Louis Morris Starr Beal '45 found his way to Brooks School on the heels of his elder brother. Their father, William DeFord Beal, was a St. Mark’s man, but strayed over to Brooks when it came time for his sons’ secondary education. Louis loved being at Brooks. He was very fond of the first Mrs. Ashburn and, having come from Boston, appreciated her urban loftiness. He played soccer and joined the Chapel Fellowship and the Art Association. Louis credits Director of Art Alicia Waterston with recognizing and encouraging his love of design. He received College Certification from Brooks in 1944, as a number of his courageous brothers did during those years in order to join the service of choice prior to being drafted. He promptly enlisted in the Marine Corps and remained for two years – often corresponding with FDA – until receiving an honorary discharge for illness.
Upon his return, Louis attended Harvard University for two years, studying architecture, and then with the guidance of his father and FDA, transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design. He discovered that he was truly interested in the way people live and work in spaces, not the architecture itself. After graduating with honors in 1952, Louis studied architecture with Walter Gropius at Harvard University. From Boston, he called on his friends, the Saltonstalls, to introduce him to furniture designer Frances Knoll. He moved to New York and joined the Knoll Planning Unit, the first contemporary commercial interior design service available in the United States.
Then, it was on to Designs for Business, where he worked with such distinguished clients as Goldman Sachs & Company, First Boston Corporation, and completed a two-year assignment with Hank Luce – Brooks Class of 1942 – on the interiors of Time Incorporated’s building in New York City. In 1961, he became a co-founder of ISD Incorporated, one of the field’s first firms to stand alone as a specialist in commercial interior design. During the 1970s, new pressures for more working people in less working area prompted Louis to employ the science of inner space design and consider the important interaction between people and their environment. In his 24-year association with ISD, Louis worked with a full roster of clients, specializing in law offices and financial and academic institutions.
In 1985, he left ISD to become an independent consultant, limiting his work to one or two select projects at a time. His greatest joy stemmed from working on interiors for fine architects. In 1990, Louis was elected to the Interior Design Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions to the industry. Two years later, he was appointed to the International Interior Design Association’s College of Fellows. He is also a Rhode Island School of Design Life Trustee and has been published numerous times.
Life was not all work for Louis, however. He found time to figure skate on a competitive level and did so with the Olympic figure skater Dick Button. He stopped skating just three years ago. He enjoys art, gardens, antiques, classical music, and maintains several collections of fine paintings, pewter, porcelain, silver and needlepoint.
Always dedicated to the interior design profession and intent on offering his services in payment for some of the rewards he has reaped, Louis is active in the American Society of Interior Designers, having served as director for both the national organization and New York Metropolitan chapter. He is a devoted Vestryman of St. Thomas Church, a member of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. He recently served as their Chairman of the Building Preservation Committee and enjoyed being the client, for a change, in the building of the Choir School. Much of the thoughtful refurbishment of this grand church that towers over 5th Avenue was overseen by Louis.
In 1948, FDA wrote in support of Louis’ entrance into Harvard, “I believe [Louis] has in him the makings of a fine architect.” He was partially correct. Louis is a fine gentleman who has distinguished himself as a trend-setting innovator in the world of interior design.