I have chosen to review the article on interior design and identity by Penny Sparke, as it evoked reflections on the connection of the personality of the designers and their work. The article presents an analysis of Elsie Wolfe’s interiors in the context of the historical period and the stage in the development of interior design as a profession. The author discusses the manifestation of Wolfe’s personality in her interiors, comparing the decorating of houses she made for herself and others. The article arouses thoughts on the connection of the designer’s works with their vision of self.
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The end of the 19th century was the beginning of the development of interior design as a typically feminine occupation. The career of a house decorator attracted Elsie Wolfe, who was an actress previously, as it allowed her to embody her vision of beauty. Growing up in a dull grey house, she expressed herself through lightness and air, choosing a soft pastel color scheme. The peculiar features of Wolfe’s designs are the presence of an indoor garden, mirrors creating the illusion of space, functionality, and exaggerated femininity.
The insight into the origin of the profession aroused my deep interest. At that period, the houses generally reflected the identities of their mistresses. As it happened to Wolfe, the first professional designers were often in a conflict of tastes with their customers. The reason for this was that, according to Sparke (2004), their works “became a material manifestation of their identities” (p. 72). Thus, the clients who had the taste were often unsatisfied with the extent to which the designers’ identities and not theirs were represented in their interiors. This reading raises the question of the client’s taste and the designer’s identity in conflict. Since the moment I read the article, I have been contemplating to what extent the designers’ character should be manifested in their works.
The connection between identity and interior design is discussed in the article on the example of Elsie Wolfe’s work. Her interiors expressed her understanding of beauty, which was extremely feminine. The designs created by Wolfe bear so much of her personality that they often raise a question of identity in design. Although some customers do not pay much attention to the interior as long as it is fashionable and stylish, many of them want to see the representations of their personality, not the designer’s one.
Sparke, P. (2004). The domestic interior and the construction of self. In S. McKellar & P. Sparke (Eds.), Interior design and identity (pp. 72-91). Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.