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Harry Lawenda

October 28, 2011

Harry Lawenda passed away on Wednesday, thankfully in his sleep, surrounded by friends, and at peace. For those of you who may not know who Harry was and what he stood for, this blog is a small tribute to one of the founders of the multi-line design showroom business in America, and to a friend whom I will never forget.

Harry, and his dynamic wife Dorothy (also an inspiration and mentor to many) started Kneedler Fauchere, California’s premier showroom company and one of the first multi-line showrooms (if not the very first) in America. They started in San Francisco on Jackson Square. This showroom and their mentorship and inspiration served as an incubator that launched, or shaped, or influenced many, many companies that would go on to be “household names”, and be specified into countless households as a result. Jack Lenor Larsen, Clarence House, Donghia, and many others all were nurtured by the team of Harry and Dorothy. The story goes that Jack Larsen got off a bus from Seattle as a handsome young weaver in search of his future, and Harry and Dorothy helped him find that future- and what a future! Angelo Donghia and Yale Burge came to see them from New York over 35 years ago, and Kneedler represented the fledgling Donghia company until Angelo Donghia opened his first showroom outside of New York in Los Angeles. Donghia now has showrooms around the world, but it started with Angelo’s talent and vision, and Harry Lawenda and his wife Dorothy’s knowledge and experience.

If you understand that there weren’t design centers everywhere when they started, and there weren’t hundreds of lines in those design centers, you can grasp the importance of these two pioneers and what they gave this world. Their combined vision gave America  unsurpassed beauty and transformed the availability of resources for the interior design industry. In Harry’s later years, he has continued to guide Kneedler Fauchere on its journey, and continued to provide his gentle leadership to an industry in need of his talents.

We will miss Harry as we miss Dorothy. More than that, we will miss his visionary leadership. The design showroom industry that he helped create is struggling during this downturn, and we need men and women like Harry and Dorothy now more than ever. We can never replace them, but we can strive to learn from them and continue to build what they have entrusted to us- the interior design showroom industry that means so much to so many.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2011 4:26 pm

    harry was my dad’s brother and he and aunt dorthy were inspriations to me as a young artist, and then a fledgling shoe designer. They both had great style and incredible vision and so i loved seeing them and hearing their ideas- i miss them both.

  2. Wendy Kneedler permalink
    November 4, 2011 3:05 pm

    Crans, what a lovely tribute to my father and mother. They inspired and mentored many in our profession. We always joked about Kneedler-Fauchere University and all of its alums. They admired those talented individuals who went on to create wonderful resources of beautiful, quality design for America. That is their legacy.

    Thank you,
    Wendy Kneedler

  3. November 3, 2011 7:54 am

    I know that I shall never forget Harry or Dorothy. I was privilidged to have met them very early in my own career. Thank you Crans for this well written piece.

  4. Christina Diekman permalink
    October 29, 2011 2:45 pm

    Well said, Crans.

  5. Barry Margolis permalink
    October 29, 2011 12:29 pm

    So sorry to hear of his passing. I posted on Design Addict asking people if they knew about his beautiful ball-in-cage lamp about two years ago, and Mr. Lowenda himself say the thread and posted that he was alive and well. I found his phone number and we had a very nice chat. What a nice person he was.

    I hope that one of his family members will get some of his beautifully designed lamp reissued.

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