Edith’s Second Flowering

When I started my blog back in January, it only took me a few minutes to come up with the name. Fearless Edith.

Edith Wharton had been one of my literary heroines for many years and when I read her revolutionary book, “The Decoration of Houses”, my admiration climbed to new heights. Here was a woman who took it upon herself to co-author a book for the American public explaining how best to make a welcoming home – based primarily on her own observation and reading. What courage!

I had just started to think about a new career in home design and you can imagine my delight when I realized that the indomitable Edith could be my mentor.

The first part of the 20th century saw the birth of “interior” design as a field that was separate from  ”exterior” design (architecture). Until then, architects often designed both the interior and exterior of a house. “The Decoration of Houses” was instrumental in changing this and creating a new field of “interior” design which evolved for 100 years based on exclusive ‘trade’ relationships between designers, manufacturers, and retailers.

Now, 100 years later, “interior” design is undergoing a renaissance.  The ‘trade’ relationships are blurred. The internet has opened up interior design information and ideas to all of us, so you can become inspired and educated simultaneously. Because of this, you can be both designer and consumer without the need to go through a middleman.

You can go to the fabric and furniture suppliers’ websites and order what you want by talking directly to the seller and you can find countless portfolios of design inspiration on the internet. The middle really begins to fall out the design equation.  I don’t mean to suggest that full-service interior designers will become obsolete.  I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. But the opportunity for people with some creativity and a little know-how has been cracked wide-open.

In this information-rich environment,  ”The Decoration of Houses”, is still very important.  This book has become very relevant again for a whole new class of design freshmen – those of us who want to be the creative force behind their own home decorating and who seek a ‘foundation’ for design ideas.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to introduce you to some of the many terrific pieces of design advice passed down by Edith. In this, her 150th birthday year, Edith’s star is in ascendancy again. Even Vogue magazine has taken notice!

Just take a look at the September 2012 edition to see how they are captivated by this truly original American woman.  She’s the subject of an Annie Leibovitz photojournalism article with story by Colm Toibin, proof that Edith still captures our imaginations and teaches us by example. Check out Annie’s amazing photos (and Edith’s amazing style)…

Edith in her bedroom at the Mount instructing her secretary
Edith and friends (Teddy Roosevelt in inset)
On the terrace at the Mount with an assortment of friends
In her library with Morton Fullerton and Henry James
Edith was able to buy a car with the proceeds of her writing. 
Henry James enjoyed many summer sojourns with Edith riding through the Berkshires.
If you’ve read “The Decoration of Houses” and you’re interested in more, below are three new books about Edith’s life and letters.
This fascinating American woman continues to inspire a whole new generation of readers and designers alike. 
You can find this one at Amazon by clicking here.
And, you can find this book at Amazon by clicking here.
This last book contains the letters between Edith and her governess, later her secretary.  Find it here.
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