Hey ladies and gents! It’s Women’s History Month. There are some amazing women who broke the mold of a male dominated industry.
Firstly, yes. Men used to be the only interior designers.
Secondly, this was as recently as the 1900’s.
Thirdly, let that sink in.
In the before time, inventory and premade weren’t a thing. Everything was custom made or you made it yourself. No furniture stores or home improvement centers. For instance, men who built furniture (carpenters) or houses (architects) were the interior designers. Kind of makes you wonder if they were behind carpeted kitchens and bathrooms.
Interior design is still pretty dominated by men. Thankfully, there are some role model worthy women who paved the way for me and the bulk of HGTV. Throughout the month of March I will be paying homage to these women who very recently created a career path I now follow.
Interested in the difference between interior design and interior decorating? Check it out here.
Mother of Interior Design
Candace Wheeler was the Martha Stewart of her time for wealthy women. She wasn’t just the first interior designer; Candace changed the industry.
She invented new technologies for textile production and designed wallpaper.
She wrote multiple books and directed the Bureau of Applied Arts. Candace designed the Women’s Building at the 1892 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. After that, she founded the Women’s Exchange.
The exchange existed until the 1980’s. It featured goods, crafts and food by women. More importantly, it’s purpose was women being able to sustain themselves. How amazing is that? Women supporting women to be self sufficient! Check out the women owned businesses you can support through Gray Décor Co.
Candace was the vice-president and one of the founders of the New York Society of Decorative Art. Louis Comfort Tiffany, a painter and son of the famous blue box Tiffany’s, taught at the society. They started Tiffany & Wheeler, an interior decorating firm that had a prominent list of clients. One of them included Mark Twain’s house!
One of her biographies inspired women involved in the Votes for Women feminist movement. Candace saw women gain this right 3 years before her death.
Candace did all this after turning 49. Moreover, she did it in an era when women didn’t enter the workforce.
Interior designers don’t just make spaces pretty, they impact the world they design. Stay tuned for more Designer History and good luck with making your own impact! Check out Designer History Part 2 or Part 3 for more women changing the world.