High style @ MCNY

Sunday, August 13th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Eats, Music, NYC History

Visited the Museum of the City of New York this morning for “The high Style of Dorothy Draper” exhibit. Once a household name, Draper’s influence as a decorator continues to reverberate as fashion moves away from stark minimalist spaces towards her signature explosions of exhuberant color, oversized accessories, vivid cabbage roses, bright stripes and baroque flourishes. A true style icon and pioneer in interior design, she dominated the field from the mid-1920’s until her retirement in 1960, when she was named America’s most influential tastemaker. The exhibition at MCNY is the first-ever major restrospective of her life and career.

Born Dorothy Tuckerman in 1889 to a prominent and wealthy family – her great-grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence – Draper was raised in the affluent enclave of Tuxedo Park, one of the first gated communities in the United States. (The tuxedo was invented there by Pierre Lorillard in 1886.) Draper was a six-foot tall debutante with an outsize personality to match. After marrying George (Dan) Draper, a doctor from a similarly prominent family, she started up a fledgling decorating business in the 1920’s – essentially creating a new market for packaged style in the heretofore male-dominated construction industry. Her marriage eventually foundered, though, and after three children, her husband asked for a divorce. (Ironically, he married another decorator five years later.) Once freed from the bonds of marriage, the 40-year old Draper’s ambition took off: she renamed her company, and through her society connections (particularly, real estate magnate Douglas Elliman) and distinctive style, was able to score several highly visible commissions: the Carlyle Hotel lobby, a row of Sutton Place tenements (which resulted in the quadrupling of their offer price), and the project which put her on the map: The Hampshire House (now a coop) on Central Park South. She designed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s cafeteria, the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, the Arrowhead Springs Hotel and Spa in Southern California and the Camellia House Supper Club restaurant at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

Far from limiting herself to commercial contracts, Draper lent her design sensibilities to projects as varied as the 1952 Packard, a fleet of airplane interiors and the International Hotel at Idlewild (now JFK) Airport. By the 1940’s, her name had developed such cachet that she expanded her empire to make interior design more accessible to the post-War generation of American housewives through the publication of (ghostwritten) books like “Decorating is Fun!“, “Entertaining Is Fun!” and “How to Be a Popular Hostess.” She lent her name to a line of household products, wallpaper, textiles and furniture. She had a nationally-syndicated advice column entitled “Ask Dorothy Draper” — also ghostwritten — that ran in 70 newspapers, 3 times a week.

The company Draper founded is still in existence — over forty years after her death — and her “modern baroque” sensibility has enjoyed a recent renaissance of sorts. Towering achievement for an Edwardian era woman with no formal design or business education.

Draper Foyer

Draper Panels

Afterwards, I stopped for brunch at Itzocan Bistro, a wonderful (and well-reviewed) French-Mex restaurant at 101st and Lexington. The limited brunch menu — a terrific deal at $8.50, including coffee — offered a few intriguing options. I had difficulty deciding between the “Omelet with huitlacoche mushrooms, jalapeno & brie” and the “Baked Eggs with chorizo, poblano peppers & mushrooms.” When in doubt, ask the server; a man who appeared to be the owner (Anselmo?) advised me that while both were good, he personally preferred the baked eggs, though they did entail a bit of a wait. No worries there: I was in no rush to be anywhere else. Overhearing our exchange, a diner at the next table enthusastically seconded the recommendation. He would be in the position to know: I saw remnants of the dish on his plate.

No salsa and chips here: I was tided over with slivers of warm, crusty French bread and butter. Twenty minutes later…
Baked Eggs

The “baked” eggs were in fact just barely set atop a bed of roasted potatoes with buttery mushrooms and wonderfully spicy chunks of chorizo. C’est si bon! (Or is that: Qué bueno!)

Brooklyn’s Outernational at Summerstage in Central Park:



Sheep’s Meadow on a lazy Sunday:

Sheeps Meadow

There's 1 comment so far ... High style @ MCNY

August 16, 2006

I was wondering about editing the times of my posts as well.
But I know you just put this up. 🙂

Go for it ...