I hate to start with a cheesy quote but it’s fitting (pun intended). It was said by Frank Sinatra and I’m going to use his words, words from an artist, to describe another artist, Dorothy Draper.
During the summer of 2008, I saw the exhibit “In the Pink: Dorothy Draper, America’s Most Fabulous Decorator” at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art. I was in college at the time, dual enrolled at The University of Miami and The Art Institute (I’ve always been an over achiever) and working at Mishka’s tailor shop. Mishka talked on and on about Draper and her work; I had no idea who she was. So one Saturday, I spent the afternoon, solo, taking in all of Draper. Her style was an amalgamation of florid, gaudy, simple, and elegant. It wasn’t too frothy and it wasn’t too gothic. It was right in between with a pop of “wow.” She created “Modern Baroque” and used prints of elephantine proportions on walls, floors, and furniture (rose-chintz was her signature print). She wrote the book “Decorating is Fun!” which… blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada… Her accomplishments and noteworthy aesthetic are important, yes, but you can figure that out by looking at the pictures below and reading a biography on her life on Wikipedia. What floored me about Draper and her work, and what Sinatra described so well, was her attention to detail. No other project of hers best shows this than her redecoration of The Greenbrier Hotel.
During the Second World War, the hotel was an internment camp for diplomats from enemy countries and military hospital. When The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company, the owners of the property before the war, bought back the property, they hired Draper to redecorate it to its original state plus more. Using “romance and rhedondras” as her design inspiration, Draper separated the building’s vast lobby, which was wide to accommodate women’s hoop skirts of former times, into smaller rooms. Each room – the Celebrity Corridor, the Cameo Ballroom, the Trellis Lobby, the Green Lobby, and the Main Lobby – was designed from floor to ceiling. Couches, ceilings, carpets, window treatments, chairs, even matchbook covers, menus, and staff uniforms were redesigned. Even the guests rooms were as decked out as much as the rest of the hotel. To show how detailed Draper was, it is rumored that she threw a hissy-fit the day of the resort’s grand opening because a gardener was watering the lawn with a black hose when she specified that the hose be red. Newspapers describes this moment as, “Dorothy at her flaming best” (my kind of gal).
Her dedication to perfect the parts that made up the whole is what got me hooked on Draper. What makes an excellent outfit is not only the skirt and the blouse, it’s the earrings, the nails, and the hair. What makes an excellently sewn garment is not only the design, it’s the buttons, the work that went into perfecting the pattern, and the finish of the seam allowances. What makes a killer blog is not only the posts, it’s the blog design, the commenting on readers’ comments by the blogger, and the unique special features. Very few have the love and dedication for their art, whether is be sewing, baseball, or cars, and Draper was one of those few. Bravo Ms. Draper. Bravo.