Monday, April 24, 2017

The Decorators Club, circa 1931

The Decorators Club is one of the design industry's most storied organizations. Established in 1914, the group, which is made up of female designers, architects, educators, and other members of the New York Metropolitan design community, has long worked to promote design education and industry standards and foster a sense of community among designers.  Even more impressive is the caliber of membership, which, over the years, has included Rose Cumming, Betty Sherrill, and Nancy McClelland.

Because a number of club members read my blog, I thought it would be interesting to show these 1931 photos of interiors done by then-members.  Appearing in the publication, Arts & Decoration, these photos, accompanied by an article titled "The Decoration Charm of Entrance members of the Decorators Club of New York", show spaces that capture the propriety of early Thirties-era traditional décor.  Antique furniture, pictures, and tapestries added notes of gentility, while trompe l'oeil wallpaper and murals introduced some dash into these small spaces. 

With the exception of Miss Gheen, a decorator whose work was published frequently in the 1920s and 30s, I'm not familiar with such featured names as Emma B. Hopkins or Violet E. Grosvenor.  No matter, because if they were members of The Decorators Club, they were likely leading lights of design.

Image at top: Hallway by Emma B. Hopkins. The blue and sea-green mural was by Lascari and modeled after a Frascatti painting.

An entrance hall by Evelyn Rosenfeld. The chairs were covered in red damask, while the rug featured unnamed "bright colors".

Ethel A. Reeve was the decorator of this small foyer. Trompe l'oeil wallpaper gave the effect of panels and pilasters. The floor was black marbleized tile, presumably made of linoleum.

This apartment hall, found in the home of Mrs. William Loucks, was decorated by Violet E. Grosvenor. Here, again, the architecture was trompe l'oeil, although the magazine doesn't mention whether the walls were papered or painted.

If you collect magazines from the 1920s and 30s, you're likely familiar with Miss Gheen, Inc., a decorating firm whose work, including this New York hall, was featured frequently.

Asian notes in the form of lacquer screen, rosewood Chinese chair, and antique Chinese root tile mounted as a lamp set the tone in this dramatic-looking hall, which was the work of Coleman-Meerkerk, Inc.

All images from Arts & Decoration, March 1931.


  1. The last image shows the roots of Tony Duquette and hints of Billy Haines. I love it. Thanks!! Mary

  2. Jennifer,
    Great post! Stanley Barrows got us students invited to a Decorators Club luncheon, when I attended FIT back in the day - and it was fun to see the ladies from the grand manner days of Park Avenue.
    He wanted me to go and interview with Sarah Tomerlin Lee, one of the grande dames- known for the then avant garde style of mixing modern art with French antiques and décor.
    The ladies of the Decorators' Club were elegant, warm, and very nice! I recall one in particular, who was shocked that the croissants were served cold and not warmed up.
    Stanley, in his own way, would try to give us an idea of where these ladies were coming from, by telling us how they all had maids, chauffeurs (drivers) secretaries, and even butlers! In other words, they were New York Society Ladies! We were just poor students who I am sure were clueless- LOL - and many of us were. FIT was not the grand finishing school that Parsons was when Stanley taught there, prior to coming on board at FIT as chairman of the interior design department.
    Thanks for this post as it reminded me of my days at FIT and all the fun places we went to and the interesting people we were exposed to.

    I was also fortunate to see the "drawing room" at McMillen, when Mrs. Sherrill was still popping in- complete with William Odom chairs! So beautiful, old guard, and serene, with that heavy Old World influence.

  3. Gorgeous and heart stopping! Thank you so much for these beautiful glimpses into the elegant past.


  4. Jennifer
    It was Sarah Hunter Kelly!
    See NYT obit 1982
    I apologize for the error!

  5. It all has a rather "undecorated" look - as though it had just happened. It doesn't try to hard to impress or look planned. The Violet Grosvenor room is especially nice.

  6. Edward11:26 AM

    This is decorating of the highest order unlike some of the hideous room today that show no sense of training or history.