Jack Lenor Larsen – In Admiration

If you have been around textiles for any length of time your knees probably do an involuntary genuflection at the sight or sound of the name Jack Lenor Larsen. At 85 his life and work have spanned the growth of modern commercial, residential and art fabrics. Influences of his design aesthetic can be seen from Florence Knoll in the 1950’s to designs produced for contract and corporate interiors today. And those are just the beginning and (current) end points. In between are thousands of textile designers, artists, landscape architects, architects and collectors from all over the world who have seen his creations and been inspired to their own lofty heights. Larsen’s design and work ethics are peerless. There isn’t another like him.

I have in my own collection Jack Lenor Larsen swatches and samples from my days as an interior designer, and while they are usually packed away, it is like Christmas morning to find them again as I look through boxes, reveling for a moment in the beauty and sensitivity of the designs and colors, recalling the days I first discovered and fell in love with them. One large sample, possibly a wing sample from a showroom, of a double cloth shown in the photo below, I always thought would grace a chair someday. Now I’m relieved I never got to that project since the fabric is more versatile as a wall hanging. I still adore the colors and design. Unearthing it this week has renewed my determination to find a place in my home to display this small work of ingenuity and elegance.

Double cloth fabric design by Jack Lenor Larsen around 1980.

Jack Lenor Larsen design, circa 1980’s

Reading a recent interview with Larsen in Dwell magazine made me realize that although he has created some of the most exquisite and expensive fabrics available, Larsen also has an egalitarian view of owning fine, authentic textiles and bringing them into our lives. As he suggests in the article, just one yard of his fabric could upholster 4 dining room chairs, and I might add, an ottoman, bench or even become a stand alone wall hanging. Having very little money is not an impediment to owning beautifully designed, inspiring textiles. It just takes a little imagination. I couldn’t be more grateful that we have had Jack Lenor Larsen as our guide and muse all these years. I hope you will take some time to discover or rediscover his genius if you haven’t already. Truly inspiring.

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