Elsie de Wolfe's Home circa 1897

with commentary by Sarah E. Mitchell

Dining Room

In 1897, before Elsie de Wolfe had really become a famous designer, The Puritan: A Magazine for Gentlemwomen ran an article on the house that de Wolfe and Elizabeth Marbury had leased and redecorated at the corner of Irving Place and East Seventeenth Street in New York City (at the time, the house was called the Washington Irving house). Unfortunately, only one photograph of the interior was given, but it shows a much more ornate design than she illustrated in her later book, The House in Good Taste.

Below is a written description of the interior of the house:

Miss de Wolfe is one of the few women who have a place in New York society as well as a reputation on the stage. With her friend, Miss Marbury . . . she leased the old house six years ago. Both of these clever young women are lovers of the antique, and for years the have been collecting articles . . . here and abroad. The Irving house gave them just the place they wanted to decorate, and they seized upon it with avidity.

The drawing room is in the Louis Quatorze style. All the furniture is French antique, the greater part being in dainty designs of gold. In the front of the parlor, between the two windows . . . is a throne, to which velvet hangings and silk cushions combine to give a truly regal aspect. A few steps covered with a soft rug lead up to it, and directly above the seat is an exquisite bit of statuary representing two female figures stretching forth a laurel wreath. This striking piece surmounted a French altar at the time of the Revolution. Spreading palms stand on each side of the throne, and before the windows, and here and there about the room are large pots of rare ferns.

In a bay window . . . is a cozy nook fitted with a couch and oriental pillows. Old trapestries hang about it, and across the room a cheery log fire burns. Heavy brass andirons and a dainty French screen of antique design give the fireplace a picturesque appearance. In the room are many cabinets filled with miniatures and bric-a-brac. One contains Miss de Wolfe's unique collection of shoes and slippers worn by famous women of olden times, among them a pair of white silk slippers, embroidered in silver, that belonged to Marie Antoinette.

Near the center of the room is a fine chaise loungue of the time of the Regency. It is said to have belonged to the Duc d'Orleans, and there is not a straight line in its entire construction. A beautiful Venetian console also finds place in this luxurious room. The bust figure of a beautiful woman forms the front of the pedestal, and an old flint lock pistol and a pair of brightly polished fencing foils rest upon it. On the walls near by hang framed autograph letters and portraits of the younger Alexandre Dumas, Du Maurier, Beerbohm Tree, Hading, and Rejane.

. . . The dining room is in the rear of the parlor, and is severely plain in its furnishing, though massive and elegant. Beautiful delft plates adorn the frieze, and on an easel at one side is a large oil painting of Miss de Wolfe by Gregory. . . .

The sleeping apartments of the house are on the second and third floors, and are modern in their decorations.

Elsie de Wolfe

Elsie de Wolfe

Elizabeth Marbury

Elizabeth Marbury

Photographs and information from An Old New York Landmark, The Puritan, March 1897, pp. 102-103. Digital editing by Sarah E. Mitchell..

Copyright © 2007 Sarah E. Mitchell