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First of Her Name

If you’ve found your way to this website and are currently reading these words, there’s a good chance it wasn’t by accident. You’re either looking for some stunning interior design service or searching for direction on where to even begin your interior design journey. There are many shows on HGTV and those streaming across platforms and a plethora of information in print. Has the thought ever crossed your mind of where the profession of interior design came from or when it began? And most importantly, who is its founding father or mother? The answer… Elsie de Wolfe, first of her name.


Elsie de Wolfe, born in New York, 1865, is considered the mother of interior design. Though there’s evidence that suggests interior design has been around for a long time, she is believed to be the inventor of the profession as a whole. De Wolfe’s journey began soon after her father passed away. A a result de Wolfe was forced to make a living for herself but didn’t know where to begin. Overwhelmed, she turned to her best friend and lover, Elisabeth (Bessy) Marbury. Elisabeth introduced de Wolfe into acting. Through acting, de Wolfe began set design and amateur costume design for the productions she was a part of.


Impressed with her outfit pairings, women outside of the theater began to copy her style in their everyday attire. With the momentum and unexpected success of de Wolfe’s set design and costume design, Marbury convinced her to get into interior design. After all, de Wolfe did design the interior of their home and visitors would always comment on how beautifully decorated their home was. Her reputation as a set designer and top-notch interior designer earned de Wolfe the commission for designing the interior of the Colony Club, New York’s first women’s social club.


In addition to being an actress and interior designer, de Wolfe was an author. In 1913, she wrote what’s considered one of the most important pieces of literature regarding interior design titled The House in Good Taste. Being the book is over 100 years old and there may be portions that are outdated but her innovation in the interior design field cannot be denied. Readers inside and outside of the profession praise the book. The reviews praise the book as possessing and providing relevant design nuggets that work in today’s design world.

Three Main Principles

De Wolfe has three main principles when designing: simplicity, airiness, and visual unity. Let’s break the principles down. Simplicity: be clear of about the vision for your home or a particular room you want to design. Sometimes simple and plain is the best route in interior design. Airiness: Whether literally or figuratively, your interior design should flow. You should be able to sit into any room and “breathe”. Visual unity: Tying the other two principles together; your vision should be clear, simple, and have flow. These are basic principles found in interior design today and doesn’t look like we’ll be getting rid of them any time soon.

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