Interior Space: A Site for Social Criticism

Author: John C. Turpin (Washington State University)

  • Interior Space: A Site for Social Criticism


    Interior Space: A Site for Social Criticism



This paper challenges the notion that early interior decorators relied solely on aesthetic criteria to guide their decisions during the design process by suggesting that the selection of certain design motifs and ornamentation were, in fact, vehicles for criticizing particular characteristics of late 19th and early 20th century American society. Two early interior decorators are used as case studies. The first is America’s first self-proclaimed interior decorator, Elsie de Wolfe, who consciously embraced 18th century France as a means of expressing her desire to be an independent, powerful, modern woman of the twentieth century. The second, Dorothy Draper, an interior decorator who pioneered the area of commercial design, sought to bring a level of equality to the growing separation of class. She attempted to elevate people’s experience through her designs by introducing palatially-scaled, aristocratic ornamentation to her public projects.

How to Cite:

Turpin, J. C., (2003) “Interior Space: A Site for Social Criticism”, Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education 21(1), 107-118. doi:

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Published on
01 Sep 2003
Peer Reviewed