Home Design Pioneers
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1867-1959
No list of famous home designers would be complete without Frank Lloyd Wright, a prolific architect, furniture designer, teacher and writer. Wright was a leader in the Prairie School architectural style, which features horizontal lines, bands of windows, detailed craftsmanship and synergy with the surrounding landscape. Wright's Prairie style lives on in the Craftsman-style homes that are so popular today.
Elsie de Wolfe, 1865-1950
Considered by many to be the first American woman employed as an interior designer, Elsie de Wolfe was a mediocre stage actress whose interest in set decoration (and hatred of the heavy Victorian drapery and dark furniture she grew up with) inspired her career. De Wolfe, who created rooms filled with light and air, is famous for bringing soft, comfortable furniture, pale wall colors, sheer drapery, and a light, bright, comfortable look to American homes.
Philip Johnson, 1906-2005
One of the founding fathers of modern architecture, Philip Johnson is known for his innovative use of glass and steel in high-rise construction. Johnson designed or consulted on scores of architecturally important buildings across the U.S., and he founded the School of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art when he was only 24, but he may be most famous for a house he designed for himself in New Canaan, Connecticut. With walls of glass and brick, Johnson's Glass House blends seamlessly with the surrounding woods and pond -- a true marriage of nature and design.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1886-1969
A leader in the German Bauhaus movement of modernist design, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's most productive years were the three decades when he lived and worked in Chicago. He's known for designing sleek and straightforward steel and glass structures, which were widely copied, as well as functional, timeless and well-crafted furniture like his famous Barcelona chair.
Sister Parish, 1910-1994
Often credited with developing the American "country" style of home design -- a homey mix of patterns, painted furniture, rag rugs and quilts -- Sister Parish's work can still be seen in rooms of the White House that she decorated during the Kennedy administration. Her designs are comfortable, cozy and very inviting. Sister (a nickname she earned by being the only girl in her family) followed in the footsteps of her older cousin, Dorothy Draper.
Dorothy Draper, 1889-1969
Back in 1939 Dorothy Draper wrote a book called, "Decorating is Fun! Be Your Own Decorator," which inspired thousands of homeowners -- and may have been the catalyst for the do-it-yourself decorating craze that continues today. Born wealthy, Draper became a professional decorator when friends admired what she had done in her own homes. Mixed florals and stripes, and bold black and white punctuated with bright color were her signatures.
Michael Graves 1934-Present
You may know of Michael Graves' work through his popular line of stylish home accessories that are sold at Target stores, but Graves is also an award-winning architect who teaches architecture at Princeton University. Known for signature design elements that feature small, regularly spaced windows, Graves' firm has designed buildings across the U.S, including the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Gustav Stickley, 1858-1942
Widely credited as an innovator in the Arts and Crafts design movement, Gustav Stickley is best known for his Mission furniture that featured unfussy designs made from natural materials such as wood, metal and fabric. A common component of Stickley furniture is exposed joinery that emphasizes the quality of construction. A century later, Stickley's Mission-style furniture, and the Craftsman home designs he advocated, are as popular as ever.
Marcel Breuer, 1902-1981
If you've ever sat in a high-rise office lobby, in a chair made from curved tubular steel and leather, chances are it's a variation of Marcel Breuer's famous Wassily chair, which he designed in 1925. Breuer was also an architect, who favored concrete construction. The Whitney Museum in New York city is one of his best known and most admired designs.
Verner Panton, 1926-1998
An artist who became an architect and furniture designer, Verner Panton is best known for creative and fanciful building, and furniture that made use of ordinary materials such as plastic and cardboard. Ever the experimenter, Panton's one-piece chairs, including the famous Panton S chair, were constructed from a single piece of curvy, flowing plastic. It's likely that the one-piece molded plastic lawn chairs we see everywhere owe their start, at least in part, to Panton's innovative thinking.
Sharon O'Brien is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon.