June 1, 2014

Melvin Dwork: 1993 Hall of Fame Inductee

Melvin Dwork

In ordinary circumstances, basic good manners preclude dwelling, however delicately, on personal and professional triumphs. While gloating may be de trop, and refraining from the unneccessary is one of the criteria distinguishing the comme il faut from the not, certainly Melvin Dwork’s election to this distinguished body permits a little bending of the rules.

Mr. Dwork, who hails from the heartland, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Like most designers, his interest in architecture, interiors and the decorative arts developed early. A scholarship student and graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, he subsequently headed east to pursue and complete another degree at the Parsons School of Design.

Early mentors included Margaret Ostertag, James Pendleton, and Edward Garrett. Pendleton, whom he continues to admire, taught him “never to experiment with clients. Use the best resources and workrooms. You’ll never be sorry.  And they’ll never be sorry.”

Mr. Dwork then launched his own, first, professional partnership by opening in 1956 an East 57th Street antiques and decorating shop called Altman-Dwork, Inc. Having ended that venture in 1960, Mr. Dwork went on to the reowned Yale Burge Associates, later Burge-Donghia, where, for a decade, he filled the position of senior associate.

He again opened his own firm in 1970, which except for a two-year partnership with James Maguire known as Dwork-Maguire, has been in the existence for a quarter of a century. Now to the preening: Mr. Dwork, whose work has been widely and quite extensively published, must have a scrap book that includes Architectural Digest 100, Interior Design, The New York Times Magazine, House & Garden, Town & Country and Elle. His work has been captured in a number of books, as well.

To complete the Dwork design, his hyperbolic client list for both residential and commercial work generates a naturally exclamation point punctuated response, including, to name just a few: the film director Milos Forman, the late Nadia Stark, Italian financial whiz Count Giorgio Cigliana-Piazza, former chariman of RCA Robert Sarnoff, Aetna Life Insurance and Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc.

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