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Dorothy Draper - Color makes us happy!

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

A couple of weeks ago I read about high society designer Dorothy Draper. I had seen her name referenced in many a magazine over the years, revering her as an icon in her field. In her early days of interior design, however, Dorothy spoke to average women, telling them to decorate with what they had, and that they didn't need to completely overhaul their homes to make a big difference in its appearance. Use what you already have, she'd say, whether it be a collection of colorful photos torn from magazines, or colorful and cheap carnival glass you won at the county fair. When displayed in a large group, these everyday items seem like a treasured collection, fooling you and others that they are special and priceless. These are ideas I have used in my home and that we can all benefit from today.

After WWII, Dorothy Draper redecorated the Greenbrier, a luxury hotel in my home state of West Virginia. The decor there hasn't changed much since her work then, and I've heard opinions that the decor is quite old-fashioned (not in the good way!). But I think that it's so perfect for what I would call l a "pinkies out" hotel in the modern era! Her use of loud colors and eye-boggling pattern mixing is just the splash of fun and joy that such a historied institution needed to liven it up. Think about how stuffy and boring high tea at the Greenbrier could be without such a fun atmosphere. What courage she had in those days to design a space that we think is pretty outrageous today!

Just look at the wallpapers! Two patterns - bright aqua stripes and green palm leaves, on an oversized black and white checkerboard floor. Would any of us dare to do this in 2021, much less 1959?

So take courage when you're decorating your own home, and don't be afraid to use bold colors and patterns. Just because every other magazine we see features white walls, dusty greys, wood floors, and minimalist style doesn't mean you have to. Decorate with what you have, and what makes you happy, (for me that's bright colors and midcentury style) and it will definitely bring joy to you and anyone who sees it!



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