Francis Jourdain was born on November 2, 1876 into a well-to-do Parisian family. His father, Frantz Jourdain (1847-1935), was a journalist, critic, organiser of the Salons d'Automne and architect. The young boy's family entourage included many artists, writers and intellectuals. As a teenager, he became passionate about painting and decided to become an art worker. He studied drawing, engraving, glassmaking and decoration. At the Universal Exhibition of 1900, he received a gold medal for the stained glass windows he designed for Loïe Fuller's theatre built by Henri Sauvage.

In 1913, he devoted himself to what will be called "ensemble-mobiliers". His taste for simplicity went against the decorative exuberance of his time. With his friends Léon Werth and Octave Mirbeau, he founded the "Ateliers Modernes" and wrote a manifesto advocating the manufacture of simple, functional and inexpensive furniture.

Although critics at first severely judged his sobriety, he met several architects who pursued the same ideals. The rapprochement that takes place between these young artists soon provokes tensions within the Société des artistes décorateurs with representatives of traditional fine arts. This led to a schism that gave rise to the Union des artistes modernes (U.A.M.) in 1929.

During the Second World War, he ceased his activities as an architect-decorator. At the Liberation, he decided to devote himself to writing. Francis Jourdain died in Paris on 31 December 1958 at the age of 82, having made a major contribution to the emergence of the "modern" style.