When it comes to celebrating women, the interiors industry is of note for its endless list of brilliant female designers past and present. Whether it’s 1920s icon Dorothy Draper or modern-day design mavens like Kelly Wearstler, the interiors sphere has undoubtedly been shaped by some of the forward-thinking females.
To honour International Women’s Day, we bring you our round-up of the most iconic designers and architects. From their ambition to their business intuition and, of course, their innate style, take inspiration from these remarkable leading ladies.
The design world came to a standstill at news of Zaha Hadid
’s premature passing in March 2016. The Iraqi-born British architect captivated minds with her fluid, spatial designs that stand tall across the globe. Notable projects include the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and the Heydar Aliyev Centre – two spaces which demonstrate her unrivalled eye for geometric lines. A woman of many firsts, Hadid she became the initial woman (and first Iraqi) to win the esteemed Pritzker Prize and the first to receive the RIBA Royal Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to architecture.
Why we love her? She redefined 21st-century architecture. Period.
One of the earliest female decorators and one of the first to professionalise interior design as a fully fledged career, Dorothy Draper (1889-1969) set the bar so high it’s now no mean feat to come anywhere close to her iconic status. Known for the audacious style and groundbreaking colour combinations that deviated from the typically dark palettes of her time (think coral red, aubergine, chartreuse, turquoise blue), the American visionary was commissioned to design high-profile public spaces, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs. She also put her skilled hand to product design – from automotive interiors to cosmetics.
Why we love her? She invented Modern Baroque – her very own style which put a modern spin of classical aesthetics.
Renowned for designing boutique hotels and interiors for fashion houses such as Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, Andrée Putman (1925-2013) has become an industry legend. The French interior designer, who valued elegant minimalism, light and space, established her global name by working on a diverse range of projects, from designing for Air France Concorde and the Guggenheim Museum to launching her eponymous studio, now led by her talented daughter Olivia. Putman also specialised in product design and has collaborated with esteemed brands, such as Christofle
, enabling us all to add a dose of her anti-excess aesthetic to our homes.
Why we love her? She founded Ecart International – a platform for early 20th century designers, such as Jean-Michel Frank and Eileen Gray
Syrie Maugham (1879-1955) was one of the forerunners of interior design during the 1920s and 1930s. The British designer started her interiors business on London’s Baker Street in 1922, then went on to open stores in Chicago and New York, gathering American socialites as her clientele and other revered creatives – such as Elsie de Wolfe – as fans of her furniture
. Ahead of her time, she became famous for decorating rooms in all white, as well as popularising mirrored screens and plump furniture. Maugham was surrounded by the artistic coterie of her time, including fashion photograph Cecil Beaton, who became a long-time friend and often captured Maugham and her work on his film.
Why we love her? She had sass and once told a client: “If you don’t have ten thousand dollars to spend, I don’t want to waste my time.”
Elsie de Wolfe (1859-1950) wasn’t credited with the title of “the mother of interior decoration’ for no reason. The interior designer and writer got her first break when asked to decorate The Colony Club – the first women’s clubhouse in America – and built up a distinguished book of clients, including industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick. Inspired by French 18th Century elegance, the designer veered away from dark, heavy Victorian aesthetics, opting for light, warm feminine spaces, often peppered with soft upholstery, animal print and antiques.
Why we love her? She’s the bestselling author of The House in Good Taste, which offers timeless design advice still today.
Representing female designers of today, Kelly Wearstler
brings modern-day style and class to our round-up. The American interior designer a.k.a. the queen of Maximalism
has not only become globally recognised for her distinctive interiors, but also pioneered her own lifestyle brand that includes everything from lighting and decor to wallpaper and jewellery. Brave shapes, unexpected textures and dreamy colour palettes are her hallmarks of her iconic projects – from the Viceroy Hotels in Santa Monica and Miami, to the Four Seasons, Anguilla, and the Bergdorf Goodman restaurant, New York.
Why we love her? Her interiors are absolutely fearless.
Flying the flag for Italy, Gae Aulenti (1927-2012) takes the final spot on our shortlist. Architecture, graphics, furniture, stage design, lighting
and interiors – the creative’s catalogue of work is a next-level example of women’s ability to multitask. Her most renowned project was converting a Paris train station into the beautiful Musée d’Orsay. Part of the Neo Art Nouveau group, which moved away from the architecture championed by the likes of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, Aulenti looked to philosophy, art, music and history for her design inspiration.
Why we love her? An inspiration to the next generation, Aulenti was one of the few women designing postwar Italy.