Joseph D'Urso

U.S.A. (1943)

“If one isn’t careful,” says Joseph D’Urso, “one ends up living in a storeroom.” This innovative designer has been called a “master of minimalist design,” credited for being among the first to use industrial materials in his residential interiors. As a pioneer of the “high-tech” design movement that emerged out of the 1970s, he expanded the design vocabulary with new materials and graphic, streamlined forms.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1943, D’Urso began his design education at the Pratt Institute, graduating in 1965. D’Urso got his start in New York working as an assistant to Ward Bennett, whom he credited with inspiring his own “total design” approach. He went on to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Art in London and began his own practice, D’Urso Design, in New York in 1967. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, D’Urso became well-known for his spare, minimal interiors, for which he was hired by scores of private clients, as well as design-centered companies like Calvin Klein and Esprit. His embrace of industrial materials was a critical step in the evolution of modernism. “There are other sources for a faucet or a chair or light fixture,” he says. “Often these sources were much more useful, because they were not trying to appeal to someone’s sentimentality…. They were engineered products; they were good design."

D’Urso designed his first furniture collection for Knoll in 1980, leading his generation in collaborating with the legendary manufacturer. That collection, which D’Urso described as “casual and physical,” included a sofa, as well as high and low tables. D’Urso takes the same clean-lined approach to furniture that he took with his interiors. “You have to be constantly in touch with your environment,” he says. “You have to be constantly questioning yourself: Why am I putting this here?” He reconnected with Knoll in 2008 to introduce the D’Urso Collection.

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