Dorothy Draper, drafty houses, pink bathrooms — and coffee: Friday link love

Friday-Link-Love-logo250A new weekly feature: Friday Link Love. As jammed as the interwebs are with link bait (deceptive headlines leading to useless content) and scrapers (sites that try to survive by copying others’ original content), there certainly are gems — true reporters and creators of unique original content — out there. Every couple of Fridays, I’ll spotlight a few, including from tips I may get from readers. And most assuredly, I won’t show you anything that looks like gravy (!) — (read on and you’ll understand…)

#1 — Pink Bathrooms: “Get with the program, people!”

  • pink-bathroom-leo-carilloPink Bathrooms: Hot or not? I think that the Bergen Record thinks they are!  — Reporter Kathy Lynn wrote a great story, including input from a long interview with Defender o’ The Pink aka me.


#2 — “Unchanging blandness seems to depress the human soul”

Designers and homeowners need to remember that it is sometimes OK to live in an imperfect house — one that feels a little hot in July and a little cold and drafty in January. In fact, this type of imperfect house might be more affordable (or even “greener”) than an expensive Passivhaus…. If you take this approach, you might discover that your imperfect house is fine just the way it is.


#3 and #4 — Dorothy Draper: “Show me nothing that looks like gravy!”

  • Dorothy Draper Library of Congress photoThe Wall Street Journal recently wrote about Dorothy Draper (I’m sending you to the google page – it’s the first story — a trick that crafty Colleen discovered gets us behind the paywall) — one of the 20th Century’s most influential interior designers, including during the postwar era. Reporter David Colman points out that there is not just one definition of mid-century design: Draper shrugged off restrained “gray-scale elegance” and instead, designed in “Technicolor Colonial.”He visited The Greenbrier, one of her colorful tours de force, and said:

A century ago, people came to “take the waters” for their rheumatism—but today, victims of seasonal affective disorder should come and take the colors.

Well, Dorothy wasn’t a minimalist, by any means. She used to say in her magnificent way, “Show me nothing that looks like gravy!” No fabrics that look beige, gray or mousy or gravy-like.

I take great (colorful) comfort that the great DD would agree with me re: today’s drab Greige Nation.


# 5 — I love coffee, yes, I do!


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


      • Jay says

        I hit the wall also. I have a book on the Greenbrier and post war the hotel underwent a major expansion and overhaul which included the great redecoration by Miss Draper. Of course everyone now knows about the secret fall-out shelter. I think PBS had a great piece on the Greenbrier.

        • says

          The Greenbrier (aka White Sulphur Springs) was also the only one of the many “curative and recuperative” sulphurous springs in the region to survive, likely thanks to what the resort became. Early on, there was also Blue Sulphur Springs, Red Sulphur Springs, Yellow Sulphur Springs, Green Sulphur Springs, and others, all visited by scores of people looking to feel better (think FDR at Warm Springs). Now you can find a few of them on maps, but there is very little there. Blue Sulphur Springs, still on the maps, is just an empty pavilion in a field. And the only difference between them and White Sulphur Springs is the grand hotel and resort that is there – the Greenbrier.

        • steve says

          Yes, yes, yes, I love PINK bathrooms and I just bought a house with one–so there are my bona fides, just in case there is a question about my dedication mid century. But I must confess that, having spent a weekend at the Greenbrier 10 years ago, I was ready to scream. EVERY surface of the place is done up to the max in BIG, BIG, BIG and BIGGER flower prints with a heavy emphasis on pink, red, fuschia, emerald green and chartreuse. Even the shower curtains! I know the place is a national treasure, and I really wouldn’t want to change a thing…but it’s more of a place that I’m glad to know is there than a place I want to spend time in. Having said that, if you’ve never been, GO–you won’t believe it, and maybe you’ll love it.

  1. mimi says

    That pink and gray bathroom pic is elegant, striking, ART. Lift it with a crane, bring it intact to my 2000s box house, and I will care for until I leave it to my grandchildren! People must have forgotten what quality means, even when they have it. Beautiful!

  2. Jay says

    Do we really need someone to tell us to drink Coffee? You better be making it in a vintage percolator!! Thanks for the links!

  3. ineffablespace says

    I think “unchanging blandness” describes the current state of popular interior design. There is a lot of design out there with a very strong viewpoint, but it’s not really embraced by the masses.

    When people ask for advice on most design forums, the options push the result inexorably toward neutral, completely inoffensive design. Anybody who wants to upholster a sofa in an actual color is encouraged to end up with greige microfiber or brown leather: anything else is bound to be something they tire of and view as a huge investment mistake sooner rather than later.

    • Enid says

      As a former (now retired) Interior Designer “formula” decorating was my main beef. I could not believe the blandness of design. One episode of Property Brothers or Love it or List it on HGTV and you would never need to watch another. No innovation, no ideas, no color! And that is what the masses want. Maybe in a couple of decades the now bland will look to them like the orange and avocado look to me now 🙂

      • pam kueber says

        I can’t watch those shows any more. It’s just too aggravating… too painful… mass hypnosis of the American public.

          • Jamie says

            I love Rehab Addict! You should give this show a chance, especially if you are disheartened by the whole HGTV/DIY Network love affair with granite, stainless steel, and all the homogenous rest. The host, Nicole Curtis, tries not to gut the homes she works on (mostly late 19th/early 20th century), but to keep them intact as much as possible with either original fixtures or age appropriate replacements. She embraces imperfection. As she says about her homes, “It’s just screaming ‘Make me pretty again!”” She lives with the occasional cracked vintage tile, etc.

            That whole mindset is starting to inform my planned rehab (more of a spruce up) of my family’s 60 year old tract home. Kids are agitating for granite or marble, but I have my eye on some of that lovely vintage-esque laminate that is coming out this summer.

        • Joe Felice says

          Good point, Pam. They have succeeded in convincing everyone that they MUST have dark cabinets, stainless-steel appliances and granite counter tops. And never use wallpaper. Where’s David Bromstad (“Color Spash”) when we need him? House Hunters and Property Brothers have raised an entire generation on “complete gut jobs,” houses that are ‘way-too-big and expensive, and options in starter homes that are unnecessary. Seriously, I wonder if anyone buys a “starter home” anymore. I mean something small and affordable that they can live in for a few years, then sell and use the equity to move up, like people of my generation did. Today’s 20-somethings are looking for their “dream home” right out of the box, and some even get their parents to buy it while they’re still in college. Good God! Whatever happened to a college apartment? But my favorites are the young, childless couple who need 4 bedrooms and 3 baths. Really? And they all think they need a huge dining room for “family dinners.” Who the heck ever goes to people’s houses for dinner anymore? Oh, yeah, we need that dining room in order to fit the entire extended family on Thanksgiving! Well, la-dee-dah, by all means buy a house based on one day out of the year! And must-have guest bedrooms. Who ever comes to spend the night anymore? Whatever happened to sofa-sleepers and futons for that one night a year someone happens to need a place to crash? Then there are the young couples with dogs who shun the house with a yard for the luxury loft or (what they call today) flat? (Just glorified names for condos, with no place for the poor dog. They’d be better off with a cat, instead.) Then there are the ones who find the pool (seriously?) to be too small. And we wonder why people are so selfish and feel so entitled? Really? You’re doing well not to watch, Pam. It all makes me angry and frustrated. (In case you can’t tell.)

          • LuAnn says

            I must admit to liking Rehab Addict on THAT channel because it was a breath of fresh air. I started watching it about the same time I discovered Pam’s Retro Renovation website. I was so shocked and overcome to find that there are actual people in the world who would find value in my 1957 house’s ranchy cool-onial-ness. What? Awesome!

          • Susie Q. says

            I agree with everything you said, however, nothing makes me happier than when the masses DON’T like what I like. More cheap finds for me! Though it is disturbing to see people use a sledgehammer when at the very least they could donate old cabinets, etc to the Re-store. It’s very wasteful.

        • Enid says

          That is why we are all so glad to have this blog as a resource and inspiration. I love my yellow kitchen and pink bathroom ceiling with glitter on it. My son called me his crazy artist Mom and I was happy to embrace it. Thank you Pam!

      • Joe Felice says

        Like “Nothing heavier than air can possibly fly,” and TV will never catch on.” No “gravy,” just “groovy” here.

  4. Mary Elizabeth says

    Great idea, Pam, to give us links to other interesting stories. I think it’s interesting that a person named “Draper” would go into interior design. It’s like Major Major or (real people I’ve met) Doctor Dock and Doctor Pils.

  5. Deborah says

    Fun batch of articles. Interestingly, for me, they shared a common thread about comfort. Comfort for me is not something you don’t notice as mentioned in Holladay’s article. Instead it’s a cup of delicious hot tea or coffee to offset that draft coming from my single pane (oh the horror) windows. Comfort is standing in front of the iron stove for that roasty feeling on the back of my legs. Comfort is the sun sparkling on the stained glass in my door and windows. Comfort is the warm glow of wood and cheerful colors. Comfort is something I see as well as feel. I definitely notice it!

    Oh and yeah, I brew my coffee a gallon at a time in an old West Bend Kwikdrip. I’m fixing to drink my daily quart.

  6. tammyCA says

    “show me nothing that looks like gravy”…I like DD’s quote.

    I love all the color-ness in her style, but I disagree with what she said about antiques needing to be painted and Oriental rugs needing to be dyed! Ack, No! Beautiful, quality crafted antique/vintage furniture is still disappearing under the paint brush, spray can diy decorating crazed. I’m not opposed to painted furniture, I have some, but I know what shouldn’t be painted or worse, chopped up & Frankenstein rearranged like on that awful show, “flea market flip”.

  7. Lilly says

    Pink is not my favorite color but I would rather buy a house with an intact pink bathroom in good condition than a house that had it ripped out and yet another big box low quality bathroom in its place.

    Our current 2000 era house, we have already had to replace both toilets and the flooring.

  8. Neil says

    I certainly agree with you that Miss Draper was one of the “most interior designers”; in fact she may have been the most-est.

  9. ineffablespace says

    You have to remember the context in which Dorothy Draper and Elsie De Wolfe recommended painting furniture. They grew up in the late Victorian/Edwardian period where furniture tended to be overwrought and dark and rooms were crammed full of layers of pattern, furniture and accessories. The painting was a reaction to that. Elsie De Wolfe said late in her career that she regretted recommending painting so much Victorian furniture white.

  10. doris dear says

    Miss Draper was amazing. Her best work was here in NYC. I even talk about Miss draper in my show “Doris Dear’s Gurl Talk” at Don’t Tell Mama’s in NYC! She designed one of the most beautiful spaces in NYC at the Metropolitan Museum here. It was called the “Dorotheum Restaurant” It was downstairs, had a large reflecting pool with water sprites dancing across it, large oversized birdcage chandeliers overhead and was a perfect mid-century modern space. Unfortunately they demolished it and turned it into a gallery. She also did the amazing Fairmont in San Fran. Check out a few slides of her work here:

  11. Jay says

    I sat down Saturday afternoon to look at the Phila. Inquirer’s Home and Design section and saw an article on PINK BATHROOMS and thought wow another story. I laughed when I saw that the article was imported from the Bergen Record; the very same article you linked to.

    • pam kueber says

      Yes, the Bergen Record story was then syndicated… I’ve seen it pop up in several other newspapers already. Glad to hear it made it to Philly, too! That’s big!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *