The designer and interior decorator Benno Premsela [1920-1997] had a great influence on modern home design in the Netherlands. He was employed as a designer for various companies, including the rug factory Besouw and the department store De Bijenkorf. His shop window designs for De Bijenkorf were the talk of the town, and crowds of people paraded past the store on Friday night, when the new displays were unveiled. The exhibition ‘Ons Huis Ons Thuis’ [Our house, our home], designed by Premsela together with Martin Visser, Aldo van Eyck and Gerrit Rietveld, featured period rooms for contemporary living and curtains designed by Cobra artists.
From 1936 to 1941 Benno Premsela studied interior design at the Nieuwe Kunstschool [New school of art]. Didactically, this legendary school, founded by Paul Citroen, followed in the footsteps of the Bauhaus in Dessau, which was shut down by the Nazis in 1933. The Nieuwe Kunstschool was also forced to close its doors during the German reign of terror. Premsela, who was of Jewish descent, had to go into hiding. He and his brother survived the war, but his parents and his sister Elly [who was studying sculpture at the Nieuwe Kunstschool] all died.
After the war, Premsela became a true icon of style and a pivotal figure within the Dutch art world. He served in an advisory capacity within many organizations active in the area of art and design. These included the Raad voor de Kunst [Art Council], the Raad voor Industriële Vormgeving [Council for Industrial Design], the Kröller-Müller Foundation, the Acquisitions Committee of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the foundation Fonds voor Beeldende Kunsten, Vormgeving en Bouwkunst [Foundation for the visual arts, design and architecture].
In addition, Premsela was the first person in the Netherlands to openly admit to being a homosexual. He did so in 1964, in a Dutch radio programme. From the beginning, Premsela was closely associated with the COC, an interest group for homosexuals.