Nancy Lancaster (9 September 1897 - 19 August 1994)
Twentieth-century tastemaker Nancy Lancaster was an interior and garden designer, and her lasting influence cannot be overstated. 'Nancy Lancaster, the American credited with crystalising, if not exactly inventing, the English country house look after buying in the Forties, and teaming up with John Fowler, introduced American luxury to the small stately homes she decorated for herself - heating, carpeted bathrooms - ensuring that comfort became another characteristic. She famously advocated having 'something a little bit ugly' in every room, and described decorating as 'a bit like mixing a salad', recognising that a degree of informality promotes relaxation - no one enjoys feeling that their presence is a blot on the immaculate landscape.'
- Ros Byam Shaw's essay on English country house style
Charlotte Perriand (24 October 1903 - 27 October 1999)
At the start of her career, French designer and architect Charlotte Perriand was famously rejected by Le Corbusier's studio with the disparaging remark "we don't embroider cushions here". He later offered her a job. During the Thirties, Perriand was influenced by left-wing politics, which led to a deliberate use of affordable materials. The French designer's contribution to furniture design emphasised values such as affordability and functionality, and has been characterised as populist.
Eileen Gray (9 August 1878 - 31 October 1976)
Furniture designer and architect Eileen Gray has been identified as a pioneer of modern architecture. Notably, she designed the Bibendum Chair - inspired by and named after the Michelin Man - which became one of the most distinguished furniture designs of the twentieth century. Gray was born in Ireland but lived primarily in London, Paris and later the south of France. She was reclusive for long periods of time, but, as a bisexual woman, mixed in lesbian circles and associated with people such as Romaine Brooks.
Vanessa Bell (30 May 1879 - 7 April 1961)
Who's Vanessa Bell? This question may still trouble a few, but in the wake of fictional portraits of her in two recent novels and in the television series Life in Squares, she is now more widely known as one of the Bloomsbury Group. While her younger sister was the novelist Virginia Woolf, Vanessa turned to art. She, too, found a husband from among her brother Thoby's Cambridge friends - Clive Bell. But after some three years and the birth of two sons, the couple moved out of a marital relationship into one of lasting friendship, affection and respect. Vanessa was noticeably reticent in public and somewhat enigmatic. But in the studio, she could be extremely daring, employing the boldness and simplicity of Matisse. One of the most radical painters of her day, she was also the first in this country to experiment with abstraction, both in her pictures and in her fabric designs.
As her art matured, Vanessa grew ever more assured in her orchestration of colours, using echoes or repetitions of tone or hue to strengthen the pictorial architecture of each scene. Much of her working life was spent in a creative partnership with the painter Duncan Grant, with whom she had a daughter. He and Virginia were the two people who drew Vanessa back into life after she had a breakdown following the death of her elder son in the Spanish Civil War. After some months, she once again took sustenance from the peace and beauty of Charleston, the Sussex house and garden that she had found in 1916 and where she died in 1961, aged 82.
- Frances Spalding, Exhibition: Vanessa Bell
Lucienne Day (5 January 1917 - 30 January 2010)
Lucienne Day's love of modern art was what inspired her to create a new style of fabric. She brought abstract patterns to post-war British texiles and in doing so created what we now know as 'contemporary' fabric prints. At the landmark Festival of Britain held in London in 1951 Day chose to exhibit her boldest, and what would become her most famous, abstract fabric design, Calyx. The design, featuring cup motifs connected by thin lines, was hand-printed on brown linen, conjuring the aesthetic of modern painters. Overcoming their scepicism, Heal's decided to carry the design - it sold incredibly well and launched not only Day's career but also the trend for contemporary fabrics.
Zaha Hadid (31 October 1950 - 31 March 2016)
Known for her ambitious designs that challenged the notion of geometry in architecture, instead opting for dramatic curves and bold facades.
Last year, world-renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid died at the age of 65. The first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Iraqi-British innovator was best known for avant-garde designs such as the London Olympic Aquatics Centre, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2000, and the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times wrote: "...her soaring structures left a mark on skylines and imaginations and in the process reshaped architecture for the modern age... Her buildings elevated uncertainty to an art, conveyed in the odd way of one entered and moved through these buildings and in the questions that her structures raised about how they were supported... Hadid embodied, in its profligacy and promise, the era of so-called starchitects who roamed the planet in pursuit of their own creative genius, offering miracles, occasionally delivering."
Constance Spry (5 December 1886 - 3 January 1960)
Constance Spry began her career in floristry teaching flower arranging to teenage factory workers, she gave up teaching to open her first shop 'Flower Decoration' in 1929. She gained public attention after creating a spectacular hedgerow display for the window of a perfumery on Old Bond Street. Spry then opened a larger store in Mayfair and continued to grow in popularity publishing her first book, Flower Decoration, and establishing the Constance Spry Flower School. After several royal and aristocratic commissions, Spry's biggest moment came when she was asked to arrange the flowers at Westminster Abbey and along the processional route for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.
Clarice Cliff (20 January 1899 - 23 October 1972)
At a time when most women who worked in factories were paid apprentice wage to take part in one particular aspect of pottery making, an ambitious Clarice Cliff refused to be satisfied. Cliff began her career as a gilder, adding gold lines to traditional designs, after mastering the skill she moved on to train in freehand painting, studying art and sculpture in the evenings. Her talent did not go unnoticed, and soon she was set up in a workshop, allowed to paint the imperfect ceramics with her own designs. Her first design was a pattern of simple triangles in bright colours which she called 'Bizarre', which would also later become the name of both her design range and shop. In 1930 Cliff was appointed creative director to Newport Pottery and A. J. Wilkinson, the two adjoining factories that produced her wares. After the war, taste for more traditional pottery reigned and Cliff began to step back from design, instead supervising production until her retirement.
Dorothy Draper (November 22, 1889 - March 11,
"There were so many fierce women decorators in the US during the 1930s, which was truly a golden age for interiors. Non-conformist in their aesthetic, they pushed boundaries, throwing out the rulebook and bringing beauty and authenticity to their work. Dorothy Draper was one of these great decorators who continues to inspire us to this day. Her punchy palette of blacks, pinks and brights, and her use of stripes was one of the influences when designing the print. I love how her work is having a major revival now with her iconic popping up in fashion campaigns. Her use of enlarged scales across floors and walls - in particular her incredible foliage-themed carpets - lend an almost pop-art quality to her work, even thirty years before this movement began."
- Frieda Gormley, the creative director of House of Hackney
Susie Cooper (29 October 1902 - 28 July 1995)
Having been an artist since childhood, Susie Cooper began her formal education at the Burslem School of Art. In 1922 she began working with ceramics with the company A.E. Gray & Co. Ltd. to gain entry to the Royal College of Art. Soon she was producing hand-painted floral designs for the company which became increasingly popular. In 1923 she established Susie Cooper Potteries and later worked for companies such as Wedgwood. In 1940 she was awarded Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts.
Ray Eames (1912-1988)
Along with her husband Charles Eames Ray Eames is responsible for groundbreaking contributions in the field of architecture, furniture design, industrial design, manufacturing and the photographic arts. After 1941 Ray moved with her husband to California to work on their range of molded wood furniture, the most famous example of this being the Eames chair. She also designed 26 covers for creative journal Arts & Architecture, then in the 1940s she branched out into textile design. Charles once said of his wife, 'Anything I can do, Ray can do better.'
Sibyl Colefax (1874 - 22 September 1950)
After losing most of her fortune in the Wall Street crash, the resourceful Lady Colefax began to decorate professionally, using her formidable address book for s and clients. She purchased the decorating division of an antiques dealer in Mayfair and established Sibyl Colefax Ltd in partnership with Peggy Ward, the Countess Munster. When Peggy decided to retire John Fowler was taken on as a partner and managed the business, which was moved to 39 Brook Street Mayfair where it remains today.
Barbara Halunicki (b. 1936)
Perhaps known best for her contributions to fashion, Halunicki's first store Biba became the centre of the 1960s youth scene. The Kensington institute was not only a shop, but also due to its extravant interiors and decadent Art Deco decor it became a hang out for rock stars, artists and film stars - challenging the role of interior decorating in commercial spaces. Halunicki now designs hotels in Jamaica and the Bahamas as well as homeware and wallpaper.
Madeleine Castaing (1894-1992)
International interior decorator, antiques dealer and sponsor of artists, Madeleine Castaing created a whimsical style of her own that remains iconic today. "When I came across the work of Madeleine Castaing through a second-hand book, I fell in love with her work. Her leopard print carpet, 'tapis', is the chicest floor covering and her use of colour is inspiring. The iconic 'Leves' room, which mixes a palette of neutrals with turquoise, dark chocolate, taupe and cream to sublime effect is one of my favourite rooms ever designed."
- Frieda Gormley, the creative director of House of Hackney
Sister Parish (July 15, 1910 - September 8, 1994)
Sister Parish found her decorating style when renovating the interiors of her own farmhouse, after the Great Depression she opened her business 'Mrs. Henry Parish II, Interior Design' in 1933. Parish is most famous for her work on Jacqueline Kennedy's redecoration of the White House where she redecorated both the private quarters and public rooms, spending the entire $50,000 budget in one week on the private quarters. Under Parish's influence a committee was set up to purchase antiques and maintain the historical authenticity of the White House interiors. Sister Parish if often credited with creating the American country style.
Gertrude Jekyll (29 November 1843-8 December 1932)
Jekyll was one half of one of the most influential and historical partnerships of the Arts and Crafts movement, thanks to her association with the English architect, Edwin Lutyens, for whose projects she created numerous landscapes. Her gardens often featured strokes of colour similar to those in her paintings, her most famous book Colour in the Flower Garden reflected on these designs and instructed on how they might be achieved.
May Morris (25 March 1862 - 17 October 1938)
The daughter of William Morris, May Morris was an influential embroideress and designer. She pioneered free-form embroidery in the style which would be termed art needlework. May was involved in the Royal School of Art Needlework, preserving the traditional craft of needlework through apprenticeships.