Famed designer’s cabin conceals back-to-basics building tips

In 1938 architect and designer designed a mountain shelter able to withstand the harsh elements of any mountaintop yet still light enough to be carried by hand. The “” (“barrel shelter”), her piece of designed with Pierre Jeanneret, consists of just 12 main prefabricated panels light enough to be manually transported.

Once on location, the panels lock together to resist wind, snow, and cold. The tiny barrel-shaped structure sleeps up to 10 people and while it was never constructed in Perriand’s lifetime it was just one of her many designs created for the masses.

In 1934, after 7 years working with , Perriand began a five-year study of minimal shelters, like the prefab aluminum and the affordable, elegant prefab “House at the Water’s Edge”. Hoping to improve upon her easily-transportable, aluminum she found inspiration in the merry-go-round. Counting on the dodecagon shape’s ability to withstand strong centrifugal loads (and high winds), she made it the basis for her Refuge Tonneau.

All her tiny shelters were works of studied elimination. “Her mission was to eliminate anything unnecessary,” explains her daughter Pernette Perriand-Barsac, “but always to concentrate on the flow of light and air. Then you can live in the smallest of spaces.”

Sébastien Cherruet gave us a tour of Perriand’s minimal structures and apartment design at the ’s exhibit he curated: “Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a New World”.

Special thanks to:
Gilbert Coquard, Centre d’Art de Flaine https://www.centredartdeflaine.com/
Photos by Dorian Degoutte http://doriandegoutte.fr/
Additional video by Arthur Poisson & Dorian Degoutte
Relocation of refuge tonneau: Association ACTE & students of ESAAA option Design & Space, 2012 (Léo Huber, Elodie Michaud. Flore Traynard, Julie Brachet, Anaïde de Pachtère, Ghana Selten, Julie dos Santos, Chloé Carbet-Petit-Jean, Marion Genève)
2nd relocation of refuge tonneau: Jardins Fabriques et le CAUE Haute-Savoie, 2015

On *faircompanies: https://faircompanies.com/videos/famed-designers-cabin-conceals-back-to-basics-building-tips/


  1. I think her greatest gift was adapting nature and physics to bear on designs that are human friendly and aesthetically pleasing as well as simple. Very rare to achieve.

  2. When I lived in Japan the bathroom was made of one piece of plastic PE. I love that design, was easy to clean and small, but I don’t find it outside of that country.

  3. where are you going to get such an open apartment space? i like her designs, but some things are impratical unless you’re building your own apartment block!

  4. Well this woman was incredible! The one thing I can say about that prefab plastic bathroom is they remind me of Japanese bathrooms. So then it would be perfect for a mudroom bathroom. You could just shower your dirty self and the entire bathroom at the same time! I have been trying to buy a bathroom unit installation like this in America and cannot find one.

  5. This way so fascinating, Kirsten! I’m amazed by your findings more with each subsequent video. Someone should produce those silo looking structures to sell as kit tiny homes (Ikea?). I’d live in one.

  6. Your content blows my mind. Where do you find these wonderful places? I have found some great ideas on my own steam but you always seem to push the boat out further.
    Hope you are staying safe and well.

  7. Thanks for the video about Perriand, will have to find a book about her at the library! Especially I liked her mountain cabin, brilliant!

  8. The Barrel Refuge structure is something I’m looking to do. Where can I find more info on how the panels lock together to keep out the elements?

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