By Emily Anderson, Allied Member ASID
Some have said that while experiencing one of Dorothy Draper's interiors you may question whether you are in a dream or a nightmare. I'm guessing she took that as a compliment. Her designs pushed the envelope and thank God for it. Draper was the inventor of the Modern Baroque style, breaking away from the drab "period rooms" of the day. The public was blown away by her bold use of color and pattern. They simply had never seen anything like it.
Carlteon Varney, her protege, says it best on his website (www.dorothydraper.com):
To Dorothy, public space represented a place for people to come and feel elevated in the presence of great beauty, where the senses could look and feel and absorb the meaning of a quality life. 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 blue, or, one of her favorite combinations - “dull” white and “shiny” black. Her signature “cabbage rose” chintz, paired with bold stripes; her elaborate and ornate plaster designs and moldings - over doors, on walls and ceilings; her black and white checkered floors (The Quitandinah Palace & Casino Resort, Petropolis, Brazil); her massive, paneled, lacquered doors (Arrowhead Springs Hotel, California), some framed with bolection (Hampshire House, New York) or with elaborate plaster or intricate mirror frames (Camellia House, Drake Hotel, Chicago) – all contributed to dramatic design often referred to as “the Draper touch”.
What can we take away from Draper's aesthetic? I think a lot. Don't be afraid to let your home be a reflection of you. Use bold color and pattern if that is what makes you happy. Let your home be your castle, a place where you feel presented with great beauty everyday.
A sample Draper color palette. Lush and lovely.
Draper was also known for her love of "shiny" black and "dull" white.
These images are from a 2006 retrospective exhibition of her work by the Museum of the City of New York – the first time that such an honor was given to an interior designer.