5 Design Mantras from Famous Architects and Interior Designers

The works of world-renowned designers, both past, and present, have always served as an inspiration to many aspiring designers as a constant reference for their own works. These famed design innovators have left their mark on the world, not only because of their design but also because of their mantras, design philosophies and beliefs that have made a huge impact on the way things are conceived.

While the inspiration for design can come from the most innocent objects to the most mundane things, the spoken words of these industry leaders have also served as inspiration throughout the years for many architects, interior, furniture and product designers. 

1. The Importance of Details (Charles Eames)
Charles Eames – along with his wife, Ray Eames, ventured not only into the world of furniture design and architecture but also in the film. They were well-known for their plywood and fiberglass chairs.

Famous Works: LCW chair, Eames Lounge Chair

Famous Quote: “The details are not the details. These make the design.”

This was evident in their designs because the couple kept on tweaking the little details to improve the design of their products. An example was their LCW chair in which their first design was prone to cracks because plywood was an inflexible material, so they kept tweaking their designs until they were able to come up with the solution of creating the seat and back into two separate pieces and joining the two parts with a plywood spine with the legs also added separately.

Design Application: Details, as little as it may be, are an important feature of a design. Sometimes the little details are what brings out much of the design. Most of the time, attention is lavished on the bigger features of a house forgetting the importance of the details and how it can make or break a design. Cabinetry or wall panels, hardware selection for weighty doors, cabinetry hardware such as shelf brackets, pulls and handles, architectural elements like posts, moldings and trims and even the minor details such as colors of the electrical outlets can bring life to an otherwise boring design, and it's not just for visual effects but these elements serve a purpose as well.

2. Designing with a Purpose (Frank Lloyd Wright)
Frank Lloyd Wright – Wright, as controversial as his personal life may be, was still a prominent figure especially in the world of architecture. He was a firm believer of incorporating his structures with nature, a belief that came to be known as organic architecture.

Famous Works: Falling Water, Guggenheim Museum

Famous Quote: “Form follows function – That has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”

While his mantra was originally coined by another famous architect, Louis Sullivan, who was his mentor, Wright still followed the same principle albeit, adjusting it to his own personal beliefs that the two ideals should work together. It is the principle that a structure's form or shape should follow or be based on the intended purpose of a building.

Design Application: It's human nature to fall for beautiful things. This is why impulse buying is becoming a habit but it's also necessary to know why that item needs to be purchased. The same can be said when designing a space. Any Interior Designer knows that their designs should always have a purpose. It's important to create a space that is not only full of pleasing aesthetics but also efficient and functional. Identifying the function of the room should be the primary purpose. Filling it with beauty will come in second. Together, it forms one beautiful and efficient space.

3. Designing for all Generations to Come (Philippe Starck)
Philippe Starck – is a French designer who ventured into just about everything from architecture, interior design, furniture and product design and even nutrition. His design portfolio boasts of designing hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs and residential projects. He shows his wittiness and sense of humor in some of his product designs and is considered as one of the most renowned designers today.

Famous Works: Louis Ghost Chair, La Marie Chair

Famous Quote: “A designer has a duty to create the timeless design. To be timeless you have to think really far into the future, not next year, not in two years but in 20 years minimum.”

Starck, in his interview for Dezeen, has stated that consumers should be buying for longevity considering children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren and so on, where products will go beyond several generations and not just because it was trendy that time. According to him, this is also an environmental choice because consumers won't be throwing out old products for new, trendier ones.

Design Application: Yearly, new trends in design are being introduced. With the entrance of the millennial generation, more cutting-edge technology and designs are being made specifically for their demographic. But trends come and go and as a responsible consumer, it's cost-effective and an environmentally safe decision to stick it out with timeless designs rather than choosing something because it was popular at that time. This doesn't mean that a homeowner won't be given the freedom to upgrade their homes but rather going along with designs that age as the years go by allowing for little renovations here and there without changing the whole look. An example is by designing a baby's room. It's usually pastels and scenic patterns for a nursery. However, with the growth of a child and eventual transition into a teenager, it's better to create a room with a design that also grows with him or her.

4. Not being Afraid of Color (Dorothy Draper)
Dorothy Draper – was an American interior decorator who was very much against the idea of minimalism. Her design style was all about using large patterns and exuberant colors. She painted ceilings a solid black, decked her floors in black and white checks, and used both stripes and floral patterns creating a style known as the “Draper Touch.” She created the Modern Baroque style wherein she mixed elements and furniture from the Classical Baroque Period with modern touches.

Famous Works: The Greenbrier Hotel, Sutton Place

Famous Quote: "Now we know that lovely, clear colors have a vital effect on our mental happiness. Modern doctors and psychiatrists are convinced of this!"

Design Application: Neutrals have always been a safe choice when it comes to choosing a color palette for space. It goes with anything but to some, it's a boring option. With the evolution of design, new colors have emerged and ready to be used in spaces. Pantone releases a new color every year for designers to take inspiration from. It doesn't have to be a risky move. Put in the right places and the right amount, color can not only enhance a space but is also said to have a mental effect on a person. Cool colors like blue and violet are said to be calming and warm colors like red and orange are for energizing. Put together, these colors can give a mind stimulating effect.

5. Simplicity is Beauty (Ludwig Mies Van De Rohe)
Ludwig Mies Van De Rohe – was a German-American architect better known as Mies. He was regarded as one of the pioneers of Modernist Architecture. His works were characterized by simplicity, sleekness and the use of modern materials such as steel and glass.

Famous Works: Farnsworth House, Barcelona Pavillion, Barcelona Chair

Famous Quote: “Less is more.”

Like Wright's “Form follows Function,” the less is more approach didn't exactly originate from Mies. It was, however, linked to him because the philosophy showed through his works. Even in today's more contemporary architecture, his philosophy still shines.

Design Application: Minimalist design is often times viewed as boring but the taste is subjective and for some, it's a design that exudes luxuriousness and sexiness. There are many benefits to applying the less is more approach. Uncluttered spaces are one of the hallmarks of minimalism and this is one way of improving the quality of life. The clean color palette also gives off a calm and serene vibe. It's not only a style of design, but also a way of life linked to the Japanese Zen philosophy. Minimalism gives people the wrong idea that it's all about black and white. While those are the primary colors often used, a pop of a bright yellow or orange can be added as an accent.

There are no words to describe what a great design truly is. These designers and architects all had different opinions as to what a good design is or what it should be. But their philosophies have guided and inspired much of today's modern works and with these philosophies in mind, people will get a better understanding of design, its underlying principles and what works for them.

- Curl, James Stevens, and Susan Wilson. The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture. Oxford University Press, USA, 2015.

- Calloway, Stephen. The elements of style: A practical encyclopedia of interior architectural details, from 1485 to the present. Ed. Elizabeth Cromley. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.

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- Interior Design Terms A to Z: the Most Common Design Jargon

Last review and update: August 27, 2018

About the Author

Patty Benjabutr is an interior design enthusiast. She loves to write about actionable home decor knowledge because she believes interior design content is something much more than a collection of beautiful photos. You can contact Patty via e-mail.