Yes, before there was Don there was Dorothy. Dorothy Draper was tall, attractive and confident. She set up her interior design business in 1925 and a decade later was on her way to being the most famous decorator, if not THE most famous businesswoman, in the country. Her motto, a precursor to “Make it work.” was;
“If it looks right, it is right.”
She was a big success and she did it all alone. Her husband ran off with another woman the same week that Wall Street crashed but that double punch didn’t knock her down. During the Depression, Draper honed her style at hotels, resorts, restaurants, and nightclubs across the country, transforming them into stylish, surreal sets. In Manhattan, she designed the cafeteria at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Coty salon in Rockefeller Center, The Carlyle and Hampshire House hotels and in West Virginia the Greenbrier was an all-inclusive Draper experience. Her signatures “Draperisms,” include massive black-and-white checkerboard floors, elaborate plaster moldings, hand-painted stripes and her trademark cabbage rose chintz, with clusters of overblown blooms. Dorothy Draper’s exuberant, saturated pre-Pop color schemes, a riot of chartreuse, crimson, sky blue, and shiny black were optimism incarnate in an era when it was in short supply. The Greenbriar, shown here, is 21st century crash-course in all things Draper.