This series of 4 articles takes a brief but informative look at 21 of the most famous and Interior Designers, from the earliest pioneers right through to the most celebrated modern day designers.
The Pioneers of Interior Design
Jean-Henri Jansen (1854-1928)
Dutch designer, Jean-Henri Jansen, launched one of the first ever international interior design companies ‘Maison Jansen’ (House of Jansen) in 1880, which became renowned for designing and creating exceptionally beautiful and high quality furniture which would be utilized in a multitude of interior decoration projects. House of Jansen opened branches in 8 of the major cities of the world. Jansen worked closely with the talented interior designer Stephane Boudin whom he made director of the company. The clients of House of Jansen included Royalty and the rich and famous.
Elsie de Wolfe (1865-1950)
The first lady of interior decoration, Elsie de Wolfe considered herself an ‘ugly child’. This Victorian stage actress was a rebel of her times and was credited by many to be the inventor of the modern profession of interior design, even though there were already established interior designers in her time. Elsie disliked Victorian tastes altogether, her designs were therefore generally made up of light and bright colors, contrary to the drab and gloomy Victorian décor coupled with unnecessary excesses such as heavy velvet draperies. This was a pioneering departure from the contemporary designs of the time. Elsie’s influence continues to be felt in the modern world of interior design.
Ogden Codman (1863-1951)
American interior decorator and architect, Ogden Codman spent his childhood in his birthplace of Boston before heading to France in his youth for a period of time. Codman had two uncles who influenced him tremendously – architect John Hubbard and decorator Richard Ogden. Some of Ogden Codman’s works include Edith Wharton’s Newport home, Land’s End, the Rockefeller family estate of New York client John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the Newport summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Along with novelist Edith Wharton, Codman co-authored a guidepost of American interior design, ‘The Decoration of Houses’ in 1897.
Frances Elkins (1888-1953)
Born in Milwaukee, Frances Adler Elkins was one of the most prominent interior decorator and designer of the previous century. Sister of the famed Chicago architect David Adler, Elkins was known for her futuristic designs that brought together different styles and elements from various periods. They included country French styles, chinoiserie and art deco. The furnishings featured in her designs included designers such as Jean-Michel Frank and Alberto Giacometti. The career of Elkins that spanned over three decades is glittered with many high profile commissions in Hawaii, the Midwest and northern and southern California, none more interesting than the restoration of the 1830s structure, Casa Amesti in Monterrey, California.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
Frank Lloyd Wright was an interior designer and architect whose career included more than 1000 projects, 500 of them that have been complete. Wright was known for his promotion of organic architecture, an example of which is Fallingwater. The Robie House is an example of Wright’s leadership of the Prairie School architectural movement, while the Rosenbaum House depicts Wright’s Usonian home concept. Wright also had refreshing ideas for every kind of building, be it church, office, school, hotel or museum. Along with excellent architectural renderings, Wright also designed much of the interiors of his buildings including the Décor, layout and furniture.