He was born (as László Pál) in Debrecen, Hungary, to László Ignác and László Regina (née Soros). His family later moved to Szombathely, Hungary. Sources citing his birthplace as Budapest are incorrect. He had three sisters and two brothers; two of his sisters and both of his parents died in the Holocaust along with seven other relatives not in his immediate family.
Console table designed as a tribute to Salvador Dalí
László completed his education in Vienna, Austria before moving to Stuttgart, Germany, where he rapidly established himself as a prominent designer, winning the admiration of, among others, Salvador Dalí. However, the rising tide of anti-semitism and Nazism made László's position precarious in Europe due to his Jewish ancestry. In 1936 he fled Europe for the United States to escape the Nazis. Ironically, and without László's knowledge, some of his work appeared in Adolf Hitler's Eagle's Nest (the Kehlsteinhaus) near Berchtesgaden which infuriated Albert Speer, chief architect of the Third Reich and close advisor to Hitler. This convinced László he had to leave his family, his practice and his friends because Europe was no longer safe for him. He applied for and accepted a professorship teaching architecture at the Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria in Chile. However, never intending to go to South America, László was hidden by friends of his until he was able to get passage on an oceanliner, which was not headed to South America, but rather New York City.
Arriving in New York City, he immediately bought an automobile, drove to Southern California, and established an office in affluent Beverly Hills, California. László's reputation preceded him. He was popular with the wealthy political and acting elite. Although he deeply loved his adopted Los Angeles, his work remained international in scope. His designs were opulent yet never overstated; expensive and executed with impeccable taste. His projects left nothing to chance, and he would design virtually all aspects including furniture, fabrics, drapes, rugs, lamps, and other fixtures.
László was notoriously intransigent in his design projects but with his own unique style, few complained because of the overwhelming impact of his completed projects. He personally preferred generously dimensioned furniture, but, for one client who was sensitive about his small stature, László designed all of the furnishings in slightly smaller-than-standard scale. László was delighted when the client later told him that the new house made him feel tall for the first time in his life. As László devoted more and more of his efforts to interiors, he seldom would accept architectural commissions. He was known for rejecting clients when he thought the relationship would be unsatisfactory to him. Most famously, he refused to design for Elizabeth Taylor in 1960, at the height of her celebrity, due to her demands for design input; later, he refused to design for Barbra Streisand for similar reasons.
Carved table lamp in László home. Woven shade by Maria Kipp
; form sculpted by F.F. Kern.
In 1948, László joined with George Nelson, Charles Eames and Isamu Noguchi to design for the Herman Miller company. The furniture lines presented by Herman Miller from 1948 have been called the most influential groups of furniture ever manufactured. Nevertheless, László was not pleased with the arrangement and the relationship ended in 1952. Starting in 1941 and continuing for over 25 years, László maintained his design studio at 362 North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. László rented the entire building from the owner when it was still incomplete and he immediately took on the task of designing the interiors, the exterior details and all of the furniture complete with fabrics. The studio also had a small area showcasing his work and helped him achieve even greater prominence. He designed department stores for Bullock's Wilshire, Goldwaters, Robinson's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Halls (Crown Center, Kansas City), Hudson's Bay and Ohrbach's. Also, he designed many of the casinos and showrooms in the Howard Hughes-owned hotels in Las Vegas. László achieved further fame with his elegant bomb shelter designed for John D. Hertz in conjunction with the United States Air Force. He also conceived "
Atomville," a futuristic underground city.
As evidence of László's long and highly regarded career, photographs, renderings and descriptions of his work appear in books and periodicals from every decade starting in the 1920s and are still being published in the 21st century. Time magazine (August 18, 1952)  described him as "the Millionaire's Architect" in an article about László. He had an ability to combine colors which might seem irreconcilable, yet when seen as a whole, were warm and beautiful. It was this use of color along with the large scale and flowing lines to his designs and the integration of an entire project which distinguished his work.
László served in both World Wars. He fought with the Hungarian artillery on the Italian front in World War I, and he enlisted in the United States Army and served domestically during World War II.
Designed for McCullough Corporation, Los Angeles, 1954
Autobiographical information is available on László's life in the publication "Designing With Spirit," an oral history conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles. László donated much of his original materials to the School of Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His work is occasionally displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and is frequently seen in national and international retrospectives on 20th-century design.