SINGULAR MOMENT: A FIFTH AVENUE APARTMENT DESIGNED BY WARD BENNETT
In the pantheon of American design, Ward Bennett holds a unique place. Born in 1917, he dropped out of school at age 13 and worked his way up from fabric sales-boy and fashion illustrator. He later traveled all around Europe, took sculpture classes with Brancusi in Paris, and studied with Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann. By the time he died, at the age of 85 in 2003, he had a long career to look back on, having designed over 150 chairs, worked as an interior consultant to corporate architecture firms like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and amassed an address book of high-profile clients that included everyone from Gianni Agnelli to David Rockefeller. Bennett, whose prolific oeuvre remains a well-kept secret, was a Modernist at heart, but was nonetheless no comfort-eschewing stoic. In fact he had an uncanny knack for imbuing monochromatic schemes and industrial materials (the I-beam table was one of his signature pieces) with an elegant sense of coziness. He was also known as a relentless perfectionist with a reputation for being difficult. When, in the late 1970s, accessories designer Reva Ostrow, head of the eponymous handbag empire, sought out Bennett to redesign her Fifth Avenue apartment, he interviewed her five times. Bennett eventually complied, and Ostrow thanked him for it by preserving his interiors in pristine, museum-worthy condition. “Ward was a genius,” says the now octogenarian Ostrow, visibly proud of her 2,500-square-foot Gesamtkunstwerk overlooking Central Park, whose doors she opened exclusively to PIN–UP. “Hiring him was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Photography by Adrian Gaut for PIN–UP 15, Fall Winter 2013/14.