Jack Lenor Larsen is an icon in the world of textiles. As one of the most influential fabric designers of our lives, Larsen is an accomplished weaver, but also much more. In LongHouse, his home in East Hampton, he has created an exceptional 16 acre reserve and sculpture garden, open seasonally to members and the public. LongHouse Reserve was the inspiration for Jack’s first performance fabric collection, which is perfect for the creative indoor and outdoor lifestyle he advocates. Please visit Susanna and me at LongHouse to see his vision, a look at the on-site collection, and Jack’s amazing approach to art and life.
In the LongHouse, visitors can experience art in all its forms, especially outdoors, where the gardens serve both as living art itself and as a backdrop for over 60 contemporary sculptures – the Legacy Mantle (Mao’s jacket) by Chinese artist Sui Jianguo from 2002 in the background behind Susanna and Jack.
As a collector, curator, prolific writer, advocate for the arts, supporter of artists, artisans and gardeners, Larsen has had immeasurable influence on the creative community. On the first floor of the LongHouse there are pieces by such respected furniture designers as Bruno Mathsson, TH Robsjohn-Gibbings, Sori Yanagi, mixed with antique Thai baskets, a Japanese rattan rug and a day bed made of Larsen furniture covered with his new Cakewalk fabric.
With a background in architecture and a passion for the craft, Jack pioneered distinctive modern textile designs based on ancient and global techniques, eventually made in 30 countries and now on display in museums around the world. He has translated one of his most popular designs from the 1950s, Midsummer, inspired by images from Matisse and Tiffany, into a jacquard in the new collection below.
His fabrics were instantly popular with architects who appreciated the emphasis on structure and texture. Larsen worked for almost every major architect (except Corbusier) from Saarinen and Breuer to Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Skidmore. Not only was he commissioned by them, but he also served as a teacher. When he was teaching weaving at Cranbrook, the great Louis Kahn was a student, and indeed it was Larsen who convinced student Dale Chihuly to blow glass – the artist’s Cobalt Reeds at LongHouse below.
And while he’s a major player in the craft movement, he’s also a visionary who has always known how to adapt and use new technology to connect the past and the present. He was the first to design airline upholstery and print patterns on velvet for furniture, and attributed much of his success to being nimble and defying convention. Its innovative techniques have attracted an impressive number of clients ranging from Marilyn Monroe to furniture designer Edward Wormley.
Nature and gardening have always been inspirations, so it was natural for Jack to finally create an indoor / outdoor performance fabric line with Sunbrella that works both outdoors and indoors in LongHouse’s four seasonal gardens. Thank you Jack for welcoming us to your magical world at LongHouse and Larsen Fabrics at Cowtan, for sponsoring and sharing the Larsen Performance Collection.
All photos by Stacey Bewkes for Quintessence