Author Archives: Marcia


Who is Dorothy Draper? Why is she important and why do you need to know about her? No, she is not Don Draper’s Grandmother! She was the first person to professionalize the business of interior design, establishing the first company of its kind, Dorothy Draper &Co., in 1923. Using unusual color combinations and mixing prints and stripes, she established what became known as the “Draper Touch”. Working with oversized scale, her designs were dramatic and ahead of their time. She designed entire hotels and hospitals as well as the residences of the rich and powerful. This was before the likes of Philippe Starck, who is now known for “designing through” public spaces, such as the Paramount Hotel in NYC, from the beds down to the cocktail napkins.  She predated them all, and she had a lot to say. She was radical and powerful and inspired many women who read her columns in Good Housekeeping Magazine. Finally, housewives could dream of color and design as a way to enliven their homes. In my “channeling blogs”, I endeavor to impart information from the great design icons of the past and also add my own point of view. Here is my imaginary conversation with Dorothy Draper.

 DD: It is just as disastrous to have the wrong accessories in a room, as it is to wear sports shoes with an evening dress.

MBID: Dorothy, you are so right! People just don’t appreciate how styling can MAKE a space and it takes a great eye and a great sense of editing. It is not just about putting family pictures on a mantle.

DD: Until very recently people were scared out of their wits by color. Perhaps this is a hangover from our Puritan ancestors.

MBID: The Pilgrims! All the fabrics were browns, blacks, whites and ivory. Life is rich and Mother Earth reflects it. I am all for being very adventurous with color and scale. And if you end up hating it, it’s only paint! Just change it!

DD: Never look back, except an occasional glance. Look ahead and plan for the future.

MBID: Spoken like a true business pioneer Dorothy. People are paralyzed with potential regrets. I have never had a client who regretted doing work on their home. The thing they say the most is why didn’t I do this sooner!

DD: I’ll always put in one controversial item. It makes people talk.

MBID: Talk is what we want to happen when people enter a room. An environment must inspire conversation, not necessarily about the room itself, but there needs to be a wonderful comfort level that will loosen the lips!

DD: Repetition is a form of emphasis.

MBID: Particularly when displaying collections. They are so much more powerful when grouped together, and not spread all over the home. Repetition is a very powerful design concept. Just like in music!

DD: In the bedroom, comfort should be supreme.

MBID: Absolutely! It is where we start the day and end the day and sometimes spend the entire day! I want to enter my bedroom and melt into a world that is totally mine and mine alone. The bedroom needs to be a sanctuary.

DD: Don’t buy a bedroom suite, but collect your pieces separately. It is generally cheaper and always the decorator’s way of furnishing.

MBID: The bedroom collection takes the magic out of the space. Yes, it is “easier” to shop this way. But other than end tables at the sofa or two club chairs, matching is highly over rated. This is where the eye of a designer can gather pieces and have them all work as if they were simply meant to be.

DD: Even in a formal dining room, you don’t want to be ponderous or gloomy. Eating is an indoor sport. We play three times a day and it’s well worthwhile to make the game as pleasant as possible.

MBID: Yes, the dining room must beckon. It is nice to feel that the table is used and that many spirited conversations have passed over it’s top. That is a sensation that permeates the room. You can just sense that the homeowners use the table day in and day out. And that is what it is meant for: Hearty, delicious food and good, lively conversation!

DD: You aim at people’s hearts, not their minds.

MBID: Correct. If designing was a mind game, it would be a science. It is a game of heart and soul. It is meant to make the heart quicken and warm the soul. Good design is exacting but also forgiving. It must be a passion for the designer, like music is for the musician. There is nothing else they want to do. There is nothing to be done about the relentless drive for beauty.



As a designer, I look at my job on the macro level and micro level. The macro level is the gut renovation with new space planning, partitions (those are walls) and surface finishes. This can be for an entire residence or simply a new bath. The idea is that I am changing the entire environment: the walls, the floor, the ceiling. The micro level is the final styling of the space. This is the yummy stuff when I ultimately determine, with my client, how the space will look and feel upon entering the room, and a lot of this depends on what is living on the surfaces in that space. Between the macro and micro is the mid level of furnishing. The image above is the office of a psychotherapist who has collected lots of art and objects throughout her years as a world traveler. I spent the better part of a day editing down her pieces and then placing them in the bookshelf in such a way as to create a beautiful overall effect, and also bring specific attention to each shelf.

I feel like a hawk that is circling the earth from a great distance above, and can almost see the curvature of the horizon. But my sharp eyesight is always focused on a blade of grass. For the hawk, behind that blade of grass is a tasty morsel of a mouse. For the designer, the blade of grass is a beloved and meaningful object that resides on a bedside table. One thing that I have realized through the years is that I adore styling spaces. If you look through my website, every single room has my styling fingerprints all over it. Every single surface and bookshelf was lovingly thought through. It is a most creative process and it requires a special eye to make it just right. How many family images to display? How to lay books on a bookshelf: by size or subject? I love going into this final phase of a project where I can really make the space sing. The process can be very revealing and emotional for my clients who are looking, no, really examining and considering objects from the past, as we determine where these pieces will live in the space. And of course, I purchase new items for clients as well: anything from major art for the walls to a small Persian bowl for the bedside.




NINA TAPERED LAMPS at Visual Comfort & Co.

OTTOMANS: In general, they keep the layout of a room mobile. They can be brought out for seating or tucked under a table, when not needed.

IN A SMALL ROOM: Go for a large area rug or wall to wall: the “eye needs to travel” out to the wall for a larger sense of space.

USE WALL PAPER AS AN ACCENT: It won’t break the bank and it gives the space style.

DO YOU HAVE SMALL ARTWORK: Group them tightly on the wall.

FLOAT YOUR FURNITURE LAYOUT: Don’t just put everything on the walls…so boring.

S7 LAMP FOR THE DESK at Structures

CLAMP TABLE LAMP at Pablo Designs


LAMP FINIALS at Hillary Thomas

Browse these websites or better yet, go out and look and shop! Visit MY website, look through my portfolio section. Carefully look at every surface and bookshelf. You will find inspiration there for your own home.

The Devil – The Details

Do you live in a small space?  It seems that in NYC our homes are never big enough for the amount of things we want to bring in, especially when a family is growing. That’s the thing about kids: they have stuff and they don’t like to throw anything out. And as adults, let’s face it: we like to hold onto our treasures as well. As an interior designer, I try to help my clients gently come to the realization that you can’t keep it all. That is what our memories are for.  A good rule of thumb is when you bring something new into the space try to gently release something of equivalent size. Continue reading


I have designed many spaces for my clients. Through the years, I have come to realize, over and over, that I must listen to my client’s desires.  If the space is truly going to be an environment that supports and reflects them, listening is vital. Sounds simple, right? Sounds obvious. Yet it is not that easy, because designer and client are two fully formed people with all manner of ideas and tastes and beliefs and notions of what good design is. Continue reading