From the golden days of the Ancient Egyptians and Romans, who decorated their homes with tapestries, sculptures and murals to the floor to ceiling paintings, tiles and fine furniture of the Renaissance, interior design had its beginnings early in our history and continued until modern day.
When it comes to the business of interior design, one of the pioneers in the forefront is Davis Allen. Known for the emergence of the profession in America following World War II, Allen created creative interiors in offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere.
He spent 40 years working at the firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merill. His work was written about in a book aptly titled ”Davis Allen: 40 Years of Interior Design at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.” The writer, Maeve Slavin, said that he was an institution in ”the profession he helped to establish — the total design of the interior corporate environment with furniture, art, and functional and decorative objects integrated into a comprehensively planned space.”
It was actually 1950 when he joined the firm as a junior architectural designer. Fifteen years later, he moved up to the rank of Associate Partner and Senior Interior Designer. He was involved with the interior design of everything from the Istanbul Hilton to the Inland Steel Company headquarters in Chicago. His mark is seen by tourists at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii and by families who visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas.
His designs can be seen in other profile sites like the United Nations and Lincoln Center, which he worked on with interior designer Raymond Loewy under the architectural form of Harrison and Abramowitz.
Allen was educated at Brown University and later Yale University of Architecture. But he also studied in between abroad in Sweden. He was so impressed by Swedish arts and crafts that were being integrated into interior design. So he studied at the National Swedish Institute for Building Research.
Allen also designed furniture for Steelcase, GF, Stow Davis, Bernhardt, Stendig and Hickory Business Furniture. He designed the slat-backed Andover chair and the Bridgehampton chair, to name two. Many of his pieces became perfect office furniture. Others might be used as furniture for living rooms. In 1985, he was inducted into the Interior Design Magazine Hall Of Fame.
This prolific designer died on May 13, 1999 at Broward General Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale. But in contemporary office furniture stores chairs similar to those Allen designed can still be found.