November 7, 2001

Calm, elegant interior design style is Warren Hill's legacy

Journal Staff Reporter

Warren Hill designed the interiors and furniture for Anne Gould Hauberg's house on McGilvra Boulevard. The house was designed by Roland Terry.

Warren T. Hill, an interior design professor who guided the careers of many local designers since the mid-1950s, died Oct. 27.

Described by a former student as "soft-spoken but to the point," the 79-year-old Hill found his passion early as an interior design instructor. He landed his first teaching job at the age of 29 with San Jose State College, and continued teaching for the next 43 years, finishing as associate professor emeritus at UW. Aside from being a mentor to many, Hill was an accomplished watercolorist, and designer of jewelry, furniture and lighting.

An advocate for arts, crafts and design in the Northwest, Hill was a founder of the Friends of the Crafts, and volunteered support for many arts institutions including Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and Museum of Northwest Art. In addition to being a member of UW's Lambda Rho Arts Honorarium program, he was president of the Decorative Arts and Paintings Council at SAM.

If Hill had a signature style, it was simple and understated.

A memorial service for interior design professor Warren T. Hill will be held at 2 p.m Sunday, Dec. 2, in the Penthouse Theater at the University of Washington.

"He had a direct design approach -- balancing form, color, materials and details to achieve a calm, elegant style," said former student and interior designer Michael Cunningham. "That level of calmness and elegance was always there. He wasn't about putting his signature on a place as much as putting the place in order. It looked simple, but it was a balancing act."

Larry Metcalf, who studied interior design under Hill in the early '60s, said Hill's Northwest style was Asian influenced.

"He had a quiet, calm sense of lines, shapes, colors and forms," said Metcalf. "His style was not very ornate. His sense of color was usually rather neutral. He used browns and greys and soft variations."

Hill's furniture designs were also simple, perhaps deceptively so. "His pieces were so handsome, you didn't notice the work that went into them," Cunningham said. He received national attention for his furniture designs for the Seattle home of Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg.

Hill was born Nov. 1, 1922, in Tacoma. He served three and a half years in the Army Air Corps, and graduated from the University of Washington in interior design in 1950. After teaching at San Jose between 1951 to 1954, he took a teaching position at the University of Washington, also doing stints at Cornish School of the Arts, Parsons School of Design and Berkeley in the next few years. He remained at UW through 1994.

His courses in UW's Department of Architecture included interior architecture studios, watercolor and histories of English, French and Italian interior architecture and furniture. In the School of Art, Hill served as chair of the Division of Interior Design, and developed and taught a variety of interior design studios and interiors classes.

In the School of Art and Department of Architecture, he was recognized as an exceptional teacher, concerned for the welfare of his students and with a continuing interest in their careers. His students often received awards in interiors and furniture competitions.

"I owe him several job interviews and connections," said Cunningham, who studied under Hill beginning in 1972. "He would say 'You should interview with so and so.' He did that for many students. Many of his students became indispensable to firms, so when they graduated they were still working."

Cunningham said Hill's teaching style was interactive. "If he gave a design problem to 20 students, he wouldn't rule out any solutions as long as they fulfilled the requirements," he said. "He would always make suggestions as to what we may have overlooked. He paid attention to details -- materials, colors and lighting -- all that would be part of what he would be teaching."

As an arts advocate, Metcalf said Hill "preached what he believed to his students and those in the community."

Harry Seymour, Hill's companion of 44 years, said he took a personal interest in his students' success. "He did a lot to help them," Seymour said. "He had a wonderful color sense and was very intellectual. He was very critical of what is good design and what isn't."