Weary of the old, staid Victorian design,
An industry new did she define.
Elsie de Wolfe, a 1920s New York socialite, introduced the concept of interior design to the public, making their homes livelier and adding accessories with a lighter and more colorful touch. Her design outlook was so widely accepted, that it led to the creation of a new industry altogether.
Regarding the LGBTQ community, interior design is a relatively new career profession that is closely associated with them. This is quite surprising given the fact that the industry was created by one such talented individual. The LGBTQ use interior design as an expression of their identity and character; they often group together to create informal networks or communities, giving them an outlet for their creativity.
Many LGBTQ interior designers were also architects, leading to the intertwining of the two professions. Interior design also expanded to include furniture design, fabric design and product design. The industry has now grown multifold and dominates the developed world’s lifestyle.
1. Elsie de Wolfe
Elsie de Wolfe is remembered as ‘The American pioneer who vanquished Victorian gloom’. She started her career as an actress and settled into what was then called a ‘Boston marriage’ (during the 1880s) with Elisabeth Bessie Marbury.
It was during redesigning their house did Elsie de Wolfe decide to become a professional decorator. Her work garnered attention when she was commissioned to design the interiors of the Colony Club, New York’s first club exclusively for women.
Her style marked a major shift with softer colors, lighter fabrics and an airier overall aesthetic. She had a less formal, more feminine approach to design with an abundance of glazed ‘chintz’, tiled floors, light draperies, pale walls, wicker chairs, vanity tables and trellised rooms.
Glazed chintz is a woven cotton fabric printed with intricate floral designs, with a smooth, shiny finish on one side. The shiny finish comes from glaze or resin applied to the cloth during processing.
2. John Beresford Fowler
Fowler’s move into interior design occurred by chance when he started ‘restoring’ Chinese wallpapers in a firm in old London. He was very well known for his draperies. He was praised for his originality, creating smart and unusual rooms, mixing Georgian furniture, French painted pieces, and the ‘odd florid Victorian chair covered in voguish satin’.
He had an excellent eye for detail, and a deep understanding of methods, materials and colour, which combined with Nancy Lancester’s eye for scale and insistence on comfort, led to the creation of their English country house look.
Following World War II, with the crippling shortage of materials, Fowler’s simple yet elegant designs came to define good taste in English homes. He is noted for his support in renovating and rejuvenating the old manor homes of England.
Interior design projects by John Beresford Fowler include Radbourne Hall, Daylesford House, Grimsthorpe Castle, Christ Church in Oxford, and the Bank of England.
3. Mark Pasnik
Mark Pasnik, a part of the LGBTQ interior designer community, is the co-founder of OverUnder, a multidisciplinary practice engaged in architecture and design. He is a licensed architect from Massachusetts and a member of the American Institute of Architects.
He is renowned for preserving and rethinking concrete buildings from the modern era and has been an activist to preserve the Government Service Centre in downtown Boston, a building by Paul Rudolph.
Some of his projects include Newmarket Office Building, South End Apartment, Back Bay Office, Museo Maya de America, New Jeddah Souqs, and Troy Boston Model Apartment.
4. Nate Berkus
Nate Berkus is a Chicago-based interior designer who set up his interior design firm at the age of 24. He believes that what a person chooses for their home, reveals their stories—‘what they have seen, who they love and where they hope to go next’.
His work includes everything from family homes to launching his own product lines. His popular product lines include a bed and bath collection sold at Target, a roller shade collection for The Shade Store, and a furniture line with Living Spaces.
All of his designs have a vintage vibe with plenty of character. Some of his interior design works include West Village Brownstone, West Hollywood, Hancock Park Estate, Beverly Hills Chocolate Shop, Chicago Gold Coast, etc.
5. Eileen Gray
Eileen Gray, born in Ireland, was a furniture and interior designer. A part of the LGBTQ interior designers’ community, she established herself as an architect as well as a master of lacquer work, designing in an Art Deco style.
She designed the ‘Dragons’ armchair which set a record for decorative art at an auction. The chair features brown leather with a sweeping wood accent.
The most famous of Eileen Gray’s work is her house, which was built in the modernist style. It is often compared to the work of Le Corbusier. However, her work was ‘vandalized’ and succumbed to years of abuse.
6. Sawyer DeVuyst
Sawyer DeVuyst is a transgender actor, artist, and interior designer based in Los Angeles and New York. He is the founder of SAW, a furniture and interior design company, that has supplied pieces to residential clients and commercial buildings like the Wythe Hotel, Etsy Headquarters, Amazon Offices, Kate Spade, and more.
His work combines a minimalist approach with a sense of fun, mixing natural materials and industrial finishes with bright pops of color. He is currently working on a daily fine self-portrait collection called ‘Mine’ which reclaims transgender storytelling and captures his day-to-day life as a transgender man.
7. Adair Curtis
Adair Curtis is an interior designer and husband of Jason Bolden, a Hollywood stylist. He is widely known for his role in the Netflix reality TV series ‘Styling Hollywood. He and Jason Bolden established JSN Studio, a Los Angeles-based multi-disciplinary studio specializing in interior design and product design.
JSN Studio is composed of creatives from various backgrounds currently working on multiple projects across diverse landscapes.
8. Alan Buchsbaum
Alan Buchsbaum was a crucial character in three influential and successful design movements—the Supergraphics, High-Tech, and Postmodernism movements. His design ideas and opinions have been described as respectful, ironic yet classical, versatile, elegant, and entertaining. Supergraphics was characterized by the use of stripes, arrows, zig-zags and diagonals, patterns, vibrant colors, playful typography, etc.
High-Tech was based on the belief of technology to improve people’s everyday life. The movement also turned industrial design into an art form, introducing it into the domestic environment. Postmodernism set out to break the rules pre-set for design. Post this movement, design became increasingly fluidic.
9. Tom Guy
Tom Guy, the founder of Guy Piper Architects, London, is an active member of the LGBTQ interior designers’ community. He is the founder of ‘Architecture LGBT+’, a business and social group, and ‘National Student Pride’, which supports LGBT+ students in the UK.
His firm, Guy Piper Architects, focuses on residential and hospitality architecture and interiors, where they walk their clients through the entire design process from concept to completion. Few of his works include Queensbridge Road, Hackney, Southfields, Peckham, Kennington, Western Esplanade, London Fields, Herne Hill, and many more.
10. Arren Williams
Arren Williams is an interior designer and stylist whose influential career has been discussed in magazines, newspapers, and television. He was very inspired by Art Deco clocks which he liked collecting from a young age.
He revolutionized Canadian style by bringing a contemporary aesthetic and took over the home department at the Hudson Bay.
Along with his husband David Pimentel, he founded Casa Cubista, a contemporary take on traditional Portugal craft.
He recently launched a collection for home furniture titled ‘Arcade’ in collaboration with CDI Furniture. This collection is available at Hudson’s Bay and is being expanded to include custom upholstery, rugs, wall décor, and lighting.
11. Jonathan Adler
Jonathan Adler is an American LGBTQ interior designer who has an extensive online presence for his uniquely designed home furnishings and design services. He is well known for his eccentricity in design, and his love for pottery.
Adler claims to have a formula for design—‘99% classicism and 1% witticism’. He has a signature whimsical style with humor underlying every creation. His furniture is a symbol of ‘Modern American Glamour’.
12. Jürgen Mayer H
Jürgen Mayer H. is a German architect and artist belonging to the community of LGBTQ interior designers. He is the founder of J. Mayer H. Architects in Berlin. His projects are a mix of architecture, communication, and technology which is the main focus of his firm.
He explores the relationship between the human body, technology, and nature. Some of his works include Metropol Parasol in Spain, Mensa Moltke in Germany, and Danfoss Universe in Denmark.
13. Carlos Huber
Carlos Huber is an architect turned perfumer. He is known for creating meticulously detailed interiors for Polo Ralph Lauren and commercial spaces with historical references. Huber studied fragrance development and collaborated with internationally recognized firms where he applied his skills as an interior designer and architect to recreate historic moments through perfumery.
Carlos Huber’s West Village Apartment is a two-bedroom apartment in New York City designed with pops of color, personal art, and divine scents. It is characterized by green plants, a sisal rug, a playful color palette, and cameos of Mexican textiles.
14. Jane Greenwood
Jane Greenwood is the co-founder of the ‘Organization of Lesbian + Gay Architects and Designers’, along with being a vocal advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights.
She is also a principal at Kostow Greenwood Architects in New York City. She was named one of OUT Magazine’s 100 most influential LGBTQIA+ people in 2017 and as a ‘woman of influence’ by the New York Business Journal.
15. David Collins
David Collins was a luxury interior designer who was greatly inspired by Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe. Along with his business partner, Iain Watson, he conceptualized a studio that would bring a new form of thinking to the building industry.
His multidisciplinary team approached all elements of interior design with a detailed perspective making sure to carry the initial concept through to the final stages. He was a firm believer in ‘God is in the details’.