Volume 75, Number 42 | March 8 -14 2006


Suzanne Sekey, 90, interior designer with I.M. Pei

Suzanne Sekey, a pioneering woman in the field of high-end interior design who worked with renowned architects I.M. Pei and Richard Meier, died on Jan. 18 at the age of 90. The cause of death was kidney failure.

Sekey lived on Jane St. for 40 to 50 years, according to Michel Senet, a friend, former colleague and neighbor. She worked in the office of Bauhaus luminary Marcel Breuer before becoming an early member of I.M. Pei’s office, where she was head of interior design.

With Pei in the 1960s, Sekey concentrated on designing and selecting fabrics, colors, materials and furnishings for interiors. Describing Sekey’s style, Senet, a former graphic designer at I.M. Pei, said, “It was very clean lined, light woods. She loved bold colors and fabrics, Scandinavian.”

A petite woman, Sekey had an office at 11th St. and Broadway. She suffered from declining health in her last year, but tried to keep on working until the end, sticking determinedly to her straight-line vocabulary. But the advent of computer-aided design — allowing the creation of previously impossible-to-achieve curved shapes, like Frank Gehry’s Mobius-striplike buildings — saw her business dwindle.

“Time passed her by a bit,” said Senet. “The store — Prada — in Soho, with its undulating floors, stuff we never would have thought of in our days is being done now…. At the end, she no longer had clients — she couldn’t get new ones. She had very appreciative clients, but they were of her era.”

Nancy Hull Kearing, who also worked in Pei’s office and was a friend, said Sekey was born in Budapest, Hungary.

“She had a very illustrious career, particularly for a woman of her time,” Kearing said. “She was one of the very first people in the [I.M. Pei] office. She may have been the first. She had a terrific influence on me. Some women were doing interior decoration of residential buildings back then. But she was not an interior decorator at all — she was an interior designer. Mostly commercial work, very clean lines, international style.”

Kearing said Sekey did the interior design for the Paris Theatre on 58th St.; the Caribe Hotel in San Juan, P.R.; the former Bonnier’s — a Scandinavian design shop —and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst campus center, among others.

Senet recalled Sekey collected things over the years that she found graphically appealing.

“When I last saw her at her office,” he said, “she was trying to give away her collection of paper shopping bags — it was quite a collection, very rare…. She was 100 percent designer. She was really appreciative of good work — architecture or graphic design.”

Suzanne Sekey is survived by her sister, Yvette Eastman, also of the Village. A memorial is planned on March 18 at the Williams Club, 24 E. 39th St., at 2 p.m.

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