If there was ever a time for a Dorothy Draper, 1889-1969, revival its right now. This is a women who advocated for every one to be their own designers, for everyone to feel liberated to be creative with their own home, to have adventurous passions and try new things. This is a designer who started small and close to home, redesigning her own home. That simple choice led to friends and relatives recommending she try professional design and when she did, a status quo smashing career resulted.
Dorothy was a clear break from the Victorian sometimes dark and heavily draped interiors. She abandoned the constraints of minimalism, a design trope wrongly dubbed masculine, and her style became known as the modern baroque, a maximalist revery in bright color and bold pattern held together with the classic lines and shapes of traditional luxury.
She made sure her design was multifaceted. The over all design must not only be functional for the people living in the home or working in the office being redesigned but the space needs to comfort and invigorate them, soothe them after a long day and welcome them home from a trip. She made homes important, not the second class citizens of architecture, before branching out and encompassing hotels, restaurants, theaters, and department stores.
But her career wasn’t just about subverting the design tradition that came before her. She lit the first sparks of todays DIY ethos. Even back in 1939 when her book Designing is Fun! was first published Dorothy saw interior design, a diverse field sometimes denigrated to lesser importance by those who had built a gendered binary between the supposed masculinity of architecture and the supposed femininity of interior design. Her writing encouraged people, not just women, to take pride and interest in the designs of their homes and gave them tools to design their own homes to their own tastes. That doesn’t sound all that revolutionary in a time full of blogs about how to make your home just the way you want it, but in the 30’s it really was a brand new idea.
In fact, for shepherding and expanding this idea in our culture, we nominate Dorothy as the one of the design worlds color icons! Check out Dorothy’s book In The Pink here!