Video Profile: ‘Elsie De Wolfe’ – America’s First Professional Interior Designer (1859 – 1950)

The year 2020 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted millions of women in the U.S. the right to vote.

The Frick is celebrating with a series of videos honoring the stories of women who made, appeared in, collected, and took care of art in this collection. In the second-to-last episode, meet Elsie de Wolfe, America’s first professional interior designer, who decorated the Frick’s Fifth Avenue home. #WhatsHerStory

Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl, (December 20, c. 1859 – July 12, 1950) was an American actress and interior decorator.

Born in New York City, de Wolfe was acutely sensitive to environment from her earliest years, and became one of the first women interior designers, replacing heavy Victorian styles with light, intimate effects and uncluttered room layouts. Her marriage to English diplomat Sir Charles Mendl was seen as one of convenience, though she was proud to be called Lady Mendl, and her lifelong companion was Elisabeth Marbury, with whom she lived in New York and Paris. De Wolfe was a prominent social figure, who entertained in the most distinguished circles.

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