Architect and interior designer Hugh Smallen was born in New York City in 1920. He received a degree in architecture from Yale University in 1947 after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. Following graduation, he went to work for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). In 1949, Smallen met his future wife, Kathryn Kroher Lapham, who was then employed as an assistant to Hans Knoll of the furniture company Knoll International. In the early 1950s, Smallen and his wife, who became his professional collaborator, moved to Florida and established an architectural and interior design business. They also opened a store called the "Design Collaborative," an innovative effort for the time, which focused exclusively on contemporary furniture and art objects.
In 1954, the Smallens relocated their design business to New Canaan, Connecticut. Smallen initially worked for Eliot Noyes and Associates but eventually left to open his own office. Hugh Smallen and Associates focused on residential design and completed projects in New Canaan such as the Tatum House (1962), Becker House (1963-64), and Parsons House (1964), as well as the design and construction of his own home (Smallen House, 1957). Smallen's office also served as interior and industrial design consultant to a number of U.S. corporations. An interesting example of this was a late-1960s collaboration with Charles and Ray Eames's design firm for an IBM exhibition titled "The History of the Computer." Smallen's work as an architect and interior designer was widely published in magazines and newspapers.
Hugh Smallen died in 1990.