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The name Syrie Maugham might ring a bell if you're familiar with her husband, the author and playwright W. Somerset Maugham. But, she was also a celebrity figure herself in the 1920s and '30s for her bold and glamorous interiors.
Along with Elsie de Wolfe and Sibyl Colefax, she was among the first to make interior decorating a successful and "fashionable" profession for women. In 1921, Vogue reported "someone once said that a woman is happily married or an interior decorator." At the time, this was quite true.
Working for several years as an unpaid apprentice to the company Thornton-Smith, Syrie learned the fine art of furniture restoration and gilding, and the history of interiors, setting up her own shop after friends began requesting that she redo their homes. Being Somerset's wife exposed her to a wide social set and, in 1927 (after their divorce), she introduced her all-white room at a midnight party — this would soon become her statement look. By 1930, she was firmly established in the design community with a large showroom in London and additional shops in New York and Chicago.
Her signature touches included sharp, mirrored screens; textured rugs; and more shades of white and cream than you could find in the paint aisle at the hardware store. Luxe fabrics like satin and velvet — lots of velvet — were a must. All of it coincided with the glamorous, glittering shift happening in Hollywood at the time.
And, while most of us will never redecorate in just one shade, there are some takeaways to learn from the bold, jazz-age interiors queen even now. The absence of color can make just as big of an impact (if not more) than the brightest hue.
Keep reading for the key pieces to get an an instant room redo, the Syrie way.