edited by Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 4/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Author of Decorating is Fun! How to Be Your Own Decorator, Dorothy Draper must have been loads of fun herself. The 1939 book cemented her cachet, but the key moment in her career came two years earlier, when her namesake firm was hired to design New York's 37-story Hampshire House hotel. Arguably the first job of that size awarded to a woman, it helped establish interior design as a profession in the U.S.
Draper's green upholstery, busty florals, and gigantic personality eventually made her one of the most famous designers of her time. The 1940's saw her applying her swaggering baroque to the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and the fabled Fairmont and Mark Hopkins hotels, both in San Francisco. She went on to break the mold with cheerful hospitals, feminized airplane interiors, and a Dodge utility truck painted with pie-size polka dots. Her business acumen was also hard to ignore.
Preservationists missed the chance to save her Metropolitan Museum of Art restaurant, with its chandeliers that looked like enormous white-painted egg beaters. But that lost landmark and her inspirational story as a whole get their due this spring when the Museum of the City of New York unveils "The High Style of Dorothy Draper." Pointed Leaf Press is publishing the companion monograph, In the Pink: Dorothy Draper, America's Most Fabulous Decorator—inspired by Draper's lavish scrapbooks. May 2–September 10; 212-534-1672; mcny.org.