There are some designers whose style is so varied it’s hard to pin down an exact telling characteristic. For other designers, their work is so similar and thematic that you can spot one from a mile away. What’s so unique about Karl Springer’s work is that it’s both! Springer created a huge body of work with a myriad of unusual and striking styles, shapes, patterns and colors, but within that huge body of work does exist many characteristics that his work can be recognized from.
He is probably first off known from his exotic and exciting use of materials that he would partner with classic shapes—a sort of refreshing of contemporary and modern furniture ideas. When looking at a portfolio of his work, you’ll find furniture designs created out of wood, metal, lacquer and Lucite, but his most exotic pieces made out of leather, parchment, shagreen (shark’s skin!), horn or reptile skins. It wasn’t just the materials he was using, either. He was also known for experimenting with several notable cultural and design styles, such as Art Deco, Asian styles and African motifs. His designs were flamboyant yet reserved, classic yet exotic. And people went wild for them.
From Berlin, Germany, Springer was born in 1931, and moved to New York after the war. One of his first jobs was as a window dresser at the Lord and Taylor Department Store. He had always wanted to be a book binder, though, and started his creations with his own line of desk accessories and soon, dabbled in furniture. After the success of those small pieces he opened his on store, and he began taking on commissions from all the top designers. A chance meeting with a young industrial designer named Mark Eckman proved to be a successful collaboration, and it was with Eckman that Springer began to experiment with some of the “wilder” materials like Lucite, metal and parchment. Soon, his work was being used in interiors all over the world, and was one of the most popular furniture styles in the 1970's and 1980's. Though he passed away in 1991, his work is still loved and revered.