Once in a
while there comes along a person, a woman, who is so
absolutely certain of her calling in life, her style, and the
way she will choose to live that it makes every other person
around her virtually invisible by comparison. Dorothy Draper
was just one of those women.
It takes most
people an entire lifetime to determine what their personal
style is, how to execute it and how to live it. Not so in the
case of Dorothy Draper. By the age of thirty-five, Mrs. Draper
had not only determined her own style but was busily creating
bold and audacious statements for others.
Draper, nee Dorothy Tuckerman, was born in 1889, in Tuxedo
Park, New York, a center of long established old wealth. All
of her life she told anyone who would listen that she simply
“came from the right people”, a factor, which served her
extremely well during the development of her very stylish
Interior Decorating business, Dorothy Draper & Company.
fortunate birthright is nothing without the self-assurance and
ability to make something of it, as Dorothy so successfully
did. There have been hundreds of wealthy socialite women who
were, and still are content to do little more than shop and
lunch. In Dorothy’s case, creating a name for herself,
accompanied by a specific standard and style made her one of
the most successful and stylish women in America.
At the age of
twenty-three, Dorothy Tuckerman married Dr. George Draper, a
man of intelligence and culture. The couple had three
children, two girls and a boy, but Dorothy was neither cozy
nor domestic. Motherhood itself simply did not hold the
fascination for Dorothy as it did for most other women of her
time. She was intent on creating a name for herself.
herself decorated the first home owned by the Drapers. It was
received with such overwhelming enthusiasm that it was sold
immediately, lock, stock and barrel, enabling Dorothy to begin
creating another home for the family.
The charm of
her personal projects finally led others to seek her advice.
Dorothy began creating homes for other society members, in a
style which was uniquely her own, and a complete departure
from the gloom of the traditional Victorian era style of
decorating. She, like her contemporaries, Elsie De Wolfe and
Ruby Ross Wood began to introduce a kind lightness and color
into the homes of others. These decorative styles and the
European elements that accompanied them had never been seen
before in America.
decorating style reflected her own character. She was a woman
with a wildly unique flair and a specifically individual point
of view. Her unique trademarks were oversized architectural
details, in mantle pieces and mouldings, partnered with
upholstered pieces, sofas, chairs and loveseats, in chintz
printed with enormous cabbage roses, executed in bold and
almost shocking, for the period, colors. Dorothy successfully
mixed greens and reds with coral, on floors, walls, and in
carpet or chose jet black and dead white with shots of
powerful colors as accents to make her decorating statements.
twenties and thirties, “DD” as she came to be known decorated
some of the finest town homes in the Gramercy Park area of New
York City, and used her unique style of bold and dramatic
colors, prints and decorative objects to differentiate herself
from other decorators of her time. Her business grew quickly
until she was honored with one of the most important projects
of her entire career. The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.
Here she mixed her favorites, reds, greens and corals in
oversized stripes and flowers with glossy white paint and
frothy white ornamental plasterwork to create a sensation not
soon forgotten by her public. As a matter of fact the name
Dorothy Drapery is still associated with the Greenbrier Hotel
even after the passing of over a half a century.
Draper sold her business in 1960. She died nine years later at
the age of eighty. She had been on the covers of Time and Life
magazines, and because of the publicity she sought and
received, “DD” became a household name. The style that she
created and so successfully executed is still influential
today. Upon entering the virtual showrooms of places like
www.fireplaceconcepts.com (for bold mantelpieces), and
www.windsorhousefurniture.com (for creative upholstered
pieces), , you will come to understand the recognizable style
of Dorothy Draper. “DD” lived her life with more confidence
than most men of her era. “If it looks right, it is right” was
a statement she lived by and one that made her a celebrity in
the very modern sense of the word.