Saint-Louis and Pierre Charpin make crystal for everyday use

‘Cadence’ by Saint-Louis and designer Pierre Charpin is a new 29-piece crystal collection designed for everyday use

Saint-Louis and Charpin ‘Cadence’ 29-piece crystal collection
Wine glass, €155; candlestick, €180; table lamp, €1,800; bowl, €670; champagne flute, €155; decanter, €550; tumbler, €115; wine carafe, €710, all part of the ‘Cadence’ collection, by Pierre Charpin, for Saint-Louis.
(Image credit: Neil Godwin at Future Studios. )

Saint-Louis and Pierre Charpin are on a mission to make crystal casual. That might seem like a strange cause for the royal glassworks of France (a title that originated with King Louis XV) and a designer whose work is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou and Musée des Arts Décoratifs. But good design always responds to the needs of its users, and as Saint-Louis’ artistic director Anne Lhomme puts it, ‘we’re living in a time where we want things to be fuss-free, when we want the way we use objects to be as simple as possible’.  

Thus, Saint-Louis and Charpin have created ‘Cadence’, a 29-piece collection of clear crystal that spans everything from vases and tumblers to fruit bowls and lamps. The objects are characterised by a design of horizontal and vertical cuts that, as Charpin puts it, ‘creates a connection, a line, and allows these objects to exist together or on their own, and to become part of an everyday landscape’.

To make finely cut crystal objects suitable for such an ‘everyday landscape’, the collection emphasises simplicity and functionality. Horizontal lines decorate the objects that contain liquids, and vertical lines adorn ‘elevated’ objects like stemmed glasses and lighting stands. The pieces are heavy enough that they do not feel intimidatingly delicate, but light enough that they can be easily carried and used for long stretches of time. The precision-cut lines give each object a pleasant tactility. The wine glasses have a shorter, bulkier stem than usual to make them feel less formal, while the table and hanging lamps use a surprising combination of crystal and paper to gently diffuse light. 

Saint-Louis and Charpin ‘Cadence’ 29-piece crystal collection

(Image credit: Neil Godwin at Future Studios.)

The ‘Cadence’ collection’s appearance is discreet but still distinctive, modern without sacrificing elegance. Charpin found inspiration for his design in the Viennese Secession, Memphis, and other movements that broke away from the ornate seriousness of the time in favour of something simpler and more immediate. 

The designer’s understanding of shape and function and his ability to walk the line between high design and everyday practicality were the central reasons Saint-Louis called on him for this collection. Yet, the final appearance of ‘Cadence’ was not down to Charpin alone. ‘For me, ideas usually take precedence over materials,’ he says. ‘But my encounter with Saint-Louis is and remains the exception to this rule: it was impossible to ignore crystal, or the manufacturer's existence.’ 

For three years, Charpin and Saint-Louis’ craftspeople worked together to see how the original drawings could be translated into literal objects. It was a complicated process to align Saint-Louis’ ancient techniques for crystal-cutting with Charpin’s seemingly simple design. 

Every piece of Saint-Louis crystal is mouth-blown, hand-cut, hand-engraved and hand-decorated in its factory in northern France, where the brand has been based since the 18th century. For Charpin, ‘Cadence’s lines meeting and repeating themselves are really a tribute to the virtuosity of Saint-Louis’ crystal-cutting craft. Manufactures, workshops are always emotional places. While drawing, I was thinking of the local landscape shaped by crystal activity, the village life of Saint-Louis and its living heritage. There’s a certain inherent rigour, even a fervour attached to the know-how narrative of the manufacture.’ 

Adds Lhomme, ‘I think we want to have objects around us that make sense, that fit in with our everyday life. Even if these objects are pretty, are aesthetic, are crystal, they are objects you will use regularly.’


A version of this article appears in the May 2022 issue of Wallpaper*. Subscribe today!

Writer and Wallpaper* Contributing Editor

Mary Cleary is a writer based in London and New York. Previously beauty & grooming editor at Wallpaper*, she is now a contributing editor, alongside writing for various publications on all aspects of culture.