American Interior Design History
For an ugly child who lived in an age of mass-produced home wares, the quest for beautiful things was a lifetime goal for this interior designer that ended up pioneering a new way of creating moods. Elsie de Wolfe, who had been born in 1865 was nothing more than an ordinary kid, grew up to be a professional that was way ahead of her own time. Described as the first woman of design, Elsie de Wolfe was in no way used to being surrounded by beautiful things. Nevertheless, defining beauty in her very own terms, she held that an individual might be attractive by staying healthful, dressing tastefully and maintaining fitness. De Wolfe started her career as an actress in theatre, making her debut as a part of the Empire Stock Company on the stage in 1890.
Later, she also formed her very own stock company. Since noticing her passion in 1903 for decoration, she immediately started a career as a professional interior designer and she decided to retire from her other means of producing an income. Elsie lived in an age of high fashions and tendencies which didn’t appeal to her senses. Averse to the decors characterized by heavy velvet draperies in the backgrounds and woodworking throughout the period, Elsie de Wolfe introduced her own style which featured fresh and light colours and backgrounds with Chinoiserie prints that were delicately placed. Fascinated with France and England’s turn of the century furnishings, Elsie introduced Americab style chairs, rather than the uncomfortable chairs of that era.
Her trips to Europe made her consume style and different ways of life. Mastering the arts of food, style and entertaining, she brought many distinctive elements of European lifestyle to America. In 1905, while at Stanford University among all the architects for The Colony Club, a very longtime friend helped de Wolfe secure all the commission for its inside design. The building located at 120 Madison Avenue in New York, Became all the premier women’s social club and is now inhabited by the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Elsie’s success in this project had been a turning point in her career, which secured her a number of esteemed clients.
In addition to being a successful inside designer she also was a successful artist on many subjects. A House in Good Taste is that of her most famous books on inside layout and her autobiography published in 1935 outlines many intriguing aspects of her private life. In 1926 she married a diplomat, Sir Charles Mendl and until her death in 1950, had been known as Lady Mendl. As a self proclaimed “rebel in an ugly world”, she was named the best dressed woman in the world by Paris experts in 1935. Coming from the fashion capital of all the world, it was the highest of all compliments one could receive during that time. Elsie’s distinctive philosophy of interior design is evident from her words “I opened the doors and windows of America and let the air and sunshine come in.”