Richard [Maya] Romanoff, founder and chief creative officer of the Maya Romanoff Corporation, passed away peacefully from Parkinson’s disease surrounded by his family at home, including his wife and business partner Joyce, on Wednesday, January 15. He was 73.
Maya Romanoff 1941-2014
“Maya gave me belief that there is a grand, wild world out there,” said his niece Laura Romanoff, who is SVP of sales and marketing at Maya Romanoff. “That there is something new under the sun and it is our right and responsibility to find it and to wrap our arms around it. Maya inspired all of us—his family, friends, co-workers, partners and clients—to see the world from an oblique angle, to tease beauty out of the most unlikely places. We will miss him terribly.”
To put it simply, “Maya was an extraordinary artist,” said architect David Rockwell.
“Maya Romanoff set a standard of excellence in design and craftsmanship unequalled by any other manufacturers of wallcoverings,” said David McFadden, former chief curator and VP of collections and programs at the Musuem of Art and Design (MAD). “His personal vision that seamlessly merged wallcoverings and architectural space has delighted and inspired so many over the decades. His personal warmth and generosity endeared him to so many, including myself. His memory will live on in the many elegant and innovative designs he conceived, nurtured and achieved.”
Members of the Maya Romanoff team with Maya
"I'm sure I speak for the entire design community that we all deeply mourn the loss of an undisputed icon,” said Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine. “Best described by his exquisite wallcovering, Maya has bedazzled us for decades, and his masterful artistry—and unforgettable spirit—will carry on with his beloved wife, Joyce, and family, for years to come.”
"Maya Romanoff beautified interiors and lives through his true talent,” said interior designer Jamie Drake after learning the news of his passing.
A fine artist, Romanoff began creating hand-dyed fabrics after being inspired by a tie-dyed t-shirt he saw at Woodstock. With the help of legendary weaver Jack Lenor Larsen, he transitioned from fabrics to wallcoverings, and launched Maya Romanoff. In 1988, Joyce Lehrer joined the company and became an amplifier of his vision. Ten years later, the two were married. Joyce became president of Maya Romanoff in 2002 and her children and his niece assumed leadership roles in the company.
Joyce and Maya Romanoff
Romanoff never stopped pushing his company to create and to grow. His dyed leather and silk are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. His large-scale installations of hand-dyed fabric draped the Sun-Times Building in Chicago and were called "the visual star of the Windy Cityscape" by Time magazine. Irving and Joan Harris also commissioned Romanoff to create the main stage curtain at the Harris Theater of Music and Dance at Millennium Park. He received the Trailblazer Award in 1994 from the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), the Aid to Artisans Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, and most recently with the 2012 Visionaries Award from MAD.
Editor at Large hosts a video with highlights from the event honoring Maya & Joyce Romanoff with the Aid to Artisans Lifetime Achievement Award.
He developed a reputation for incorporating tactile materials like glass beads, sea shells, gold leaf and stitching into surfacing materials and was most proud of his studio and factory in Skokie where artisans handcrafted the wallcoverings. With 70 employees, and showrooms in Chicago and New York, Romanoff constantly strove to create the most original designs.
This month, the first biography on Romanoff, Multifarious, published by City Files Press, is launching. Before his passing, Romanoff was able to sign a few advance copies that had arrived.
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