Peter Shelton, Architect Who Made Luxury Minimal, Dies at 67
By LESLIE KAUFMAN
Published: September 1, 2012
Peter Shelton’s interior designs created opulence by blending clean lines and classical references.
The cause was cancer, his wife, Laura Bennett, said.
Mr. Shelton and his longtime design partner, Lee Mindel, were known for a distinctive modernist aesthetic that blended clean lines with references to classical periods to create opulent settings. Their less-is-more sensibility became a hallmark for apartments ringing Central Park.
“Truly they were leaders in their field,” said Margaret Russell, the editor in chief of Architectural Digest, the bible of the design set. “They won pretty much every award a firm could win.
“They had a great appreciation for structure as well as materials and texture. They were always figuring out how to make something more minimal and streamlined. The product would be pure and beautiful, but there was a complicated thought process behind that purity.”
At the offices of Polo Ralph Lauren in New York, the firm created a light-filled atrium that combined traditional wood paneled walls and columns with an open plan incorporating practical elements like the staircases.
The firm’s designs for dining and bar areas aboard Celebrity cruise ships mixed playful, curvaceous flourishes with commanding multistory spaces to evoke a modernist version of the great ocean liners of the past.
The two architects met as undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, but it was only after a chance encounter years later on an escalator in Bloomingdale’s that Mr. Shelton and Mr. Mindel started their own firm.
It was 1978, and they were only a few years out of architecture school. At first, Mr. Mindel recalled, they shared a desk at a rented atelier and were lucky to get work on bathrooms. A few of those bathrooms, however, were for prominent clients like the director Brian De Palma, and their reputation grew.
In 1980 they were hired to design a new nightclub in Times Square called Bond International Casino. The 48,000-square-foot space was a major undertaking, and the architects made it vibrant. A review by Suzanne Slesin in The New York Times in 1980 gives some sense of the grandeur: “The brass, nickel and marble spiral stair dominates the entrance, where there is also a cylindrical brass elevator and an escalator.”
Bond closed in the 1990s, but by then Shelton, Mindel & Associates was well known. Although much of the firm’s work was either building very fancy residences or designing their interiors, it also won praise for designing products, including furniture for Knoll and bathroom fixtures for Waterworks. The firm designed homes for the musician Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, and for the philanthropist Laurie Tisch.
Although the two architects had different styles and strengths — Mr. Shelton was the quiet visionary who conceived the plans, and the more outgoing Mr. Mindel refined those plans and dealt with clients — they worked on everything together.
Over the years, Shelton, Mindel won 25 awards from the American Institute of Architects. The firm was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2011 it won the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Interior Design. Peter Laros Shelton was born March 26, 1945, in Bethlehem, Pa., to Talbot Shelton and Margaret Laros Shelton. His father was a vice president of Bethlehem Steel and his mother a frequent champion at the local golf club.
He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 and received a master’s in architecture from Pratt Institute in 1975.
Mr. Shelton was married at 50 to Ms. Bennett, who survives him, along with their sons, Peik, Truman, Pierson, Larson and Finn; a daughter from Ms. Bennett’s first marriage, Cleo Bennett; and a brother, Talbot.
Ms. Bennett was trained in architecture but now does fashion design and was a finalist on the 2006 season of “Project Runway.” She remembered her husband as a perfectionist at the office, but very relaxed at home.
“We have a large loft with furniture from Ikea, because we knew the dogs would chew it and kids would smear it,” she said. “It was the opposite of his work, which was so pristine.”