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Interior Design Inspiration from Pioneering Women

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It’s Women’s History Month, so why not make your own story by finally starting that room makeover you’ve been putting off? Don’t worry, we’ve got some inspiring designs from three pioneering, interior decorating powerhouses – Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper, and Sister Parish – to help you get started. Elsie was an actress turned decorator who brought a bright and feminine touch to her designs, while Dorothy broke away from the traditional period styles by using bold and splashy colours. And then there’s Sister Parish, the White House decorator with a nickname that sparked confusion. Check out their signature styles below and get ready to channel your inner decorating prowess!


Elsie de Wolfe, an actress born in 1859, became interested in interior design after staging plays. In 1903, she left the theatre to pursue a career in decorating. Her theatre connections enabled her to become a prominent figure in the emerging field of interior decorating. Elsie preferred a brighter, more feminine scheme of decorating compared to the dark and heavy Victorian style. She reintroduced white or light-coloured furniture and made mirrors a centerpiece to illuminate and expand living spaces. Elsie would surely approve of the transformation featured below.
Dorothy Draper, born in 1889, was the first person to professionalize the interior design industry by establishing the first interior design company in the United States, Dorothy Draper & Company, in 1923. At the time, it was daring for a woman to start her own business. Dorothy revolutionized the concept of design by breaking away from the traditional “period room” style and using vibrant and never-before-seen colour combinations. Do you think she would appreciate the use of colourful artwork in the room below?


Sister Parish, born in 1910, was the first interior decorator to be brought into the Kennedy White House. Her influence is still visible in the Yellow Oval room on the second floor of the White House, the official residence of the President. There was some confusion about her name, with one newspaper proclaiming “Kennedys Pick Nun to Decorate White House.” “Sister” was actually a nickname given to her by her younger brother when she was three years old. The Parish signature look included painted floors, Anglo-Franco furniture, chintz, needlepoint pillows, and more. We wonder if she would approve of the transformation below.


Don’t be afraid to take risks and try something new in your home décor! The best designs often come from unexpected combinations and personal touches. If you need help getting started or want to take your home design to the next level, contact Saree Parry Design. Our team of experts is here to help you bring your vision to life.



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