Sunday, June 27, 2010

{designer profile: dorothy draper}

From the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Dorothy Draper was America's most famous decorator, and was the first to ‘professionalize’ the interior design industry by establishing the first interior design company in the United States in 1923. The more I read about this woman, the more I am fascinated by her. Even if you aren’t sure, there is no doubt you have encountered some of her designs!

Her unique trademarks were oversized architectural details in mantle pieces and moldings, black and white checkered floors, mixed with bold colors and patterns. She used vibrant, “splashy” colors in never-before-seen combinations, such as aubergine and pink with a “splash” of chartreuse and a touch of turquoise. I think Draper continues to influence the designers of today, such as Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler.

Greenbrier resort in West Virginia via

The Quitandinah Palace & Resort in Brazil via

This woman did it all: she had a regular column for Good Housekeeping Magazine, designed fabric lines for Schumacher, and in addition to her hotel and restaurant decors, she designed theaters, department stores, the interiors of jet planes, and automobiles (she did a “line” for Packard and Chrysler in the 1950’s – including a pink polka dot truck)!

The restaurant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York was nicknamed ‘The Dorotheum.' Via

Words of wisdom from Ms. Draper herself: “It is just as disastrous to have the wrong accessories in your room as it is to wear sport shoes with an evening dress.”

The lobby in The Hampshire House via

“Your home is the backdrop of your life, whether it is a palace or a one-room apartment, it should honestly be your own - an expression of your personality. So many people stick timidly to often uninspired conventional ideas, or follow some expert’s methods slavishly. Either way they are more or less living in someone else’s house.”

In 1939, Dorothy became a household name through her book, ‘Decorating is Fun!’ and more recently Carleton Varney wrote ‘In the Pink: Dorothy Draper, America's Most Fabulous Decorator’, which showcases 200 never-before-published photographs of her work.

Now you don't have to constantly scour ebay to find Dorothy Draper can find her pieces at Kindel's Dorothy Draper Collection instead! The collection is a collaboration with Carleton Varney, the president and owner of Dorothy Draper & Co., and the pieces include reproductions and inspirations from Draper’s design work. Here are a few of my favorite items:

And of course, the ever-popular Espana Bunching Chest, I want one…or maybe two!
Remember spotting it in the first SATC movie in the Vogue office? Yummy.

Or even more recently in Melissa Warner’s stunning bedroom featured in the May issue of House Beautiful:

Well, it's apparent Dorothy's legacy lives on! You can read more about this amazing woman at


Lisa said...

So interesting to hear more about Dorothy Draper she really was the first of her kind. It would be so interesting to be able to talk to her now and see what she thinks about design in the year 2010. Fantastic post Nancy!

The Zhush said...

Wow! Great eye for spotting that piece, not once, but twice! Thoroughly enjoyed this post...huge Dorothy Draper fan!

barbara@hodge:podge said...

Loving the white side table and Melissa Werner's bedroom! Must add that to my inspirational files!

thelennoxx said...

Hey, I've seen that black and gold chest everywhere, but I never knew DD designed it!

Jen of Made By Girl said...

The Espana chest is one of my all time FAVES....not even kidding!

Kathysue said...

Nancy love, love this post. I remember the first time I saw a Dorothy Draper article and I at that moment realized this woman had the design aesthetics that I loved and had been using unknowingly in a simple way and of course not as wonderful as her. I had always used black and white with pinks and greens and yellows and blues and no one else seemed to do that. I dreamed of a black and white marble entry and a black and white checked floor in the guest bath, which is exactly what my post is on today, go figure, so you can see why I am so taken with this post, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us, Happy Monday,Kathysue

emma said...

I have to admit I don't know a whole lot about Ms Draper. Thanks for this post. I'm intrigued to learn more about this fascinating woman. I love her quotes!

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