Hail, Dorothy

 

Dorothy Draper was one of America's most famous and influential interior designers. She pioneered the industry in this country, created a brand name for herself long before Martha Stewart came on the scene, influenced home decorating with her "you can decorate" best-selling books, and produced an impressive body of decorating work, from chic hotels and private homes to important commercial commissions like the interiors for jet airplanes.

Here are some Draper tips that we can all benefit from in our home decorating (and pick up a copy of her Decorating Is Fun! book for some great ideas):

  1. Draper always believed it was important to have a good time decorating your home. She warned people not to be "grim and serious," and she said, "I don't believe there is any rule in the game that can't be broken."
  2. "So many people stick timidly to the often uninspired conventional ideas or follow some expert's methods slavishly. Either way they are more or less living in someone else's house." To avoid this, she advised decorating where you live to make it "honestly your own - an expression of your personality."
  3. "You need courage to experiment, courage to seek out your own taste and express it, courage to disregard stereotyped ideas and try out your own." She particularly advises against blindly following trends, fashions, or someone else's advice. But with that comes responsibility to try to research what's available, collect color and pattern samples that appeal to you, and begin to look around and find what's appealing.
  4. "The Drab Age is over. Color is coming into its own again. Until very recently people were literally scared out of their wits by color." Dorothy Draper wrote these words back in 1939, and they are still true! Don't forget that lively colors in your surroundings are important, and she advises, "Be sure your colors are honest, fresh, and clear." She doesn't mean bright shades of color but instead, colors that aren't "wishy-washy."
  5. Get rid of "junky knickknacks" in all your rooms. In fact, Dorothy Draper always eliminated all purposeless elements from her room and reveled in the "restful simplicity" of rooms that are well decorated.
  6. Replace old picture frames with new ones to give your walls a fresher look.
  7. Don't overlook the small details in any room. "Your lampshades," says Draper, "can make or break a room." She says to consider the decorating details in your room as carefully as you consider layering your body in clothes and jewelry; accessorizing is just as important as the basic outfit.
  8. "No room can be called perfect unless it has real comfort. It must be livable for you. It must meet graciously every requirement you make of it." Take Draper's advice and look hard and long at how you're using your living room and dining room. Are these two underutilized rooms in your house? Can they be made more comfortable and livable for you and your family by accommodating more conversation groupings, spaces to enjoy media, great places to read a book, work spaces for homework and games and computer use?
  9. When considering wall colors, get a large wallpaper sample which has the background color you want. "Hang it on the wall until you find out whether you really like it. Then have your painter match that shade."
  10. Don't forget celings when laying out your color plans for a room. Don't just default and paint them white. "Your ceiling can be a contrast to your walls, or it can match some color in your wallpaper or rug. It can be painted shiny black, or it can be covered with the same wallpaper you are using on the walls. Just don't treat it like a stepchild."
  11. "A room that is weighted down at one end by a great, heavy sofa that is not balanced by similar weight at the other end is an uneasy room." Draper cautions against buying pairs of things to create balance. ("It would be dull if you did.") Instead, she recommends clever uses of color such as a pair of chairs with upholstery darker than the sofa being used to create that visual balance in the room. "Solid colors will usually make things seem larger and bulkier than they are. And bold, allover patterns will reduce their size because they break up the lines just as army camouflaging does."
Jay JohnsonComment