Posted on June 25 2022
Dorothy Draper led a life nearly as colorful as the rooms she created.
Born in 1889 into a blue-blood New England family at the height of the Gilded Age, she was among the first children to be raised in the then-new and ultra-affluent Tuxedo Park enclave 40 miles from New York City. Her family — the Tuckermans — and their neighbors were part of Old Guard New York, a milieu she would find stuffy and limiting as a young adult.
Moving to the city, she would forge her own feisty path as a businesswoman who would help establish interior decorating as a true profession. Her career began in the Roaring ’20s and continued for some 40 years, during which she became a household name, a “tastemaker” long before the word was coined.
Draper — known to most in her era as “Mrs. Draper” or, to close friends and family as “D.D.” — may have been to the manor born, but one of her key missions was to reach into the far more modest homes of middle-class Americans, showing them how to live life with panache, even amid budget restraints. She became a trusted adviser on decorating and entertaining through the syndicated newspaper columns, magazine articles, how-to pamphlets and books she wrote.
Today, design historians regard her as a pioneer. She favored then-revolutionary color combinations; oversized flower prints on white backgrounds; and black-and-white accents, including checkerboard floors.
She became equally famous for the glamorous furnishings, wall-and-ceiling decorations and accessories she designed with dramatic scrolls and flourishes, most often drenched in dull-white paint to highlight their curves. In the 1940s and 1950s, the striking style became known as the “the Draper look” and “Modern Baroque.”