The Impeccable Style of Dorothy Draper

As our Designers We Love column proves, we absolutely love learning what today’s leading professionals have to say about kitchen and bath design. But what about some of the leading designers of yesterday, what were their thoughts on kitchen and bath design? More often than not, the advice of the world’s most celebrated designers some 30 or even 60 years ago still holds true, even though styles change and technology advance.

Here, we revisit a few key ideas American designer Dorothy Draper shared in her 1965 book, 365 Shortcuts to Home Decorating. Known for her daring and layered use of pattern and color, Draper brought her signature style not only to her high-society clients but to hotels like the famous Greenbrier resort in West Virginia and the Fairmont in San Francisco. She also designed the cafeteria at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Coty salon in Manhattan. Her interiors were always dramatic, and always fun.

“Have you ever felt that your rooms looked almost perfect but seemed to lack something? Perhaps it was a gleam of copper or brass. It takes different textures to make an interesting room, and sometimes just the right placement of a copper or brass object can do the trick. Skillets of solid copper hanging from a solid brass rack or copper-bottomed stainless steel utensils can bring a gleam of light to the dullest kitchen.”

“There’s a certain time of year when every business is engaged in that check-over called ‘inventory.’ And it seems like a good idea for us to get into the act and do a little stock-taking of our own.  You’ve had those same curtains at the dining room windows for years. Why don’t you shop around for something that will give the room a fresh new look? And what about the kitchen? You spend so much time there but does it remind you of spicy hot ginger cookies and a glass of cold milk? No! It looks functional but not homey. You need some cheerful stripes, plaids, or prints at the windows, a bowl of juicy fruit, some gay prints on the wall, and new cushions on those cold plastic chair seats.”

“Wallpaper can do a lot for a small bathroom or kitchen. It helps furnish, without taking up space. Sometimes a painted ceiling can give a small room a little distinction.”

“Paper your kitchen ceiling in a cheerful small print and have café curtains on the bottom sash and a ruffle across the top in fabric of the same pattern as your wallpaper. Or paper your bathroom above the tile in one of the enchanting new papers and use the matching fabric as a window curtain and (with a plastic liner) as a shower curtain. Try something a little bit different and see how it not only perks up your house, but perks you up too!”

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