A native of Lima, Peru, Luis A. Rey attended a Jesuit school. He moved to New York in 1961 and, discovering an aptitude for design, enrolled in Parsons School of Design during the period when the school was going through the massive sea change explored in the Radical Shifts exhibition. Rey's training encompassed aspects of both the old program and the new, and his student work reflects this overlap, ranging from precise studies of historical interiors to the redesign of a Lower East Side youth center and a women's prison. Rey graduated with honors in 1967, feeling lucky to have been exposed to the best of both programs.
After graduation, Rey worked for SLS (Saphier, Lerner, Schindler) Environetics and Luss Kaplan Associates. In 1968, he formed a design firm with fellow Parsons graduates Barbara Green and Howard Kaplan; and, in 1972, he joined the staff of McMillen Inc.
Founded by legendary designer and Parsons alumna Eleanor Brown in 1924, McMillen is not only the oldest interior design firm in the country, but one of the most prestigious. At one time, McMillen was known for hiring only graduates of Parsons. In 1976, Rey was named Vice President and Senior Designer of the firm; in 2002, he became the firm’s president.
During his thirty-five years at McMillen, Rey has been responsible for many of the firm's most important projects, designing houses, apartments, corporate offices, boats, and country clubs, and his work has been profiled in many major publications. In Sixty Years of Interior Design: The World of McMillen, Erica Brown credits Rey with bringing to the firm an "expertise in modern design vernaculars.” Committed to carrying on the legacy left by Mrs. Brown, Rey says that his first priority for each of the firm's design projects is “making it work for the client." "Our main concern is attending to their personal needs and providing good solutions to problems," Rey continues. "Ultimately, they have to live with [the] results every day.”
Luis Rey student workRadical Shifts: Reshaping the Interior at Parsons (1955-1985) oral history project