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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Interior Design  
 
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Even when they are not themselves architects, interior designers frequently work closely with members of the allied building trades, often participating in construction or renovation projects.

Interior designers also often adhere to the tenets of particular historical styles. Hence, they are necessarily influenced by artistic and aesthetic movements, such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and the Arts and Crafts movement, which have also had enormous influence on other forms of design. Many of these movements were themselves shaped by the participation of gay and bisexual men and women.

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British artist Duncan Grant (1885-1978), though now best known for his nudes, contributed greatly to interior decoration. In 1913, with art critic and fellow Bloomsbury figure Roger Fry, Grant founded the Omega Workshops, which changed the course of applied art and design in Britain. Although Grant was commissioned to decorate the ocean liner, the Queen Mary, his designs were rejected as too avant garde.

In addition to art, fashion and theatrical design are also allied professions, with interior design both influencing fashion and theater design and being influenced by them, and with interior decorators often also participating in the fashion and theatrical arts.

Some Designers

Interestingly, in a field that would become known as the domain of gay men, the first person to use the term "interior decorator" to describe her work was a lesbian, Elsie de Wolfe (1858-1950). De Wolfe was a New York socialite and actress who had a long romantic relationship with controversial theatrical impresaria Bessy Marbury.

DeWolfe began her design career by advising friends and acquaintances on matters of home décor. Her first large commission, designing the interior of the elite women's Colony Club in 1905, led to a long successful career as a decorator whose airy, natural style is respected even today. DeWolfe's decorating principles reached the masses through her newspaper columns, which were collected into an influential book, The House in Good Taste (1913).

Another gay pioneer of interior design was British decorator John Beresford Fowler (1906-1977). Fowler began his career in the 1930s as a painter of wallpaper before opening his own design firm to instruct the wealthy in making their homes both beautiful and welcoming. Like de Wolfe's designs, Fowler's country estate elegance still survives as a modern decorative style.

The career of William Haines (1900-1973) provides a clear example of the way that interior design could be a refuge for the gay artist. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Haines had a successful film career playing cocky but appealing leading men, becoming a major star of the silent era. However, as Hollywood became more conservative, and Haines refused to conceal his homosexuality and his long-term relationship with Jimmie Shields, acting jobs dried up.

Undaunted, the actor who once said, "I would rather have taste than either love or money," shifted to a successful career in interior design, decorating the homes of a number of the stars who had been his Hollywood friends as well as renovating famous nightclubs and restaurants, and even creating his own furniture. He pioneered the style that has become known as "Hollywood Regency."

The open gayness that had killed Haines' movie career was no obstacle to success in the design business. Even after its founder's death, William Haines Designs continues to be a mainstay of the "Hollywood glamour" style.

Celebrity Designers

As the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw queerness become a more accepted part of popular culture, gay interior designers became much more than a whispered joke or comic stereotype.

In 2003, for example, the Bravo cable network introduced a program called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in which gay fashion designers, chefs, and interior decorators performed make-overs on the persons and homes of straight volunteers.

The show parlayed the notion that gays have special design skills into an instant popular success. It ran until 2007, winning an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program in 2004, and spawning a number of spinoffs from Queer Eye for the Straight Girl to an Australian version.

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