Jack Lenor Larsen, the world-renowned textile designer who founded the nonprofit sculpture garden and arboretum LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, died Dec. 22 at his home there. He was 93.
Known as "the dean of 20th century textile design," Larsen was a world traveler whose fascination with materials, patterns and weaving techniques from other nations inspired the draperies, rugs, upholsteries and other home furnishings he designed. Throughout his seven-decade career, Larsen's work appeared at such prestigious venues as the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Louvre.
"Jack’s genius was undeniable. His vision left an indelible mark on each of us and on communities near and far. How lucky we are to have been a friend of his. How fortunate we are to have been moved and inspired by him — and, indeed, together we will protect and honor his legacy. Jack was loved. Jack will be missed," read the tribute on LongHouse Reserve's website.
Larsen's genius was evident from the time he was a child. Born in Seattle and raised in Bremerton, Washington, he constructed forts and all types of watercraft, including kayaks. At the University of Washington, he developed an interest in interior design, weaving and furniture design, and ultimately moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a weaver's apprentice. During that period, he taught film star Joan Crawford the art of weaving.
After earning a master of fine arts degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, Larsen moved to New York City where he opened his own studio. In 1952, he established his textile company Jack Lenor Larsen Inc., and quickly gained a solid reputation for his innovative method of blending natural fibers such as goat hair with synthetics like nylon to create vibrant, multicultural designs.
His creations caught the eye of both industry notables and celebrities. Architect Eero Saarinen commissioned him to design a diaphanous veil for the unpolished white marble rooms of the historic Irwin Miller House in Columbus, Indiana.
First lady Jacqueline Kennedy selected Larsen's "Granite" — a weave of natural, undyed yarns — to redo the White House. President Richard Nixon asked Larsen to provide the carpeting and upholstery for Air Force One. Larsen also designed the upholsteries for Pan Am's and Braniff's first 747s.
In 1986, Larsen built LongHouse, a four-story home modeled on a seventh century Japanese shrine located on 16 acres. He planted more than 1,000 flowering species and rare conifers on the estate's grounds. The home and garden, which features sculptures by Willem de Kooning, Yoko Ono and Buckminster Fuller, among others, was opened to the public for guided tours during the summer.
Larsen is survived by his longtime partner, Peter Olsen. A memorial service is planned at a later date.