Top Inspirational Women Designers in History: According to LiLu
March is Women’s History Month, and as woman professionals, we know how important it is to honor this history. The pay gap is still an issue, and in rising industries like technology, the number of women leading is nowhere near where it should be to indicate equality. However, gender issues aren’t exclusive to traditionally male-dominated fields like technology. Most people think the interior design industry is uniquely dominated by women, but while the numbers may lean towards women, other measures of success do not. According to Data USA, the percentage of women awarded interior design degrees within the five largest undergraduate programs in the country was 89.7 percent in 2016. Obviously, this shows a major skew towards women in the number of interior design professionals out there. Despite that, Contract Design points out that “over the past 30 years, 75 percent of the Interior Design Hall of Fame members have been male”, and “while ASID and IIDA fellows are a little more than half female, they do not mirror the percentage of women in the profession”. As an industry, we can all work towards uplifting women leaders. To aid in doing that this Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the top inspirational women designers in history this week.
Check out this article for more on the gender gap in the interior design field.
Elsie De Wolfe
Elsie De Wolfe essentially invented interior design as a profession, making her an obvious choice for one of the top inspirational women designers in history.
She was born in New York City, and was sensitive to environment from the beginning of her life. She focused on replacing heavy Victorian styles with light, intimate effects. She called herself a “rebel in an ugly world”.
Dorothy Draper founded the first interior design firm in American history in 1925. She was the antithesis to the minimalist style that is popular today, using bright, exuberant colors and large prints that encompassed whole walls. These bright, anti-minimalist designs earned her a spot on the list of the top inspirational women designers in history.
One of her most famous designs was The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It was a military hospital during World War II, but Dorothy Draper was hired to redecorate it after the war.
For more on Dorothy Draper, check out this blog post
Or, this one for some of her best quotations.
Sister Parish was an interior designer, nun and socialite, whose largest claim to fame was being hired to decorate the Kennedy White House in 1960. Even today, much of Parish’s influence can be seen at the White House, particularly in the Yellow Oval Room.
Eileen Gray, next on our list of the top inspirational women designers in history, was an Irish architect and furniture designer. She pioneered the Modern Movement in architecture and was associated with many notable European artists of her era. Her most famous work is called “E-1027” in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France.
Florence Knoll was a jack of many trades. She was an architect, interior designer, furniture designer, and entrepreneur. She has been credited with revolutionizing office design and being the first to bring modernist design to office interiors, a style that we are no stranger to today.
She earns a distinguished spot on our list of the top inspirational women designers in history because she worked hard to professionalize the field of interior design, and fought hard against the gender stereotypes of the “decorator”, which the industry still grapples with today.
Andrée Putman was a French interior and product designer. Throughout her career, she constantly imagined bridges, gaps, and connections between arts, fashion, and design.
In 1984, she designed the Morgans Hotel in New York, at which point her career picked up, allowing her to go on to design hotels, private residences, offices, objects, and furniture all around the world.
Stephanie Odegard is one of the top inspirational women designers in history because of her deep commitment to social progress and philanthropic accountability in her work.
She has served in the Peace Corps, worked for the United Nations and the World Bank, and become an internationally recognized leader in interior design, creating luxurious hand-knotted carpets.
Finally, Zaha Hadid, a British Iraqi architect, artist and designer is the perfect figure to top off our list of the top inspirational interior designers in history.
She is recognized around the world as an influential figure in architecture of the late 20th and early 21st century, who designed some of the most famous building of our era, including the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics, the Broad Art Museum, Rome’s MAXXI Museum, and the Guangzhou Opera House.
She was also the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004.
After reading about these women, an interesting question to ask yourself is: how many had you heard of before reading? If the answer is none or very few, that simply speaks to the gender gap in the interior design industry.
The more we learn about the top inspirational women designers in history, the more we can do to uplift women leaders and make this a more equal industry.
Bringing Intention Home
At LiLu Interiors, we love designing spaces that support our client’s lifestyles. It is our intention to find out your intentions. Would you like to create a home that is a reflection of your style, interest and values in life? Surround yourself with color that speaks to your soul? Whatever your intention is, we want to know. We are in the business of designing interiors and creating spaces for you to live out your dreams. Whatever your dream is, we will creatively collaborate with you to design a home that uniquely expresses who you are and how you live. Give us a call, let’s bring your intentions home. 612-354-3271
20 March, 2021 at 7:49 am
What a wonderful, wonderful post, Lisa..and so educational! I am so glad you wrote this. I learned some things I did not know about these famous women, and I am especially happy to see you mentioning Zaha Hadid, who, unfortunately, left us way too early. Her architectural practice survives, though, without her..and we are all the richer for her original vision and hard work.
20 March, 2021 at 9:20 am
I never knew Sister Parish was a nun at some point! Wonderful post Lisa showcasing the impact of women in Design. Everyone working in design today needs to know these amazing legends!
20 March, 2021 at 11:02 am
FANTASTIC post! My Bachelor’s degree is in interior design and I had never heard of the last 3 designers! Thanks for this.
20 March, 2021 at 4:05 pm
I loved reading through and being reminded of all the lovely ladies that came before us. Thank you for taking the time to write this!
20 March, 2021 at 4:13 pm
What a great celebration of these women luminaries in the design field! They are such an inspiration
20 March, 2021 at 5:48 pm
What a lovely round-up of these amazing inspirational women and here’s hoping to less wage and recognition disparity for all women! Great post for this month!
21 March, 2021 at 3:42 am
Great post, so interesting to learn about these amazing leaders in the Interior Design world!
21 March, 2021 at 4:39 pm
This is such a great post, so much I didn’t know. Thank you!
21 March, 2021 at 6:26 pm
Zaha Hadid Has always been one of my personal favorites! Great post. Love this support of women in design
22 March, 2021 at 11:48 am
Well, I had only heard of one prior to reading this, Lisa. This is a great post and has opened my eyes to dive further into their careers! Thank you for sharing
22 March, 2021 at 9:44 pm
I can’t decide if If I want to be Dorothy Draper of Zaha Hadid. Such wonderful role models for anyone in the creative design arts!!