Through their unique inspiration and styles, female interior designers have changed the game. Notable names include Zaha Hadid, Candace Wheeler, Diane Bergeron and Dorothy Draper.
When it comes to women’s contributions, the interior design industry is notablefor its never-ending roster of outstanding female interior designers , both past and present. Whether it is 1920s idol Dorothy Draper or modern-day design mavens like Diane Bergeron, the interiors sphere has been shaped by some of the sharpest minds.
This article rounds up some of the most remarkable interior designers. From their business intuition to their ambition and innate style, sit back and take notes from these exemplary ladies.
5 Female Interior Designers
Candace Wheeler (1827-1923)
Born in 1827, Candace Wheeler was dubbed the mother of interior design. Her career saw her work with the Arts and Crafts Movement and Aesthetic Movement. In 1877, she was among the founders of the Society of Decorative Arts in New York alongside Louis Comfort Tiffany and others. Society aimed to help women support themselves through handicrafts.
Later in 1878, she aided in the launch of the New York Exchange for Women’s Work. This organization had a broader scope because it didn’t require women’s artistic skills. In 1879, Candace Wheeler and Luis Comfort Tiffany co-founded Tiffany & Wheeler–an interior-decorating firm. Famous buildings decorated by Tiffany & Wheeler include the Madison Square Theatre, the George Kemp house, and Union League Club.
Tiffany & Wheeler wasn’t the end of her journey. In 1883, Candace established Associated Artists–a women-only textile firm that dealt in curtains and tapestries. The firm was also renowned for its “changeable” silks that changed colour according to the lighting conditions.
Partnering with her brother and husband in 1892, Candace founded Onterora–an artist colony in Catskills Mountains. The place was a haven for single women, primarily writers and artists, aiming towards financial independence. In 1893, she was requested to serve as the interior designer of the Woman’s Building during the Chicago World’s Fair.
Elsie de Wolfe (1859-1950)
The New Yorker hails Elsie de Wolfe as the inventor of the interior design profession. While this may be a bit of an overkill, her contributions to interior design are undeniable. She is known for transforming wealthy homes’ interiors from heavily curtained and dark wood spaces into light, airy rooms. She used fresh colours in her designs and paid homage to 18th-century French furniture and accessories.
Elsie’s first career was in acting. It was during the staging of the plays that she developed her passion for interior design, which saw her abandon her career as an actress and become an interior decorator in 1903. Some of the people that got to experience her incredible work were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Adelaide Frick.
The commission that brought her the most fame was the Colony Club Interiors. This was after she secured it in 1905 with the help of Stanford White–her friend and the club’s architect. The Colony Club soared in popularity because of Elsie’s interior design, which saw it crowned the premier women’s social club. Instead of the masculine tones that were the highlight of fashionable interiors, Wolfe opted for pale colours on the walls, tiled floors, wicker chairs, and light window coverings.
Dorothy Draper (1889-1969)
Born and raised to upper-class parents in Tuckerman, Dorothy Draper was often called “The Duchess of Bold). Her origin gave her access to good education, travel, and reputable clients. She is best known for her anti-minimalist style, characterized by bold colours and an overload of decoration. She disliked pastel colours and loved filling rooms with detail.
In 1925, Dorothy established the Architectural Clearing House. The goal was to connect women that wanted to decorate their homes with architects that would help them do so. Later on, the company was renamed Dorothy Draper Incorporated. Her first large project was the Carlyle Hotel lobby in 1928. It was also her first project in a niche she would pursue for the rest of her life–resort and hotel interior design.
Other notable projects she worked on include Sutton Place and the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, which was her crowning glory. In just 16 months, she transformed the 600-room hotel and made monumental changes.
Zaha hadid (1950-2016)
Famous for her designs that defied the notion of architectural geometry, world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid passed on in 2016 aged 65. The Iraqi-British innovator was the first female to bag the Pritzker Architecture Prize and captivated many with her fluid spatial designs. Her table avant-garde designs include the London Olympic Aquatics Centre, the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, and the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.
Hadid was an embodiment of an era of “starchitects” that roamed the earth in pursuit of their creative genius. Her structures made a statement on skylines and reshaped modern-day architecture.
Colour is life for celebrated American and Australian interior designer Diane Bergeron. Her design philosophy centres around bold self-expression and timeless elegance. She relishes mixing modern and classic elements to create a sophisticated space while maintaining a relaxed mood.
Trends don’t inspire Bergeron. Instead, she works to capture her client’s personalities in each of her projects. Described as a “taste-maker”, Bergeron combines custom furnishings and high- and low-end pieces to give your home a distinctive style.
By demand, she launched DB Home–a home furnishings and accessories collection. Having over 30 years of experience as an interior designer and decorator in Australia and the US, Bergeron has established her name in sophisticated and elegant interiors. Besides designing wallpaper, fabric, and her DB Home collection, Diane has worked with Arthur G on various fine furniture. Her work has been featured in multiple international publications such as Vogue Living, House and Garden, and Architectural Digest.
All of the above are big names whose works have and continue to shape the field of interior design. Other female interior designers worth mentioning are May Morris, Gertrude Jekyll, Lucienne Day, and India Mahdavi, among others. Their varied tastes and styles are what make interior design interesting.