Dorothy Draper Dishes on Decorating as Fun

How’s this for an idea? Let’s learn from a ‘fearless’ self-made designer who published a book 70 years ago that feels decidedly modern today.
Dorothy Draper started her business with no formal training, decorating for friends who then recommended her to others.  She overcame enormous odds after losing a lot of her inherited wealth after the stock market crash in 1929, divorcing her husband at the same time.  Headed for an emotional breakdown, she took up the principles in Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking”, regained her confidence and never looked back.
Focused on design, she rose to the top of her profession doing mainly commercial work, eventually distilling her ideas about home design in her 1939 landmark best seller, “Decorating is Fun” dishing out guidance for the residential homeowner.

Way back 70 years ago, she set out to make the ‘amateur’ decorator more confident. To help her ‘be her own decorator’. And her work still feels fresh and useful.

She assures you that you don’t need any “technical knowledge or mumbo jumbo” to decorate, only ….

  • delight in color
  • An awareness of balance
  • feeling for lighting
  • A sense of style
  • zest for life 
  • An amused enjoyment of the smart accessories of the moment

Delight, awareness, feeling, sense, zest, enjoyment—most of you already possess these qualities. The only other thing you need to get the job done is … confidence. More on that in a moment.

First, a couple of recent books that offer up a lot of ideas that Dorothy might have enjoyed.

There’s a certain irony here. One book is “Decorate” and the other is “Undecorate“. Even though their titles suggest they are the exact opposite of each other, when you look inside, they provide the same thing – ideas to help you be your own decorator.

“Decorate” gives you 1000 ideas to play with and “Undecorate” tells you don’t need to follow ‘traditional’ rules.

So, what’s the common denominator in all three of these books – Decorating Is Fun, Decorate, and Undecorate? It’s all about confidence.

By reading them you gain confidence in your ability to make your home comfortable and beautiful by focusing on your lifestyle, your personality, your specific tastes and interests, and most importantly, by letting your imagination and instincts about what pleases you take center stage.

You’ll gain confidence in time by trusting your own internal navigation system : Your eyes and your imagination.  And, you’ll gain even more confidence if you ask yourself some basic questions anytime you’re making decisions about home decor:

Do I like the lines of this piece of furniture?
Would this function well in the room it will be in?
Is this seating comfortable and good-looking?
Am I buying this accessory just because it’s trendy right now or is it really that perfect accessory I’ve been looking for?
Do I love it?

You are the expert on what you like and want in your life.  Create the home that makes you happy.  As Elsie de Wolfe told us 100 years ago in “The House in Good Taste” , “you will express yourself in your home whether you want to or not”. So let your home speak the truth…about who you are and what you love.        

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