Jules Leleu - Life and Work



Jules-Emile Leleu is born on 17 June in Boulogne-sur-Mer.
It is also the year of birth of Pierre Chareau and André Domin (Dominique).
In the following years he attends the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Boulogne and afterwards the Ecole d’art appliqués Saint-Gildas in Brussels, where he learns special painting and imitation techniques.




Jules enters the parental painting business, which he runs jointly with his brother Marcel.
He introduces the company branch Décoration and founded furniture workshops.




The four siblings Jules, Marcel, Gabrielle and Marguerite found Leleu Frères, an enterprise for painting, glazing and decoration. The studio and office is at 28, rue des Pipots in Boulogne.




The company is renamed as Jules et Marcel Leleu. Jules’ wife Julienne, born Dufetel, worked at his side, an experience which enabled her to continue the company alone during the 1st World War.


Jules and Marcel are drafted. A pilot in the Air Force, Jules will be wounded twice during the war.
As a prisoner of war he will develop ideas for future projects.


The brothers return from the war. Jules has now specialised entirely on furniture construction and draws furniture designs. The first design is for a friend from his time in captivity, Marcel Aubert.


The company Leleu moves to 31–33, Grande-Rue, where showrooms for furniture, fabrics, lamps, rugs and “bibelots” (small decorative objects) exist.


Jules works three days a week in Paris, because only there are the craftsmen to be found that can perfectly produce high-quality furniture.
In the Faubourg Saint-Antoine all of the trades needed to make a piece of furniture are available, often next door to each other. Leleu produces plans on a scale of 1:1, these being the ones worked to.


The first furniture mentioned in the order book is a side table, with the model number 12. A number 13 does not exist. Number 14 is a console from a dining room, which is exhibited at the Salon d’Automne. In this dining room the model numbers 20 (chairs) and 21 (table) are also to be found. Model Nr. 15 is a divan and Nr. 16 the armchair Lotus.
Until 1930 the company order book lists all of the craftsmen who have worked on the respective furniture.
At the Salon des Artistes francais Leleu presents an office ensemble in burr amboyna.


At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs Leleu exhibits a bedroom (Nr. 54 bed, Nr. 55 psyche and stool, Nr. 56 chest of drawers) in burr walnut, rosewood and ivory. In the April-May issue of the furnishing magazine Mobilier et Décoration the chest of drawers is illustrated and, in the June-July edition, the bed.
Monsieur Chenard, a manufacturer of luxury cars, buys the ensemble for his wife.
The state buys the chest of drawers Nr. 70 in burr amboyna for the Musée du Luxembourg, which was exhibited at the Salon d’Automne.
Monsieur Zaldumbide, the Ambassador of Ecuador in Paris, buys the same bedroom furniture as exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs for 15000 FF. Jules now lives in an apartment in the 18th Arrondissement.


Leleu settles in Paris and, during the next few years, takes over piece by piece the whole of the house 65 avenue Franklin Roosevelt. At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs he exhibits a dining room in macassar ebony including table Nr. 78.

1925   The armchair Lotus costs 1190 FF.
At that time, a postman earnes 800 FF a month and a primary school teacher 1000 FF.
At the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes Leleu is involved with the joint stand “A French Embassy”. In the reception room of the embassy he shows various seating furniture in gilded wood, including the armchair 215. In the music room there is a piano from him in burr walnut, a table (Nr. 220), chairs, armchairs and a clock. In the art and collectors room Leleu presents a chest of drawers in burr amboyna and ivory. The most important ensemble of the exhibition is located in “Class 7 – furniture ensembles” of the Selmersheim gallery: a table Nr. 219, a display cabinet Nr. 584, a long buffet Nr. 586 with ivory, chairs and armchairs, all in macassar ebony. Additionally, in “Class 8 – Individual Items” at the Grand Palais, Leleu shows a bed and a cupboard in burr amboyna.
Gaston Rémon writes in Mobilier et Décoration: “we can consider him (Leleu) as one of the most reliable artists of beautiful furniture.” Leleu furnishes the apartment of Prince Pierre of Monaco in the Rue du Conseiller-Collignon with furniture made of macassar ebony and ivory.

Leleu furnishes the reading room on the cruise liner Ile de France with various chairs and tables in walnut. At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs he shows, amongst other things, a chest of drawers in burr walnut, with a marble top and ivory inlays.


The apartment (hall, lounge, master bedroom, ladies bedroom) of Monsieur Winburn, a cosmetics manufacturer, is one of Leleu’s most prestigious projects. He provides not only some of the most lavish and elegant furniture of his works (see armchair on page 37), but he is for the first time also able to create the complete interior design. As with Ruhlmann or Printz, Leleu’s interiors are always perfectly matched in colour. Starting from the tone of the furniture, the fabrics, carpets, curtains, wall coverings and other decorations are always in perfect harmony, with some deliberately set contrasts. Particularly noteworthy is the bedroom of Madame Winburn, with furniture in macassar and pink-shaded galuchat (ray skin), exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1928 and pictured in Art et Décoration, L’Art vivant and Mobilier et Décoration. At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1927, he presents a living room, including a cabinet in burr walnut (see page 71).


Leleu devises the furnishing of a luxury cabin for the cruise ship Atlantique, which is launched three years later. At the Salon d’Automne he shows the chest of drawers Nr. 1012 (see page 29) for the first time, this item will be a great success and ordered by many customers.


For the Prince Amédée de Broglie Leleu designs several furniture items, including an occasional table (see page 31).
Conference room for the Compagnie des Lampes Mazda, including the table Nr. 1178 and chairs Nr. 812. At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs he exhibits a dining room, designed for the daughter of Edgar Brandt, with the dining table Nr. 1219. Furnishing of an apartment for the Comte de Rivaud in Muette. For now, Leleu furnishes the house of the Comtesse de Marchena at the Place des Etat Unis, later her house in Saint Germain-en-Laye also. These furnishings include the cupboard Nr. 1484 (see page 57), the writing desk (see page 67), several armchairs (see page 33) and the writing desk (see page 47).


Leleu builds a huge indoor swimming pool for the Comte de Rivaud in Saint-Cloud. The pool is 33 meters long, additionally there is a children’s pool and a spacious bar. The walls are in a pink paint, the lighting is also by Leleu.
In the Galliera Museum an exhibition about table decorations takes place. On this occasion, Gaston Dérys writes in Mobilier et Décoration: Leleu is one of our three or four best furniture artists. (…) Proportions, materials, comfort, everything is to be commended.


Shown in Mobilier et Décoration is a projected ensemble by Leleu for the brother of the Emperor of Japan, Prince Takana-Tsu. Gaston Dérys writes: “The great secret, the great virtue of his art, is to have concluded a love marriage between the practical and the pleasant.” At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs Leleu shows a living room ensemble, thereunder a small occasional table (see page 31).
Baron Empain orders a dressing table with mirrors.


At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs Leleu presents merely a secrètaire in rosewood, a model from the previous year. He does not supply other salons this year. Leleu draws up some carpet designs, which are used in his interiors.


To be found at the booth of the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs is the coffee table Nr. 2075 (see page 53) with glass top for Monsieur Renard, the brother in law of Monsieur Winburn and Prefect of the Seine. He makes the same coffee table for Monsieur de Vizella in macassar, with the table top in green galuchat. Many of his early furniture designs are embellished with details of precious materials, such as ivory, galuchat, tortoiseshell, parchment or East Asian lacquer.


The journal Art et Industrie proclaims a competition to furnish a 4-room apartment for 60000 FF. Leleu, Printz, Dominique, Jallot, Prou and Rollin take on the challenge and, for the same ground plan, design very different ensembles (see page 20). Leleu receives praise in the press from all sides. Raymond Cogniat writes in Art and Decoration, “Leleu is a true creator, an innovator of contemporary furniture with modern and sleek lines; he’s one of those who have understood that magnificence does not lie in exaggeration and he achieves the highest elegance alone through the material.”
He supplies various tables for the publishers of the newspaper Paris-Soir and several furniture items for Monsieur de Vergie, other furniture for Monsieur de Vizella, and also for the Ministry of Aviation and the Navy. He designs a first room for Madame Foulon, which little by little furnish the whole of her large apartment on the Boulevard Raspail.


At the Salon d’Automne, a round dining table with a pedestal made of chromed metal is shown. Orders come, amongst others, from Dr. Steiner in Geneva, Harry Baur, Madame de Valbreuze and Monsieur Zustrassen. For the cruise ship Normandie, he designes the luxury apartment Trouville and other cabins.


Monsieur des Rotours places an order for twenty pieces of furniture; the Foreign Ministry for an office and a library; the Societé des Nations in Geneva for the French salon, which is still in existence.
Unusual is the assignment for the sanatorium Martel de Janville. Each room, consisting of a bed, writing desk, office chair and armchair, may only cost 1700 FF. Leleu designs furniture in painted sheet metal, which is manufactured by Jean Prouvé.


At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs a dining room in orange and beige tones is seen with a large table, Nr. 2648, the top of which is made of engraved glass. Furnishing of an office for Madame Vigneron (mother of Michel Foulon, founder of the literary institute Hatier).


Further furniture for Harry Baur. An office for the Rector of the University Sorbonne. Furnishings for the Dental Institute in Paris, the Prefecture of the Basse-Pyrénés and for the Compagnie Sud-Atlantic. Special furniture designs this year include a chest of drawers in galuchat Nr. 2866, a height-adjustable table Nr. 2855 and the chest of drawers Fireworks, made from macassar. Its doors are decorated with a marquetry comprising of 2400 individual pieces of ebony and mother of pearl and was produced by Messager, who André Leleu considered to be the greatest marquetry artist of all time.


For the World Trade Fair in New York Leleu sends a large table, a bed-side table Nr. 2873 and a chest of drawers Nr. 2866 in parchment. For the Turkish embassy he designs a writing desk in rosewood Nr. 2975, a bookcase and a divan. The Compagnie des Phosphates de Constantine receives a writing desk Nr. 2979.


Andre and Jean were called back into the Air Force, at 57 years of age Jules became the commander of a unit that transports members of the government. During the war Leleu organizes regular meetings in his home for an exchange of ideas with decorators. Distinguished guests include Andre Arbus, Jacques Adnet, André Domin (Dominique) and Jean Pascaud, Eugene Printz has to hide from the authorities.


Despite the war, assignments are received from Mon-sieur Chignol, Monsieur Bancilhon and the Director of the Opera of Paris.


Furnishing of the company premises and the private residence of fur manufacturer Lardillat. A kindergarten for the town of Boulogne-sur-Seine.


Madame Subes, Monsieur Aubant, Madame Lacloche and Monsieur Robert place orders.


Leleu Paris and Leleu Boulogne are to be maintained as two separate companies. Jules’ sister in law ran the company at Boulogne until her death in 1971.
Leleu designs further furniture for the Director of the Paris Opera House, the shoe manufacturer Vatin and for Monsieur Liebart.
The workshops in Boulogne are destroyed.


Marcel Leleu dies. The company in Paris is now called Société J. Leleu et Cie. Assignment for an office in the Government chambers.

1946   Orders from the customers Bancilhon, Verin, Barokel, Rosenthalis, Lardillat and Nader. Now, every year in June, Leleu organizes a house show with a specific theme and presented there his latest designs: furniture, carpets and lamps. In this context works by Jean Luce, Puiforcat, Baccarat, Gernez, Mayodon, Decoeur, Pompon, Petersen, Picart-le-Doux, Lurcat, Decorchement, Lenoble and Dunand are also shown. Many of these artists are personal friends of the Leleu family. The exhibition themes are, for example, Asia (1948), Sudanese sculptures (1950), art and flowers (1951), painted furniture (1954) and Japan (1958).
1947   Jean Leleu, the second son, joines the company. Now that the father, two sons and a daughter lead the family business, the name becomes Jules Leleu Ltd. This year assignments come from Monsieur Zustrassen, Monsieur Azéma, the French President Vincent Auriol (a dining room) and Monsieur de Donieb de Loulay (the chest of drawers Fireworks and two chests of drawers in galuchat, after a model from 1938).
1948   The cruise ship Ile de France, from 1927, is completely renovated and relaunched. Leleu contributes the salon of the 1st Class, the bridge, the reading room and the luxury apartment Versailles. Other ships decorated by Leleu are La Baise, Felix Roussel, La Marseillaise (1949), Liberté, Général Leclerc (1950), Maréchal Joffre (1951), Tahitien, Pierre Loti, Cambodge, Charles Tellier (1952), Flandre, Antilles (1953), … a total of about 25 vessels of various kinds. With the glass factory Baccarat and the fabric manufacturers Porthault, Leleu openes a joint business in New York.
1949   Baccarat orders two tables.
1950   New customers from New York are Monsieur Frisch and Monsieur Sabet. During the 1950’s Leleu decorates many French embassies, such as Japan, Israel, Turkey, Holland and Canada.
1951   Assignments from Monsieur Xylas, Monsieur Fagado, Madame Douzille and, once again after 28 years, from Monsieur Zaldumbide.
1952   Customers are the Messieurs Guédon, Angenieux, Jutheau and Lespinasse.
1953   Leleu supplies a table and a sideboard to Prince Bu-Loc. New orders arrive from the old customers Caillard, Renaudin, Boyer, Chatignoux and Troudet.
1954   Furnishings for the literary institute Hatier (Michel Foulon), the railway wagon for President René Coty and for Monsieur Derveaux, for whom Leleu manufactures two cabinets in tortoiseshell.
1955   Furnishing of two apartments (one of which measured 300m2) and an office for Monsieur Frilet, a library for Madame Jutheau and furniture for the Messieurs Bongard, Boyer, Renoudin, Massan, Vatin and Demarne.
1956   Leleu now often uses metal frames and feet for his furniture. The literary institute Hatier has it’s business redecorated. Furniture designs for Monsieur Shouela-Ravas in Montreal and the clients Fernet, Mugnier, Charlet, Edron and Schlosser.
1957   Several private rooms and offices for Monsieur Guédon, the president of the Laboratories Roussel. A South American industrialist buys the villa Medy Roc in Cap d’Antibes on the Cote d’Azur, Leleu refurbishes it completely.
1958   Design of a writing desk with metal base for Monsieur Clapin and a bedroom for Monsieur Henri Roussel. The oil company MAREP arrange for their headquarters to be styled.
1959   Leleu supplies furniture for the families Hersant, Lindemann, Frish, Olaizola, Cahané, the Comte de Dampierre and for a whole apartment to Monsieur Kozik.
1960   Furniture for Monsieur Derval, the director of the Folies Bergères. Several rooms for the Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba in Tunis (style furniture and furniture in galuchat). Various furniture items for the families Charlet, Citron in New York, Eyselé, Frilet, Hetzel, Levaux and Woog in Geneva. Leleu now designs and equips many offices for large companies.

Leleu furnishes the villa of the son of Habib Bourguiba in Skanes. He supplies 12 pieces of furniture to Monsieur Sabet in Geneva. Additional orders from old clients such as Lespinasse, Frilet, Hersant, Charlet, Renaudin and Vatin.


In july Jules Leleu was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing and died from the injuries received in the accident.