Skip to main content

2009 Award of Distinction Recipient

Designer, Furni­ture Maker

Presented by The Furni­ture Society on June 112009.

Vladimir Kagan 215

Vladimir Kagan (b. 1927), the son of a Russian-trained cabi­net­maker, studied archi­tec­ture at Colum­bia Univer­sity before joining his father’s shop in 1947. He estab­lished his own New York shop in 1949 and began to concen­trate on design­ing and making modern wooden furni­ture that combined Bauhaus ideals and Scan­di­na­vian respect for mate­ri­als. In seeking a broad market Kagan devel­oped Popu­luxe designs char­ac­ter­ized by angular space age lines, combined machine and skilled hand­work to produce small batches of his work, and actively promoted his work among famous and fash­ion­able figures. His clients included Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, General Elec­tric, General Motors, and Monsanto. He was partic­u­larly fond of explor­ing the inter­play of wood and struc­ture, of space and light, simplic­ity and func­tion.” His commit­ment to design restraint and an aesthetic focused upon wood placed him squarely in the nascent studio furni­ture­mak­ing world of the 1950s, but he devel­oped a partic­u­lar strength in market­ing and promot­ing his work to leaders in art, theater, music, and indus­try. His shop and show­room loca­tion on 57th Street under­scores this strategy.

In the 1960s, Kagan expanded into the use of aluminum, polyurethane, Lucite, glass, and steel and began to inves­ti­gate the incor­po­ra­tion of new audio-visual tech­nol­ogy into his furni­ture. In many ways he was a free-wheel­ing designer who was pushing the bound­aries in a manner similar to irrev­er­ent makers such as Wendell Castle or Jack Hopkins. But he did not give up his connec­tion to studio furni­ture. He mounted occa­sional exhi­bi­tions of studio work in his show­room. In the 1970s, Kagan began to focus more on contract furnish­ings and has built up a client list of leading corpo­ra­tions such as BMW, NBC, Gucci, and Armani. In 1992, he also rein­tro­duced some of his classic 1950s designs in limited editions. Today, his firm actively sells both the older Classic line as well as the newer Couture line and also has licens­ing agree­ments with leading manu­fac­tur­ers and distrib­u­tors. From the prin­ci­ples of skilled cabi­net­mak­ing, Kagan has devel­oped a wide ranging and success­ful busi­ness that links craft, design, and fashion. He has already received life­time achieve­ment awards from Amer­i­can Society of Furni­ture Design­ers, Brook­lyn Museum of Art, and the Amer­i­can Society of Interior Designers.