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Dorothy Draper: Camellia House

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

by Stephen Visakay

There are few designers of swizzle sticks as famous as Dorothy Draper (1889-1969). She was as famous as Martha Stewart in her day. On the cover of Life and Time magazines, with her own column in Good Housekeeping; she was an influential and innovative American interior decorator of the early to mid 20th century.

In May 2006 she was the subject of a retrospective exhibition by the Museum of the City of New York, the first time that such an honor was given to an interior designer.

Dorothy lived in style and glamour, with no need to ever work a day in her life. She redecorated her homes with such verve that she was soon asked by her high society friends to do the same for their homes, and started her own business in the 1920s. And soon after was sought by architects and decorators; Douglas Ellman hired her to re-do the lobby New York’s Hotel Carlyle in 1930.

As her fame spread the owner of the Drake Hotel in Chicago invited her to design a restaurant.

Dorothy Draper Camellia House
Camellia House from Drake Hotel (Pink) and Edelweis (White) from Bismark Hotel Swiss Chalet Room

It became the Camellia House Supper Club, with a pink camellia bush motif throughout the space, and Draper installed garden furniture in the lounge, creating an outside-inside sense of space. She oversaw every aspect of the restaurant, designing everything from the carpets and light fixtures to furniture, china and mirrors, right down to matchbook covers and the swizzle sticks in the form of a camellia flower with stem. She did the same thing a few years later with the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia receiving the highest fee ever paid a decorator.

If you have in your collection a vintage swizzle from The Camellia House or the Greenbrier Resort it was designed by Dorothy.

Some of her other commissions that could include swizzle stick designs.

  • The Fairmont Hotel (San Francisco), the Beverly Hills Hotel (California)

  • The Plaza Hotel (New York City), Barclay Hotel (Philadelphia)

  • Mayflower Hotel (Washington D.C.) And many more!

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