, 1801. (Harwood, 2012).

Styles and Themes - Empire and Pompeian

The Late Neoclassical originated in France, c. 1790 while the Directoire and Empire took place during 1789 - 1815. These styles were influence by the Ancient Greece and Rome, as the klismos can be seen in several of their furniture designs. These styles incorporate a replication of antiques in architecture and design. The Empire style was created by the French Architects, Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine for Napoleon I and it emplifies Napoleon I's status as emperor. Other parts of the world also adopt similar versions of the Empire Style such as Biedermeier, Greek Revival, and Regency.

Council Chamber at Malmaison, Description by Fontaine


Designs from Recueil de décorations intérieures


Josephine's Bedroom


Pompeii, Italy: Influence on European Architects


Pompeian Couch: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Vesuvian eruption was apparently a volcanic eruption that devastated all the inhabitants of Pompeii, some 10-20 thousand. The influence of Pompeii, hence called the Pompeian theme, is used throughout the periods of Directoire and Empire. Other attributes that influence this period are from the Ancients: Egypt, Rome, and Greece. The interiors are stated to military and imperial references and connote luxury, sternness, vigor, and masculinity.

The drawings that were captured above as examples, specifically the chairs, relate to both the Greeks and Romans, the klismos and the x-form stool. The bedroom drawing by Percier and some of the other bedrooms photographed really depict and capture elements from the Baths of Caracalla and the Basilica of Maxentius of Rome. Then the Greeks had a kline, a couch, that is similar to the beds in Empire style and also there is this couch from Ancient Pompeii with turned legs and fulcrums on either side that is even more similar to the beds of Empire.

Pompeian Couch



National Museum of the Chateau de Malmaison. (2008). Retrieved Aug. 26, 2013, from

Margaret Rodenberg's Writing Journal: Malmaison. (2011). Retrieved Aug. 26, 2013, from Finding Napoleon: 2011.

(2013). Retrieved Aug. 26, 2013, from The Metropolitian Museum of Art:

(2013). Retrieved Aug. 26, 2013, from Chateau de Malmaison:

Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine (French architect). (2013). Retrieved Aug. 16, 2013, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:

Empire Style (art). (2013). Retrieved Aug. 16, 2013, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:

Empire Style/Charles Percier. (2013). Retrieved Aug. 16, 2013, from Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. :

Pompeii, Italy. (2013). Retrieved Aug. 26, 2013, from Britannica Encyclopedia Online:

Rueil-Malmaison (France). (2013). Retrieved Aug. 16, 2013, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.comEBchecked/topic/512315/Rueil-Malmaison

Dechiara, J. P. (2001). Time-Saver Standards For Interior Design and Space Planning, 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Harwood, B. M. (2012). Architecture and Interior Design - An Integrated History to the Present . Upper Saddle River, NJ; Columbus, OH: Pearson Education, Inc. & Prentice Hall.

Pile, J. (2009). A History of Interior Design - 3rd Ed. . New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons; Laurence King Publishing Ltd. .


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