Dorothy Draper’s Advice: Keep the Mantel Spare
What she said: "A mantel…is not the place for something so small and exquisite that it must be held in the hand to be appreciated. Two big vases…will give a more decorative effect," said Dorothy Draper (1889-1969), in Decorating Is Fun! How to Be Your Own Decorator (1939). Draper was so famous from the 1930s through the 1950s that her name became an adjective. A Draperized room sported sizable patterns, bold stripes, and theatrical color combinations.
Why it works: A well-dressed mantel makes an impact from a distance. You shouldn't have to walk up to it to view the objects on it. Opt for large, tall vessels to complement the height of the chimney, but make sure they don't impede the view of a painting or a mirror. Pick curvy vases to soften a hard-edged mantel and squarish ones to contrast a fireplace with a rounded opening.
More of Her Advice:
- On bold tones: "Muddy-colored walls are nothing but a blight. So are undecided colors that compromise…(such as) blues that are neither sea, sky, nor good old cornflower. There should never be any doubt what your color has to say.… It may be chalk blue, watermelon pink, lemon yellow, grass green, chocolate brown, café au lait, warm gray―anything on earth you like, just as long as it knows its own mind."
- On fireplaces: "It is best to keep your andirons simple as well as large. I saw a set made of three large glass balls that were very effective. But you are liable to grow tired of them if they are too cute―cats, owls, dogs, and so forth.… I prefer brass or chromium to anything else. They mirror the flames."