As many of you may know, Elsie de Wolfe invented the profession of interior design in the early twentieth century. I have read tidbits about Elsie through the years. I recently read an article about Elsie and what struck me is that Elsie termed herself as a “Rebel in an Ugly World.” I found the term a bit unusual and after reading more I was intrigued by the fact that Elsie’s mother called her ugly. Elsie didn’t really understand what ugly meant until she came home from school to find that her parents had redecorated the drawing room in a tan wallpaper with grey palm leaves and splotches of red and green in the background. Something cut like a knife inside her and cried out over and over, “It’s so ugly, It’s so ugly.” According to the Elsie de Wolfe Foundation, Elsie simply did not like Victorian – the high style of her sad childhood – and chose to banish it from her design vocabulary.
I am so intriqued with the fact that Elsie grew up being labled as ugly by her mother, yet she overcame the lable and went on to bring such beauty to the homes of Anne Vanderbilt, Anne Morgan, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Henry Clay Frick. Elsie said ” I opened the doors and windows of America, and let the air and sunshine in.” Instead of the heavy, masculine style of the day, Elsie used light fabrics, painted wall, tiled floors and wicker chairs. She introduced America to the cocktail party, chaise lounges, faux finishes, animal prints and delicate writing tables. I am thankful that Elsie chose to rebel from her ugly past and rise to prominence by making our world a little brighter.