Legends Of Design: Philippe Starck

We've looked at a few designers from the past but for our continuing Legends of Design series, let's look at a living legend: Philippe Starck.

A man of many talents, Starck's career has bounced around the design world, from commercial (restaurants and hotels) to residential to product design to architecture--even naval design. He started his career in 1969. He was named artistic director of Pierre Cardin's publishing house, he opened his own industrial design company Starck Product, and in 1983, he designed the private rooms of President François Mitterrand at the Élysée Palace in Paris.

With former Studio 54 owner and hotelier extraordinaire Ian Schrager, Starck pioneered the idea of the boutique hotel by creating The Royalton in New York City, where guests checking in had to traverse a veritable fashion runway of blue carpet to reach the reception desk at the far end...

...and a very unique men's room with a stainless steel waterfall urinal, a pedal-operated, round communal sink in the middle of the space, and hidden stall doors. When I visited The Royalton in the early 90s, just a few years after it opened, it was quite the hot spot, and I can indeed attest to the uniqueness of the rest room--it seemed like something out of a science fiction film with nothing resembling what I knew of as a men's room.

Starck went on to design a slew of unique hotels, each a true work of art. Just look at his work in the lobby of The Paramount: a checkerboard rug upon which is arranged, like game pieces, a collection of designer seating that includes sofas by Jean-Michel Frank, upholstered chairs by Marco Zanuso, a wooden chair by Antoni Gaudi and Marc Newson’s chaise lounge. A grand staircase to the mezzanine level is backed with a canted wall covered in silver leaf.

One of my favorite hotel spaces Starck created is the wildly imaginative bar at The Hudson. The lighted floor and Louis XVI furniture deliberately recalls the final set where Dave Bowman ages in Kubrick's masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey." I especially love the log bench with chair backs attached to the top.

Starck also worked successfully in the world of product design. In addition to mineral-water bottles for Glacier, watches for Fossil, and luggage for Samsonite, he created the iconic Juicy Salif citrus squeezer (it looks like an alien pod from "War of the Worlds") for Italian houseware brand Alessi.

But I think Starck is best known for designing hundreds and hundreds of pieces of furniture and lighting, and the best known of those pieces must be the Louis Ghost chair for Kartell. The classic incarnation is clear acrylic but it also comes in tinted colors and opaque black as well.

Happy designing!