de Wolfe, Elsie

de Wolfe, Elsie (Lady Mendl)

(1865–1950) interior decorator; born in New York City. She adapted the fashion sense of her acting years (1890–1904) to a career as America's first professional woman decorator. The 1898 transformation of her own house from gloomy, cluttered Victorianism to light, airy neoclassicism led to freelance work on New York's Colony Club, the Frick mansion, and houses of the wealthy. The restoration of her own Villa Trianon in France and her marriage to a British diplomat marked her 1920s and 1930s. World War II brought the Mendls to Los Angeles. A self-promoting eccentric, she claimed the introduction of blue-tinted hair, white upholstery, and leopard chintzes.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.