Inventing Twentieth Century Interior Design

I visited the Rose Cumming showroom in Manhattan many years ago and met her sister Eileen. Rose was one of the pioneering icons of modern interior design, a leader in dragging American interiors out of the gloomy darkness of the Victoria era into the glittering world of the 20s and 30s.

My visit to the showroom came back to me vividly as I paged through this fascinating book, Rose Cumming: Design Inspiration, by Jeffrey Simpson.

The book is filled with sketches and photographs that bring Rose’s revolutionary style alive in all its innovative, dramatic glory. Her work broke all the rules, employing eclectic styles, mixing vivid colors and unconventional furnishings, and creating schemes that were very much ahead of her time. She was one of the glitterati of her day, and her shop on Park Avenue became an important stop for A-List celebrities, including Rudolf Nureyev, Marlene Dietrich and Jackie Onassis. She was an original in her personal style as well as her design aesthetic, with a rapier wit, purple hair and iconoclastic temperament.

This book reminds me why Rose Cumming was such an inspiration when I first started my career. I hope it will be the first of many on this extraordinary and highly influential figure in twentieth century interior design in America.

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