June 1, 2014

Lester Dundes: 1990 Hall of Fame Inductee

Lester Dundes created an industry. As publisher of Interior Design for more than 40 years starting in 1949, he transformed a small trade publication into a must-read international periodical. Through this stewardship, he gave our field and its cast of players—interior designers, architects, manufacturers and representatives—a stage on which to interact. Lester loved design and Interior Design, and he wanted everyone else to share his passion.

Among his countless innovations, Lester introduced the Interior Design Giants listings of top-earning firms as well as the Hall of Fame, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. (How he would have loved to be there!) During the 1980s, he took designers to Milan for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, spreading the gospel of contemporary design and sharing his own enthrallment with Italy.

Perhaps more important, Lester treated his staff like family. He praised, admonished, cajoled and mentored. He drove us to peak performance and made everyone feel special. He stayed in touch—with phone calls expressing genuine interest in our “real” families and concerns. His generosity was boundless.

What kept him going strong? Genes, sure. But insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm undoubtedly share credit. We all know of his zest for work, but how many know of his far-ranging interests? He followed ballet and Cuban dance, contemporary art and film. He was au courant on fashion, expressed by snappy ties and gorgeous sweaters. He delighted in restaurants—though he struck terror in the hearts of waiters. On a clear day, he could be spotted jogging across the Queensboro Bridge.

Lester couldn’t drive, and he couldn’t read a map, but that never stopped him from planning the next international trip. Just weeks shy of his 90th birthday, he took his entire family to Rome for Christmas. Lester was an omnivore. Above all, he was passionate about Seena, his wife of 51 years. She filled his conversations even more than Interior Design did.

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