5 Influential Women in Home Design

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Molded wooden chairs, Japanese-inspired illustrations and the oldest interior design firm in the United States - all legacies left behind by women who pioneered the home design industry. In celebration of those women and the work that was sometimes incorrectly credited to a spouse or partner, we’re sharing their stories.


Elsie de Wolfe

 Best known for: Interior design of The Colony Club

Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl, is considered to be the first interior designer by many. However, before diving into the home space she was an actress, once named the best dressed person in the world. As a designer, she transformed dark victorian interiors with mirrors, light painted wood, trellis work and animal print. She famously stated,"I opened the doors and windows of America, and let the air and sunshine in." 

Sitting room of the house of Countess Dorothy di FrassoThe Glam Pad



Marion Mahony Griffin 

Best known for: Artistically bringing Frank Lloyd Wright's designs to life.

Marion Mahony Griffin was the first registered female architect in Illinois. As Frank Lloyd Wright's first employee, she pioneered the Japanese-inspired architectural drawings often associated with his designs and is recognized for revolutionizing the way architecture was presented. While only three American homes designed solely by Marion still stand today, she also designed multiple communities and assisted her husband, Walter Burley Griffin, in the 1912 design of the Australian capital of Canberra.

Ward W. Willits house | Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation/Frank Lloyd Wright Trust



Ray Eames 

Best known for: Design of The Eames Chair

In partnership with her husband Charles, Ray Eames designed and developed a lounge chair using a revolutionary molded wood technique in 1956 that is still popular today. In addition to furniture design, Ray also dabbled in the fields of graphic and textile design, architecture and film, and often used her early exposure to abstract art as inspiration. In spite of Charles' famous quote stating, “Whatever I can do, Ray can do better." Ray's name was often omitted from credit on their designs. 

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman | Mohd Magazine



Julia Morgan

Best known for: Architectural design of Hearst Castle

Julia Morgan is renowned for being the first woman to receive an architecture license in California in 1904. It took her three tries before being the first woman admitted to the Beaux-Arts Architecture Program in France where she studied. Using her background in engineering, she pioneered the use of reinforced concrete which allowed her designs to withstand the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. 

Hearst Castle | ©SandeepThomas/flickr



Dorothy Draper

Best known for: Interior design of The Greenbrier

Dorothy Draper is considered to be the first to professionalize interior design, when she opened her own design company in 1925. 98 years later, Dorothy Draper & Company is America's oldest continually operating interior design firm. Her use of vibrant colors, cabbage rose fabric, bold stripes, and black and white checkered floors established what is now known as modern-baroque design. In addition to The Greenbrier, Dorothy also designed Camellia House at the Drake Hotel, and the restaurant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The Greenbrier | The Avenue by Lyndsey Zorich




the NEAT team



1st Dibs. (2016, January 11). Decorators to Know: Elsie de Wolfe.
Zulkey, C. (2017, June 8). Meet Marion Mahony Griffin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s best frenemy. Curbed.
Schuessler, J. (2020, May 15). Ray Eames, Out of Her Husband’s Shadow. New York Times.
Lange, A. (2019, March 6). Overlooked No More: Julia Morgan, Pioneering Female Architect. New York Times.
Cahn, M. (2018, March 19). See Why Dorothy Draper Is America's Most Fabulous Interior Decorator. Martha Stewart.
BY NEAT METHOD | TAGGEDarchitectureDorothy DraperElsie de Wolfeinterior designJulia MorganMarion Mahony GriffinRay EamesWomen in HistoryWomen's History Month