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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Elsie de Wolfe

Or 'Lady Mendl', how she was known after her marriage to Sir Charles Mendl ( a diplomat ).

She is often credited with inventing the profession of interior decoration, though some say this is an exaggeration.

In 1926 the New York Times described de Wolfe as " one of the most widely known woman in the New York social life", and in 1935 as " prominent in Paris society".

Elsie de Wolfe’s marriage to diplomat Sir Charles Mendl was on page one of the NEW YORK TIMES ( March 9th 1926 ) and it read, “Elsie de Wolfe to Wed Sir Charles Mendl; Their Wedding Is Set For Tomorrow in Paris”.

1935 – Considered to be the best dressed woman in the world !

Elsie de Wolfe did not become an Interior Decorator until she was 40 years old.

Her youth was spent as a stage actress, which was considered not too very lady like, when you had grown up in the Victorian Era.

She worked out daily and made it a mission of it to always look fabulous, in the very latest fashion. Always beautifully dressed, she was considered to be the best dressed woman in the world in 1935.
Her clients were Anne Vanderbilt, Anne Morgan,
the Duke of Windsor ( who gives up his throne as the king of England for an American woman )
and Duchess of Windsor ( THE AMERICAN WOMAN ),
and Adelaide and Henry Clay Frick ( of the Frick museum ).

In 1941 Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl) and her husband Sir Charles Mendl were forced to leave their house "The Villa Trianon" at Versailles when the Nazi's occupied Paris.

Wanting to be with the royalty of America, which were the movie stars, Elsie and Sir Charles purchased a home in Beverly Hills and named it "After All".

When Elsie de Wolfe - Lady Mendl was 80 years old and in Beverly Hills,
She met an artist named Tony Duquette, she and her husband liked him very much and introduced him to absolutely 'anyone' that was Anyone' . She had him carry out her wishes on the design of 'After All'.
Go here to see pictures of ‘After All’; ( and his consequent success's )
The famous Elsie parties were always magical. A master of self promotion, and trendsetter, Elsie always made sure that Vogue magazine was kept abreast of her legendary parties; who was invited; what was served. As a result, women everywhere followed the Elsie style of entertaining.

New York was the most exciting city in the world, the cradle of Modern Times, where milk was still delivered daily in horse-drawn wagons to every doorstep while at the same hour socialites and showgirls were being delivered to their doors in shiny new limousines called motor cars or automobiles or machines with names like Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Cadillac and Lincoln. There was no television for the masses. Radio and the movies were the rage as popular entertainment.But the high life and the nightlife in New York meant theatre, nightclubs and parties, parties, parties. The rich had no embarrassment about being rich, despite the ubiquitous presence of soup kitchens and men selling apples on street corners.

Elsie de Wolfe was not only America's 1st Interior Decorator , but she went on to write the 1st book written in the United States on the subject.
De Wolfe, Elsie, (1865-1950) writes several books , the first being; The house in good taste(1914) I have posted a few pages from her book, and at the bottom of this page are the links to the photographed book pages. ( This site has photographed every page of Elsie de Wolfe's book for you to explore. )
She was immortalized in popular songs of the day. In Irving Berlin’s Harlem On My Mind the singer professes to prefer the "low-down" Harlem ambiance to her "high-falutin' flat that Lady Mendl designed."
One of the color schemes she popularized was the inspiration for the Cole Porter
song "That Black and White Baby of Mine" (whose lyrics include the lines "All she thinks black and white/She even drinks black and white")
......Also "ANYTHING GOES".
(And I so desperately need a Time Machine , I want to be there)

Her Famous Sayings:

"Never complain, never explain."
"I am going to make everything

around me beautiful,

That will be my life."

Go to this site to read the online book:
This one is great :
Another suggested site :
There is a great deal on Elsie de Wolfe, like the homes she lived in , etc , etc.

No doubt about it, Elsie certainly had a fascinating life.
The sites that I have provided are loaded with pics and info.,

( click on any picture to enlarge )
Renee Finberg 'TELLS ALL' in her blog of her Adventures in Design

1 comment:

  1. I read parts of her book last month that were online and I thought she lived in Villa Trianon with a woman friend? There wasn't any mention of her husband? that I recall - am I wrong? just wondering becuase I thought maybe they were lovers. ???



Thanks for participating!!

About Renée Finberg

I have been in this business since the age of 22.

I love what I do and cannot imagine my life without Design.

Design Challenges are great.

And because of those challenges

I have imported fine antique pieces from Paris,

Designed and Manufactured Furniture,

Created Fantastic Window Treatments,

And solved all kinds of spatial & architectural issues

With my unique style.

If I can't find it, I create it.

My rooms would make excellent movie sets.

I am a visual, tactile and audio sensitive individual.

Creating is what I live for, not math, not spelling, not science.

Just Great Design.

Just imagine how it would be if each of us,

If only for a few hours of everyday,We could be in a space that is our very own.A place that is exactly the way we want it to be

Surrounded by all the things we wanted to see,

The atmosphere we wanted feel, smell and the sound we wanted to listen to.

Private Paradise



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