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Professionalization of Interior Design American Timeline Highlights 1870-1980

Jacob von Falke’s “Die Kunst im Hause” 1871

Professional decorators asserted by the Garrett's 1876

Industrial influence 1870

Art Workers' Guild 1884

Interior Decoration as a field 1860-1900





Dorothy Draper & Co. opens. 1923




Elsie DeWolf’s “The House of Good Taste” 1913

Progressive Reform increases professionalization 1890

Columbian World's Exposition 1893

See References

DIY 1945

NSID 1957

First steps toward professionalization 1900-1930

Founding of Society of Decorative Art 1877

Morrill Act 1862

ASID 1975

Candace Wheeler's decoration as a profession for women 1895

Interior Decoration as a Profession for Women 1895

First legal protection of design expertise 1982

McClelland’s Smith College lecture 1940

Dorothy Liebes 1934

Centennial Exhibition 1876

Glasgow School of Art Competition 1896

Interior design professionalization1930-1960


1940 AIID 1931

AID formed 1936

Nancy McClelland, Inc. 1922

McClelland's "Historic Wallpapers" 1924




Nancy Vincent McClelland president of AIID (AID) 1941

Draper’s Decorating Is Fun! How to Be Your Own Decorator 1939

1980 NCIDQ 1972

IDEC originates 1962

American Institute of Interior Decorators changes its name from Decorators 1961

Beth McGee 11/11

Morrill Act 1862 The Morrill Act funded state colleges though federal land grants and thus supported higher education. The emphasis was on more applied studies versus classical studies including agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other practical professions (Lightcap, n.d.). This led the way for women’s higher education and toward the professionalization of interior design.

Industrial influence 1870 The “‘maturation of manufacturing industries and processes of industrialization including the division of labor and the rise of the USA as a leading manufacturing nation’ all influence the need for professionalization in various fields” (Lees-Maffei, 2008, p. 2). ion+Project

Video: Industrial Revolution

Jacob von Falke’s Die Kunst im Hause 1871 &printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r& cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

This book includes a theory about the relationship of material forms to social conditions. At the 1873 Vienna World Exhibition he promoted crafts as models of pure form and color. This work was part of a wider interest in Eastern European folk crafts that influenced Hapsburg nationalist politics. His work also influenced the next generation's interest in folk art. They viewed craft as the antidote to the crisis of modernity" (Anderson, 2009, p. 12) and go on to influence American style and craft.

Professional decorators asserted by the Garrett’s 1876 Agnes and Rhoda Garrett’s “Suggestions for House Decoration in Painting, Woodwork and Furniture” adopted a mantle of expertise and authority for giving advice that will be a pattern for future writers about decorating (R. Garrett & Garrett, 1877). html?id=os4DAAAAYAAJ

Centennial Exhibition 1876

An American art renaissance begins with the Exhibition and among those influenced is Candace Wheeler. She subsequently launches a new career that “that would supply the demands of a nation awakened to artistic impulses and that would open a new profession for women—a profession that was art and industry in one, a profession that combined American textile design with American interior decoration” (Stern, 1994, p. 274). This first official World’s Fair in the U.S. included many forms of arts and crafts that inspired artists including Candace Wheeler. She saw among the vendors and the building ornamentation that embroidery and needlework could become an expression of feminine skill and a monetary value. This led her toward becoming a successful professional textile artist and interior style maker (“Open Collections Program: Women Working, Candace Wheeler (1827–1923),” n.d.).

Founding of Society of Decorative Art 1877 top-design-arts-and-crafts-movement.html

Candace Wheeler founded the Society in New York in 1877. It was an organization devoted to women artists and artisans in American and provided training in the applied arts. It was also helpful in starting related societies in Chicago, St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit, Troy, New York and Charleston, South Carolina (“Open Collections Program: Women Working, Candace Wheeler (1827–1923),” n.d.). Part of the education goals were for the artist “‘to master the details of one variety of decoration, and endeavor to make for [their] work a reputation of commercial value.’ The Society of Decorative Art would be a threefold association in which education, art and industry joined hands” (Stern, 1994, p. 279).

Art Workers’ Guild 1884

Founded for the collaboration of various artistic professions, this was a reaction against the Royal Academy and the British Architects and their push for professionalization. The Guild wanted to emphasize artistic quality and challenged class distinction between the more upper classes that were viewed as designers versus the lower classes that were viewed as tradesmen. They emphasized learning through doing, but were not open to women at that time (“Art Workers Guild,” n.d.). The different artistic professions interacted together at the Guild and sought reform for the arts and promoted designers. This was alongside other design reformers like A.W. Pugin, John Ruskin, and William Morris who had significant influence on the artistic movements of the time also seen in America.

Progressive Reform increases professionalization 1890 ge=639&calcTitle=1&forthcoming=1&tit le_id=6163&edition_id=9186

The First Reform Era was an effort to cure the ills of society due to industrial growth. It worked for the humanizing of working conditions. The movement was infatuated with science and had a focused faith in experts so it pushed for professionalizing the social sciences among others. It also aided the push for standards, licensing, and monitored performance among professionals. All are necessary for true professionalization.

Columbian World’s Exposition 1893 Candace Wheeler shows her established professional position in the decorative arts. Sophia Hayden is the architect of the Women’s Building with Candace Wheeler as the interior decorator. This would bring to the “sixty-six-year old Candace Wheeler the most significant public recognition that had yet been allotted her for the work she had done in creating a new art form and in metamorphosing a union of arts into an industry and a profession for women” (Stern, 1994, p. 296)

Interior Decoration as a Profession for Women 1895

Candace Wheeler’s two-part article in The Outlook called for professionalism. “In the development of the Art Nouveau and its spread abroad, as in the modern applications of the credo that form follows function, she had played a small but effective part. She herself had said, “I opened up a new field, . . . Understanding of applied art spread, . . .°and today American women lead the world as designers.” She had indeed opened up a new field, a field that made an industry for women out of woman’s taste and woman’s art” (Stern, 1994, p. 303).

Candace Wheeler’s decoration as a profession for women 1895 html

Wheeler’s “Interior Decoration as a Profession for Women” appeared in The Outlook in 1895 and emphasized the relation women had with the domestic interior environment and thus the suitability of it as a profession. She noted that women were more knowledgeable of textiles and the decorative objects of the 19th-century interior. She called for a reevaluation of women in society where they were still highly restricted from business. Afterwards, women in business as decorators were devalued as merely paid shoppers. The fact that anyone could be called a decorator showed the need for a code of ethics and professional regulation

Glasgow School of Art Competition 1896 sep/09/glasgow-school-art-library-360-interactivepanoramic?intcmp=239

Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed this school from the interior spaces outward. The interior layout dictated the elevations, thus influencing the outer building appearance. With Margaret MacDonald, Mackintosh’s wife, they created a portfolio of work that was turn-key and showed their reaction to the industrial revolution. Their work influenced the development of modernist ideas in America as well as the importance of the interior’s relationship to the building.

First steps of professionalization 1900-1930 By this time the interior decorator was a viable occupation, but decoration was mainly practiced by men as architects, artists, salesmen, or furniture and antique dealers. “But a booming economy and an expansion of the service sector drew increasing numbers of middle-class women into the workforce, especially in sales and commerce� (May, 2008, p. 63).

Elsie DeWolf’s “The House of Good Taste” 1913 Wolfe

Elsie De Wolf’s book, written by Ruby Ross Wood, opens with her view that “I know of nothing more significant that the awakening of men and women throughout our country to the desire to improve their houses.” The influence of decoration was most prominently seen in advertisements and articles, as well as practitioners like De Wolf. Elsie De Wolf’s independence and success would be modeled in the 1920’s by many women, who joined men as decorators (Hampton, 1992; May, 2008).

Nancy McClelland, Inc. 1922 After being a professional reporter and providing decorating advice at Wanamaker’s Department Store, a premiere antique buyer, she opened her own business and specialized in period decorating and antiques.

Dorothy Draper & Co. opens. 1923

Draper breaks away from the norm of period room design and invents “Modern Baroque”. Her success led to large-scale, public commissions and to a redefined gender hierarchy in her own business dealings. It was the male tycoon who yielded to her authority. She is often seen as the first to professionalize interior design (“Dorothy Draper & Co. - History,” n.d.) and was certainly a noted influence on mnay future designers

McClelland’s “Historic Wallpapers” 1924 item.php?anr=118728&PHPSESSID=20 f86a9011a5b4a52efc8b832c35baa2&PH PSESSID=20f86a9011a5b4a52efc8b832 c35baa2

This book was the first in a line of many books published, as well as articles for magazines, from McClelland. She becomes a noted author on interior decoration and began her strong influence on the field.


AIID 1931 American Institute of Interior Decorators was founded in 1931, which furthered the professionalization of interior design through its development of organization, ethic codes, and monitoring members.

Dorothy Liebes 1934

Dorothy Liebes Design, Inc. was opened in 1934 in San Francisco. Her success led to her opening a second studio in New York, where she later relocated to full-time in 1948. She was an award winning textile designer and an active corporate consultant in weaving, fashion and home decoration. She worked with DuPont and other textiles producers to manufacturer synthetic fibers as well as consulted on the equipment. Her expertise and success made her a prominent and influential tastemaker for interior design. Her input helped forge the dominate aesthetic and helped shape American taste while also being a role model for corporate female entrepreneurs. (Lees-Maffei, 2008).


AID formed 1936 AIID was renamed AID (American Institute of Decorators) and would later be renamed American Society of Interior Designers.

Draper’s Decorating Is Fun! How to Be Your Own Decorator 1939 Dorothy Draper's book reinforced the inherent ability for all to decorate and exemplified the vision of how ladylike behavior was viewed through home decor and within professional work. http://5wsofdesign.blogspot. com/2011_04_01_archive.html

McClelland’s Smith College lecture 1940

While at the lecture, McClelland mentioned licensing to another AID officer “who had responded ‘How [could one] issue a license on a mere question of taste, for of course no question of ‘safety’ could enter in’. McClelland had then ‘pointed to a chandelier in the ceiling’ and said, ‘apart from this “safety” [what about] spending money wisely and being secured against mistakes’” (May, 2008, p. 67). In her lecture she also raised the issue of a lack of training for the applicants applying to her firm. She was “critical of those who relied solely on taste without training” (May, 2008, p. 64). This was supported in her 1929 An Outline of Careers for Women: A Practical Guide to Achievement where she wrote regarding a preferred two or three years of schooling as well as travel. Her vision and influence were strong within AID. Her view of professionalism as needed for issues such as safety was accompanied by the importance of training over taste. She became a force for change in the way interior design developed.

Nancy Vincent McClelland president of AIID (AID) 1941

A founding member of AIID, McClelland became the first female president in 1941 and helped to define the profession of interior design as her hope was to raise interior decoration to a professional status. This was partially through standards for training including a college degree. Under her presidency students were allowed to join in 1942 if enrolled in at least a two-year course in interior decorating (May, 2008).

DIY 1945

http://peregrineodyssey. com/2010/03/06/welcome-to-thecape-where-upper-is-lower/

The DIY trend develops after WWII and many DIY stores are opened. Newly empowered after their war time jobs, many women became involved in fixing things. As the men returned from the war, women found their new found abilities could be channeled in the DIY act of shopping for materials, designing interior schemes, and executing the DIY. These acts were seen as consumption and were marketed at women as being the primary designers and decision makers for consumption goods (Lees-Maffei, 2008).

NSID 1957

The National Society of Interior Design was launched in 1957 and will become a co-founder of the NCIDQ with the AID (prior to the NSID/AID merger) supporting intercommunication among the field.

American Institute of Interior Decorators changes its name from Decorators 1961

Changing from Interior Decorators to Interior Designers attempted to disassociate the profession from the term decorator, which had unfortunately become a liability to professional development despite its original importance. O’Conner writes that “Early pioneers worked tirelessly to demonstrate how their perceived domestic duties translated to highly desired services for the public. Their expansion of opportunities in the public realm helped define the profession of interior design and created avenues for female self-expression, identity construction, and personal independence. Women such as Wheeler, McClelland, and Draper turned previously devalued female skills into culture-defining institutions” (2010, p. 951). An overview of this time shows interior designers “needed to shift its emphasis from taste to skill…” (Lees-Maffei, 2008).

IDEC originates 1962

Approximately 60 educators and AID professional members appointed a committee to plan the development of IDEC for organizing the different curricula for interior design academics. The first conference was held in 1963. In 1965 the members proposed a 4-year interior design curriculum (“Interior Design Educators Council | IDEC,� n.d.). This further added to the professionalization needed in the industry by a strengthened, organized educational standards protocol.

NCIDQ 1972

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification was founded by AID and NSID. It was established to assess qualifications for designers and design programs, thereby putting in place a cornerstone for the profession. This resulted in the IDEC furthering standards for education, the NCIDQ furthering the importance of experience with education, and the resulting examination which lead toward state legal recognition. See-

ASID 1975 AID and NSID merge to form the American Society of Interior Designers. This united the influence of both groups in representing the interior design industry. See-

First legal protection of design expertise 1982 w=944&bih=608&tbm=isch&tbnid=mn_ zreUniy8G2M:&imgrefurl= html&docid=vUxZ5ZyS11muYM&imgurl=ht tp://

Alabama state legislation is the first to protect interior design expertise, with multiple other states following. This further legitimized the profession and achieved what many see as the true bar for professionalization.

References Anderson, E. (2009). Beyond historicism: Jakob von Falke and the reform of the Viennese interior. Columbia University. Retrieved from Art Workers Guild. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Dorothy Draper & Co. - History. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Garrett, R., & Garrett, A. (1877). Suggestions for house decoration in painting, woodwork, and furniture. Macmillan. Hampton, M. (1992). Legendary decorators of the twentieth century (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday. Interior Design Educators Council | IDEC. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Milestones.php Lees-Maffei, G. (2008). Introduction: Professionalization as a Focus in Interior Design History. Journal of Design History, 21, 1-18. doi:10.1093/jdh/epn007 Lightcap, B. (n.d.). The Morrill Act of 1862. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from May, B. (2008). Nancy Vincent McClelland (1877-1959): Professionalizing Interior Decoration in the Early Twentieth Century. Journal of Design History, 21, 59-74. doi:10.1093/jdh/epm039 Open Collections Program: Women Working, Candace Wheeler (1827–1923). (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2011, from http:// O’Connor, K. (2010). Gender and women’s leadership : a reference handbook. Thousand Oaks Calif.: SAGE Reference. Stern, M. (1994). We the women career firsts of nineteenth-century America. Lincoln :: University of Nebraska Press,.

Interior Design Timeline  

Historical Highlights

Interior Design Timeline  

Historical Highlights