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One Thing To Learn About Dorothy Draper

I hate to start with a cheesy quote but it’s fitting (pun intended). It was said by Frank Sinatra and I’m going to use his words, words from an artist, to describe another artist, Dorothy Draper.

During the summer of 2008, I saw the exhibit “In the Pink: Dorothy Draper, America’s Most Fabulous Decorator” at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art. I was in college at the time, dual enrolled at The University of Miami and The Art Institute (I’ve always been an over achiever) and working at Mishka’s tailor shop. Mishka talked on and on about Draper and her work; I had no idea who she was. So one Saturday, I spent the afternoon, solo, taking in all of Draper. Her style was an amalgamation of florid, gaudy, simple, and elegant. It wasn’t too frothy and it wasn’t too gothic. It was right in between with a pop of “wow.” She created “Modern Baroque” and used prints of elephantine proportions on walls, floors, and furniture (rose-chintz was her signature print). She wrote the book “Decorating is Fun!” which… blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada… Her accomplishments and noteworthy aesthetic are important, yes, but you can figure that out by looking at the pictures below and reading a biography on her life on Wikipedia. What floored me about Draper and her work, and what Sinatra described so well, was her attention to detail. No other project of hers best shows this than her redecoration of The Greenbrier Hotel.

During the Second World War, the hotel was an internment camp for diplomats from enemy countries and military hospital. When The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company, the owners of the property before the war, bought back the property, they hired Draper to redecorate it to its original state plus more. Using “romance and rhedondras” as her design inspiration, Draper separated the building’s vast lobby, which was wide to accommodate women’s hoop skirts of former times, into smaller rooms. Each room – the Celebrity Corridor, the Cameo Ballroom, the Trellis Lobby, the Green Lobby, and the Main Lobby – was designed from floor to ceiling. Couches, ceilings, carpets, window treatments, chairs, even matchbook covers, menus, and staff uniforms were redesigned. Even the guests rooms were as decked out as much as the rest of the hotel. To show how detailed Draper was, it is rumored that she threw a hissy-fit the day of the resort’s grand opening because a gardener was watering the lawn with a black hose when she specified that the hose be red. Newspapers describes this moment as, “Dorothy at her flaming best” (my kind of gal).

Her dedication to perfect the parts that made up the whole is what got me hooked on Draper. What makes an excellent outfit is not only the skirt and the blouse, it’s the earrings, the nails, and the hair. What makes an excellently sewn garment is not only the design, it’s the buttons, the work that went into perfecting the pattern, and the finish of the seam allowances. What makes a killer blog is not only the posts, it’s the blog design, the commenting on readers’ comments by the blogger, and the unique special features. Very few have the love and dedication for their art, whether is be sewing, baseball, or cars, and Draper was one of those few. Bravo Ms. Draper. Bravo.

17 Comments

  1. Reply

    Ginger

    What a cool lady!  Love these photos!  Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply

      Maddie964

      The video is extra cool so be sure to check it out!

  2. Reply

    Kyra

    Wow… now I know how to decorate my flat! Maybe with a little bit of Dumbledores Office on the top.
    What an inspirating lade. Thank you for introducing us 🙂

  3. Reply

    Chie

    Hi! Just wanted to say that I love your new blog design:) I hadnt been checking my reader for a while, but today I caught up on all 17 posts of yours. I love the scallop crop top you made, and your binding alternative post  was so interesting. 🙂 

    • Reply

      Maddie964

      Oh I’m so glad you like the new design. Hopefully you continue to come back 🙂

  4. Reply

    sallieforrer

    i do love this sort of “old hollywood” type of interior. as a huge fan of old movies (tcm anyone?) its so interesting to me to see these pictures in color rather than the black and white of the old movies that would have had this type of interior decor. its like looking at greek statues in their modern, sedate white marble – but art historians can tell us that these statues were actually painted and inlaid with stone so that in their time they were quite gaudy! it gives a whole new life to my imagining of this time.

    • Reply

      maddie

      I never knew that statues were one painted. I learn something new every day!

  5. Reply

    Tooodayi

    I just came across your blog and I love this post, its so great to read something original. what I clever idea, now Im going to look through the rest of your blog!

  6. Reply

    Mariló

    Hi Madalynne! I’m quite new to your blog but i like it and i’ve nominated you for the versatile blogger award. Feel free to go over my blog and read what is all about. Petitemess.blogspot.com

    • Reply

      maddie

      Oh my! Thank you. I’m headed on over to check it out.

  7. Reply

    dixie

    Oooh, lovely. She seems like quite the lady! Having never heard of her before and then seeing this I can completely tell her influence on modern interior design, even some Antrho styling. “Modern Baroque” love that term!

  8. Reply

    Marisa Noelle

    Gotta love a gal who knows exactly what she wants and makes no qualms about it.  I’ve heard of her before – but did not know much about her life or about the extent of her design.  Looks like a lot of modern design – like what you see in boutiques and even pastry shops draw inspiration from her.  I would kind of just love to have a room like the one above in my home:)  xx

    • Reply

      Maddie964

      That’s what I love about her – her style, which she developed 65 plus years ago – is the style today. She was ahead of her time!

  9. Reply

    Thewallinna

    Thanks for posting this interesting story! Her designs remind me of  David Lynch movies.

    • Reply

      Maddie964

      David Lynch? Now you’ve introduced me to someone new. Thanks!

  10. Reply

    Amy

    That lobby is killer! Thank you for sharing, I’d never heard of her. I know this kind of design lost favor for a long time–but it’s had a sort of resurgence in the last decade. There’s a lot of rhythm to her design. I love how it’s both very feminine and masculine at the same time. And I really want to steal her hairdo!

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