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The Work of Ward Bennett, a Giant of American 20th-Century Design, Finally Gets a Book

Bennett is pictured here in the apartment after its initial renovation, sitting in his scissor chair in front of a white worktable topped with glasses he designed. Besides designing interiors and furniture, Bennett worked on textiles and tabletop objects. : Michael Pateman

When furniture and interior designer Ward Bennett died in 2003, The New York Times obituary referred to him as “an enigma,” and followed up with, “there are no monographs of his oeuvre.” As of November 6 that is no longer true: Phaidon is publishing Ward Bennett, the first monograph on one of our greatest interior designers. The book is edited by Elizabeth Beer and Brian Janusiak, with a foreword by John Pawson and an essay by Pilar Viladas.

Long been recognized as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, Bennett’s work defined Modernism. Bennett’s clients included David Rockefeller, Chase Manhattan Bank, Jann Wenner and Tiffany & Co. His own remarkable apartment in the Dakota was startling in its renovation of a series of maid’s rooms that he purchased in 1962. Those rooms were under the roof of the historic building that went up on Central Park West in 1881, and Bennett gutted the interiors in one of the gables. The space was grouped around an airshaft and had to deal with the building’s flagpole running interference through his office, an obstacle that Bennett turned into an ingenious feature anchoring a circular table.

Here, a photograph of the south-facing roof entrance. Photo: Ward Bennett Archive / Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution
Bennett’s roof terrace, seen here, situated between the building’s chimneys, had an expansive view of Central Park. Photo: Ward Bennett Archive / Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution
The interior of the apartment through the skylight that Bennett, seen here with guests, added during the renovation. Photo: Ward Bennett Archive / Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution
Bennett designed the Fifth Avenue apartment of handbag designer Reva Ostrow in 1979. He gutted the conventional layout and created a loft-like space. Here, in the entrance of the apartment, the bedroom is visible behind an exposed structural I-beam, painted red with barn-door lighting usually used for theatrical events. A curved wall defines the dining room. Photo: Adrian Gaut
Here, Bennett designed a chrome version of the Agnelli table with two of his U chairs. He replaced the original windows in the apartment with double pane glass with rounded edges, and integrated automatic blinds in between the panes. Photo: Adrian Gaut
The cover of Phaidon’s monograph, with a portrait of Bennett sitting in his 1158 Mobius Executive armchair. In her “Designing Life” essay, Pilar Vilades writes, “Ward Bennett once said of the sculptor Constantin Brancusi that he ‘always captured the essence, the simplest form.’ Throughout a career that spanned five decades, Bennett strove to make this ethos his own, whether he was designing interiors, furniture, textiles, drinking glasses, or flatware. His work fused beauty and utility — he had no use for the former without the latter — in the purest form possible.”
The Work of Ward Bennett, a Giant of 20th-Century Design