The field of interior design is a creative profession that is consistently changing and evolving. Are you an aspiring interior designer? Did you know that Interior Design is a relatively new field for women? The five women who had a big impact on the field are Candace Wheeler, Edith Wharton, Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper, and Ruby Ross Wood.
Before the 20th century, interior decoration was the responsibility of architects and artisans such as painters, sculptors and furniture makers. And these were men. It wasn’t until after WWII that the term interior design even began to be used. Interior design was a new profession to women.
Design Legends: The Women of Interior Design
"Who creates a home, creates a potent spirit which in turn doth fashion him that fashioned." ~Candace Wheeler
Candace Wheeler (1827 - 1923) was a fabric and interior designer. She was considered by many as the "Mother of Interior Design." Wheeler founded the Society of Decorative Arts in 1877. She promoted art and design as a paying career rather than a hobby for women. In fact, Wheeler was one of the first women to be known as an interior decorator,. She worked in a world that was dominated by men - male upholsters, male architects, and male cabinet makers. Wheeler became a role model for women and inspired them to demand a place in the workforce as man's equal. Thank you Candace!
“True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.” ~Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937) was a prize winning American novelist, short story writer and interior designer. She co-wrote the "The Decoration of Houses" in 1897 with Ogdon Codman, Jr. Wharton and Codman became experts at combining the old with the new, a practice we still follow today.
"I opened the doors and windows of America, and let in the air and sunshine." ~Elsie de Wolfe
Elsie de Wolfe (1865 - 1950) is known as the "first lady of interior decoration." She was an actress and society figure who transformed Victorian rooms with simplicity, white paint, cheerful colors and flowery printed chintzes. In fact, she was referred to as "the Chintz Lady." When asked what she did, she replied "I create beauty." In 1913 she wrote "The House in Good Taste." Elsie was responsible for introducing more tasteful and stylish ideas into American homes than any other woman up to that time. Elsie de Wolfe became a living legend of the fashionable life.
"If it looks right, it is right." ~Dorothy Draper
Dorothy Draper (1889- 1969) was the first to professionalize interior design by establishing the first interior design company in the U.S. Draper was one of the most successful interior decorators of the 30s and 40s. She broke away from the historical period room styles that dominated the field at the time. Draper invented "modern baroque" a style that added a modern flare to the classical style. She worked mostly in commercial design. She wrote several books including "Decorating is Fun: How to Be Your Own Decorator" and "Entertaining is Fun: How to Be a Popular Hostess." Carleton Varney, President of Dorothy Draper & co. Inc. said of Draper "Draper was to decorating what Chanel was to fashion. She brought color into a world which was sad and dreary."
“Decorating is the art of arranging beautiful things comfortably.” ~Ruby Ross Wood
Ruby Ross Wood (1880 - 1950) was originally a newspaper reporter. Wood worked for Elsie de Wolfe as a writer and became her assistant. She was the ghostwriter for "The House in Good Taste." Wood wrote "The Honest House" in 1914 stressing simplicity and common sense. She is best known for her collaboration with architect Philip Trammel Shutze on the interiors of the Swan House in Atlanta, Georgia.
While the field of interior design as a creative profession is continually changing and evolving since these five design legends paved the way, we can all be thankful for their contributions to the field.
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