Dorothy Draper (1889 – 1969) Rediscovering a Legend

dorothy draper black and white portrait
Dorothy draper black and white portrait

Dorothy Draper (1889 – 1969) was an American interior designer. She was born in Tuxedo Park, New York. Draper’s upper-crust upbringing, Tuxedo Park, was one of the first gated communities in the United States. Dorothy’s parents were part of an old New England family with longstanding social connections. Dorothy’s childhood was spent playing in high-ceilinged ballrooms.


After World War I, she became known through renovating her house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

She owned a house in Tuxedo Park, New York, where she designed numerous dwellings.

In 1925, she established Architectural Clearing House, matching architects to appropriate commissions. In 1929, they designed the Carlyle Hotel public areas, 35 East 76th Street, New York, in a Roman Deco style. 

A pair of Dorothy Draper–designed barrel-back chairs are a perfect counterpoint to the ceiling. The Denver Magazine

Draper established a reputation for hotels and restaurants with her decor for the Greenbriar Resort, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Her oversized, loudly spoken decors appeared in commissions that followed, including apartment buildings, restaurants, hotels, and department stores. In 1935-36, the Hampshire House, Central Park South, New York City, whose cabbage-rose chintz became a trendy Schumacher fabric. The vibrant scarlet doors with white frames and black exterior walls became a fashionable design appurtenance.

Wallpaper as a Design Element

In Dorothy Draper’s design philosophy, wallpaper was not merely a background but a central design element. She believed that walls should be a canvas for artistic expression, and her wallpapers embodied this belief. Her designs often featured striking combinations of colours and patterns that transformed ordinary spaces into extraordinary ones.

She designed; 

  • 1935 interiors the Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco; 
  • 1940. The Camellia Room in Drake Hotel, Chicago; 
  • 1944 interiors, Quitandinha resort, Petrópolis (near Rio de Janeiro), Brazil; 
  • public and private rooms, Statler Hotel chain in the late 1930s and 1940s; 
  • 1954 the Roman-inspired restaurant of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 

Dorothy Draper Fabrics and Wallcoverings

The online shop for decorators to order exclusive and unique fabrics and wallpapers from Dorothy Draper Fabrics & Wallcoverings, an established design firm with installations that grace the rooms of some of the world’s most beautiful resorts and residences.

A celebrity

A well-known personality, she wrote books, appeared on her radio program, and produced a regular column for Good Housekeeping magazine during World War II and was director of the magazine’s Studio of Living.

Floral chintz a Draper favourite
Floral Chintz a Draper favourite

She pioneered the picture window, white organdy curtains, and chenille bedspreads in her interior design, incorporated dark, bold colours and used outsized fabric motifs, wide mouldings, and large black-and-white marble floor tiles. Much of the furniture and textiles in America of the 1940s and 1950s were designed or inspired by Dorothy Draper. Designs included 1947 Brazilance and Scatter Floral fabrics for Schumacher and 1940s Stylized Scroll for Waverly. In 1960, she sold her business. 

Not all rave reviews

Draper did not always play to rave reviews. A 1954 article in the Washington Post and Times-Herald reviewed her makeover of the old Roman court in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art into a new restaurant.

“The kindest thing that can be said is that it looks like a bad Joan Crawford movie,” wrote the critic.

Brazilliance By Dorothy Draper

Truly iconic in design, this wallpaper is a tropical, large scale ,Palm Beach-inspired print designed by Dorothy Draper. PRICED AND SOLD BY THE 10 YARD DOUBLE ROLL Roll dimensions:10 yards by 27 in. Pattern Repeat: 35.5″ Square Footage: One double roll covers 67 square feet All sales final


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Koncius, J. (2006, June 4). Rediscovering a Design Legend. The Orlando Sentinel.

Sheehan, S. (2004). The Greenbrier – Keeping the Spirit of Dorothy Draper Alive Is a Labour of Love. Architectural Digest, 61(5).

The Board – MacRae Designs Blog: Dorothy Draper.

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