What can be said about the evolution of one man’s design style in a few words? Joe D’Urso has been designing for nearly 50 years. He began his career assisting one of the design masters of the 20th century, Ward Bennett with whom he championed the “total design approach” philosophy for which they are both famous.
Joe began his own journey as an interior designer in 1967 and in no uncertain terms established – and brought to the forefront – a new minimal movement almost singlehandedly. Though there were others like him (before and after) who espoused the vernacular of the “High Tech” vocabulary, he was it’s captain. He has said that it was not a movement but a response to seeking out products of good design that did not pander to sentimentality.
All that said, Joe D’Urso is an acutely philosophical designer with a defined and articulate aesthetic. Over the years, he has contributed to the annals of great design with his interiors and his furniture for Knoll.
He has always asked the same questions: Is it appropriate for your lifestyle? What is the intent of a space, and how one lives in it? Though his interiors may appear to be hard-edged, they are in fact conceived and executed for a casual and sensuous experience.
The 1970’s was a time of reassessment and challenge that found in its leaders the necessary tools by which to refashion our social norms and conventions. Therefore how we lived was to be directly examined and reevaluated as well. Joe D’Urso was a designer who paved the way for many and became a champion of minimal design. His view is that interior design doesn’t come from a vending machine – which may still be a poignant thought today.
Calvin Klein’s apartment, 1975
Take the time to watch his interview for Interior Design: The New Freedom from 1981 hosted by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel;
His view of how and what is appropriate is key to his sensitivity in addressing how people live, the space, and that philosophical approach to creating a viable living space
As the decades pressed on that concept or belief of what is true minimalist living has also morphed and been influenced by the social climate. Could we feel as stimulated by grey industrial carpeting and low slung seating as we did over 40 years ago? Maybe not. As a culture we have evolved and have actually acquired more appreciation and access thanks to technology. The response has been moving towards less rigidity and more familiarity. Which unto itself conveys a sense of comfort.
We can see these changes in D’Urso’s work as well. His recent work has mellowed and refined itself to embrace these changes. Here is a fairly current example of his design work that we here at CJDellatore find holds true to his original beliefs.
Pardo+Gresham residence, Manhattan
Like a fine wine Joe D’Urso’s aesthetic has seasoned and expanded to allow us to savor its full bouquet in the complexities and nuances that time brings to an active creative soul. It is my wish that he continues to evolve and to bring forward his own style of innovative interiors for us to enjoy.
Written by Carl Lana