With nearly a hundred Esquire magazine covers under his belt, George Lois is no stranger to design. The art director, graphic designer, and author—thought by some to be the inspiration behind Mad Men’s Don Draper—began his tryst with advertising in tandem with the so-called Creative Revolution in the 1960s and hasn’t stopped working since. No stranger to controversy, Lois’ jocular disposition and taste for intrepid design has propelled a long, dynamic career.
George Lois seated in an MR Chaise. Image courtesy of NOWNESS.
The designer’s penchant for modern design, however, isn’t limited to printed matter—in his Greenwich Village apartment, it seeps out of every square inch. Seated in a Barcelona Chair in a short feature directed by Barbara Anastacio for NOWNESS and Apartamento magazine, Lois refers to his home as a gallery of great humanistic art. Speaking to Knoll Inspiration, he elaborated: “The least expensive and most available masterworks of art are 20th-century modern furniture—in a dozen years, you’re living in a breathtaking museum of cult objects fit for a connoisseur.”
A Brno Chair in the study of Lois’ Greenwich Village apartment. Image courtesy of NOWNESS.
“The least expensive and most available masterworks of art are 20th-century modern furniture—in a dozen years, you’re living in a breathtaking museum of cult objects fit for a connoisseur.”
His personal collection of functional “masterworks” parallels the trajectory of his career in design, beginning with a chair from the Mies van der Rohe Collection. “When I came home from the Korean War in early 1953, I was hired by William Golden to join his design atelier at CBS television at 485 Madison Avenue,” Lois recalled. “I purchased a Brno chair with my Army mustering-out pay. When Dr. Frank Stanton, the president of CBS television, saw me sitting on a Mies chair, he was flabbergasted.”
George Lois seated in a Barcelona Chair next to a Florence Knoll End Table and Saarinen Pedestal Table. Image courtesy of NOWNESS.
Lois' home in Greenwich Village might be the contemporary answer to Sir John Soane's personal museum of antiquities: amid shelves bulging with illustrated volumes and an obstacle course of sculptures and lamps, several pieces of classic Knoll furniture take center stage. In the living room, three Barcelona Chairs, an MR Chaise and a Saarinen Side Table are arranged around a Florence Knoll End Table.
Elsewhere in the house, a Brno Chair and an MR Chair allow Lois to sit down at a desk, either to read one of the many books in his personal library or to continue drafting designs. Ever a fan of fellow designer Florence Knoll Bassett, Lois designed his first cover after two decades for her 2001 interview in Metropolis Magazine. And after purchasing his first piece of furniture as a young aficionado in 1953, the design maverick’s predilection for Knoll remains undiminished.
Lois' 2001 cover for Metropolis Magazine. Image courtesy of George Lois.
George Lois seated in an MR Chair, at another desk. Image courtesy of NOWNESS.
“For over 60 years, I have advised young men and women and couples, when they’re setting up house and are short of funds, to go to a Knoll showroom, and to buy one, just one, iconic piece of furniture each year. In the meantime, sit on the floor, if you must.”
“For over 60 years, I have advised young men and women and couples, when they’re setting up house and are short of funds, to go to a Knoll showroom, and to buy one, just one, iconic piece of furniture each year,” Lois told Knoll Inspiration. “In the meantime, sit on the floor, if you must.”
Design: George Lois
Images: NOWNESS & George Lois