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About Dorothy Draper (Designer)
Few would argue with the statement that Dorothy Draper was the most influential American interior decorator of the past century. They might make a case for Elsie DeWolfe, who had banished heavy dark furnishings and finishes from late-Edwardian era rooms, or plump for Sister Parish, and her easeful gentrified look. But Draper simply was the face of decorating. Savvy, decisive, and trim — she looked the part. And her 1939 book Decorating is Fun! and a regular column for Good Housekeeping maintained that public image.
As did, of course, her work. Born to wealth in Tuxedo Park, New York, Draper received little formal schooling but did travel extensively in Europe refining her eye and tastes. Draper invented the interior-design style known these days as “Hollywood Regency.” She loved bold vibrant color, which she deployed in unusual combinations (pink paired with eggplant was a favorite). She had a penchant for black-and-white checked floors. Draper liked a room to have a statement piece on the wall, preferably a plaster scrollwork-framed mirror. But most of all Draper liked such things as huge moldings brimming with Baroque detail; upholstery fabrics with overscaled florals, such as her signature print called “Cabbage Rose.” Draper could keep it simple. Many of her chairs are unfussy slipper or club chairs, with maybe a little tufting. The quiet “España” chest, which has three drawers with round brass pulls, has been a staple of classic decorating ever since Draper designed it for Henrenon in 1953.
Because of her passion for scale and the grand gestures, most of Draper’s commissions were for hotels, resorts and apartment towers. In these spaces, she could follow her whim and produce such extravagances as the massive, playfully modernist chandelier in the lobby of the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia; the wildly Baroque fireplace in the lounge of New York’s Hampshire House; and the towering lacquered doors of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel in California. The woman thought big.
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