In art, minimalism of the 1970’s questioned the cultural and social values of society and Joe D’Urso, New York interior designer and architect, took that movement and made it his own. Minimalism rejected business as usual. It rejected the traditional interior design. It rejected the drug laws and the traditional role of women. It rejected the traditional housing and questioned the role of government. D’Urso was there when it became cool to live in an industrial district with the beamed ceilings, the industrial lighting and heat vents crossing the ceiling. The Manhattan loft culture appealed to both rich and poor.
Joe D’Urso, born in 1943, studied interior design and architecture at Pratt Institute, Royal College of Art in London, and Manchester College of Art and Design. He began his career assisting one of the design masters of the 20th century, Ward Bennett. Bennett lived in the Dakota Building which he renovated numerous times. Many thought it was “…the most exciting modern apartment in New York.”
D’Urso’s own journey as an interior designer began in 1967 and soon, almost singlehandedly, took hold of the new minimal movement for residences and brought it to the forefront of design. His design was based on the office look that had clean, sharp lines, more useful than attractive, and using materials that would last. In the early years, thinking of D’Urso, brought forth images of white paint, glass, rubber and steel. He liked combining straight lines with curves, movement with solidity. The loft movement is still alive today. Companies all over the country renovate industrial spaces. In Oregon’s new Pearl District for example, the whole section started as loft conversions and welding shops, to trendy restaurants, hair salons and furniture stores.
Pictured is a classic early design by D’Urso:
Joe D’Urso is known not only for renovating residences, he did an Upper East Side apartment for Calvin Klein, but designing furniture for Knoll and the Los Angeles flagship store for Esprit brand clothing.
One writer said of D’Urso, “He has always asked the same questions when working with clients: “Is the (design) appropriate for your lifestyle? What is the intent of the space, and how do you plan to live in it?” His style has evolved. Some now call him a collagist. One whose work, such as a piece of music or interior design, is created by combining unrelated styles. One is, if like D’Urso, you combine the eclectic, the engineered, color and texture in a minimalist way. The D’Urso look has evolved to look like this recent renovation:
Photography By Eric Piasecki/ Produced By Robert Rufino
Here we see the heights of his contract lounge chair and the residential lounge chair both by Knoll. The difference is two inches.
Notice the low seating, different from office furniture. Typically, the frame is industrial and built to last and the fabric for color and comfort. Notice the swivel chairs for freedom and ability to focus on particular areas and the industrial look of the cocktail table. Now there is warmth from the splashes of color against a light background, yet still D’Urso.