Today continues the great July fun we’re having here on the blog with a look back at some of the icons of American design. Today’s post was compiled by the sweet Julie Thigpen who I met at the Design Bloggers conference in LA. Be sure to check out her fabulous online store, Modern Chic Home, and her blog Belle Maison! – Tobi
Hello everyone! I’ve been a huge fan of Tobi’s work for quite some time and had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the 2011 Design Bloggers Conference back in January. When I received an invitation from Tobi to be a guest blogger for her All-American Design Series, I was beyond thrilled! Today’s post focuses on designers who have played a major role on how design has evolved in our country over the years. While many designers and architects have helped shape the design direction of our country, there are 4 key people who’s early works have made a lasting impression, all whom remain influential in the industry to this very day. They are trend-setters and game changers; creative people who weren’t afraid to try new things, take risks and relentlessly pursue their passion. Enjoy and thank you for having me as a guest!
1. Elsie de Wolfe
“I opened the doors and windows of America and let the air and sunshine in.”
Elsie de Wolfe was born in New York City, sometime around 1865. Although she passed away 60+ years ago, she remains an icon to this day. Known as America’s first decorator, Wolfe was the first woman to create an official occupation as a designer. She spent her earlier years as a stage actress and didn’t begin her career as an interior designer until she was 40 years old. She is best remembered for veering away from the high Victorian style that was so popular during her time; heavy fabrics, densely patterned wallpapers, dark woodwork, and depressing, gloomy interiors. Instead, Wolfe introduced light colors, Chinoiserie prints, and soft upholstered furniture that was also comfortable. The photos on the top right and middle bottom are of a home she designed in 1936, but are just as chic and stylish in 2011!
Images via Cote de Texas and Habitually Chic
2. Dorothy Draper
“I believe in doing the thing you feel is right. If it looks right, it is right.”
Mrs. Draper was born in New York in 1889. Her great-grandfather, Oliver Wolcott, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Draper had “no schooling to speak of, except that I was brought up where I had the privilege of being constantly in touch with surroundings of pleasant good taste.” She became one of the first widely famous female interior designers, best known for mastering the Neo-baroque style. Draper was way ahead of her time, often decorating with ornate moldings, oversized lacquered doors, bold black & white checkered floors, wide stripes, regal mirrors, and splashes of vibrant color. The photo on the top left is of a lobby she designed for the Essex House in 1954! Her outstanding work earned her the name “most influential tastemaker in America” in 1960. Her iconic style continues to inspire interior designers today, namely Kelly Wearstler. Draper was one incredible woman with impeccable taste and a flair for glamour, drama and fun. She’s definitely one of my favorite designers of all time!
Image via Inspiringdesigns and Dorothy Draper & Co.
3. Albert Hadley
“Decorating is not about making stage sets, it’s not about making pretty pictures for the magazines; it’s really about creating a quality of life, a beauty that nourishes the soul.”
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Hadley credits his early life in the South as an influence on his interiors. He graduated from the Parsons School of Design in New York and in 1962, he joined Sister Parish (another American design icon!), in establishing Parish-Hadley Associates. The talented duo is “responsible for transforming countless rooms of many houses into very personal, highly individual and eminently comfortable spaces,” says Interior Design Magazine. They put the finishing touches on the Kennedy White House and re-vamped Al Gore’s vice-presidential residence, among designing for other clients such as Babe Paley, Happy Rockefeller, and the Getty family. The photo on the top left is of a space Hadley designed in the 1970’s, which could easily transition into a stylish living space today (I adore the chevron patterned floor!).
Images via Architectural Digest and Corbis and Elle Decor
4. Ralph Lauren
“What I do is about living. It’s about living the best life you can and enjoying the fullness of the life around you – from what you wear, to the way you live, to the way you love.”
Born in the Bronx, New York, Ralph Lauren began his career selling a collection of ties, which has evolved over the last 40 years into an empire of iconic fashion and interior design. When I think of classic “American design,” Ralph Lauren always comes to mind – he has redefined American style in more ways than one. Lauren’s interiors are known for being sophisticated, classic, timeless and livable.