Any history lover knows that the best way to move forward is often to study the past. That’s especially true in design, where styles pioneered by creatives of old continue to inform the basis of new designs today. Here, we’ve gathered 25 interior designers whose names—and work—you should know, either because they were pivotal in ushering in a new style and their influence continues to be celebrated today, or because it was overlooked. As they say, good design never truly goes out of style; indeed, while perusing this list, you may just notice the origins of some of your favorite looks. Read on to complete your Designer History 101 course.
Elsie de Wolfe
“Interior design as a profession was invented by Elsie de Wolfe,” The New Yorker once proclaimed. Indeed, in the early 1900s, Wolfe was the first creative to receive a commission for decorating a home, making her, technically, the first professional interior designer—though that term wasn’t yet in use. Wolfe made a name for herself eschewing heavy, dark, Victorian interiors in favor of lighter, brighter schemes. In 1905, she was tapped to design the Colony Club, a social club for society women and a project that exposed her to many of New York’s well-heeled patrons. Her wealthy clients would go on to include members of the Morgan, Frick, and Vanderbilt families as well as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.