7 Iconic Interior Designers Everyone Should Know — Because before learning about the great names in the contemporary design industry, we must first learn more about those who have influenced the best ones.

More likely you would choose a Marcel Wander decorating project out and, certainly, could tell us if Kelly Hoppen, Miles Redd, or even Philippe Starck would be your dream designer. But do you know the people who inspired your favorite interior designers? Designers presents the most influential interior design masters of the 20th century. The following list contains the names every design lover should know and learn more about. TAKE A LOOK!


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1. Billy Baldwin

Billy Baldwin was named to the International Best-Dressed List in 1974, and his interiors were as immaculate and crisp as his perfectly tailored suits and polished ensembles. And while many important decorators of his time insisted on throwing out everything the client owned and starting a project from scratch, Baldwin worked with pieces his clients already owned. He even took their wardrobes into account, claiming he had “a natural interest” in women’s clothes “to the extent that they were going to be worn in the rooms that I was working on.”

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Billy Baldwin’s 1972 book, Billy Baldwin Decorates, is still considered a must-read for practical decorating advice.

2. David Hicks

Born in Essex, England, in 1929, and a graduate of the Central College of Art, David Nightingale Hicks was drawing cereal boxes for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson when a magazine article about the makeover he did on his mother’s house in London launched his decorating career. Hicks rallied against the overly precious and stuffy decorating treatment typically given to old English homes, instead becoming a master of mixing colors, patterns, and time periods of furniture and decor to pull off cohesive looks with elements others would have found to be clashing or conflicting.

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His fresh style broke the English mold and made Hicks a darling of the design world in the 1960s. His impressive list of projects included rooms for the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

3. Dorothy Draper

Dorothy Draper opened what is arguably the first official interior design business, Architectural Clearing House, in 1925. She extended her elegant “modern Baroque” style to many public buildings, including the cafeteria at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fairmont and Mark Hopkins hotels in San Francisco, and, most famously, a total redesign of the Greenbrier in West Virginia. Some of her rooms have a restrained color palette of classic black and white, while others showcase a wild Technicolor mash-up of pinks with greens, turquoise, and orange.

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Boldly colorful, elegant, cheerful, and full of life: These are the hallmarks of the “Draper touch.”

4. Sister Parish

Well-heeled, well-connected Sister Parish was born in 1910 to parents with homes in Manhattan, New Jersey, Maine, and Paris. She attended the Chapin School in Manhattan and married Henry Parish in 1930. Her style was a counterpoint to her antiques collector father’s heavy, dark, brown furniture and is credited with popularizing that American country aesthetic in the 1960s. Her unforgiving assessment of a client’s space before she started any design project involved rolling a tea cart around the room, editing out any items that didn’t meet with her approval.

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Parish’s design relationship with Albert Hadley lasted 30-plus years and is widely considered one of the most successful partnerships in the world of interiors.

5. Albert Hadley

Tennessee-born Albert Hadley became known for his modern style, which deftly incorporated a mix of design styles thanks to his seemingly innate sense of balance and what worked together. Hadley joined forces with Sister Parish in 1962: Parish-Hadley Associates styled the homes of America’s elite for decades but is probably best known for redecorating the Kennedy White House, as well as the Kennedy family’s own homes.

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“Never less, never more,” was Albert Hadley’s overarching design philosophy.

6. Jean-Michel Frank

Jean-Michel Frank was the most celebrated decorator and designer of the era. Known as a minimalist, it’s Frank’s layer of maximalism that makes his work so interesting and complex. His projects were often to decorate rooms with Picassos and Braques hanging on the walls, and his circles included everyone from Parisian artists to socialites, Man Ray to the Rockefellers.

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Despite his keen eye for design and quality, Frank found the elements of daily life key to any space and believed “perfect taste” to be a recipe for a soulless room.

7. Elsie de Wolfe

Born in New York City in 1865, Elsie de Wolfe boasted a lifestyle as glamorous as her decor. Known as “America’s first decorator,” her history reads not just as one wild romance and adventure novel, but several different ones. De Wolfe successfully restyled the house on Irving Place that she shared with Marbury, eschewing the stuffy Victorian decorating approach of her day by decluttering, simplifying, and warming up its gloomy and too-busy interiors.

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Elsie de Wolfe blazed a trail as she became the most popular decorator of her time, handing out business cards emblazoned with her signature wolf and nosegay motif.

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