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Design Legend – Rose Cumming

“In real decorating, there are no precedents.”

Throughout the last decade we have seen a massive resurgence of bold and vibrant pattern within both fashion and interior design. The use of reds, oranges, purples and pinks alongside damasks, botanical and abstract pattern is a far cry from the fashions of ten years ago where all was minimal and white. Within the interior design field Rose Cumming has stood, synonymous with style, at the very centre of all things patterned and colourful. Her unique and unmistakable violet hair and floating draperies personified her daring, individual and bold style.

A design icon Rose Cumming was originally born in Australia. She became recognised as a unique talent within interior design when she settled in New York in 1917 when her journey to England was forced to end as the emergence of World War I restricted female travel. Alongside her sister, struggling to survive and in need of a job it is rumoured Cumming approached her friend the editor of Vanity Fair for advise. When he suggested she become a decorator Cumming replied “Perhaps I would, but first tell me what it is”.

Her knowledge in this area quickly grew as she opened her own shop on Park Avenue offering decorating services and a sales place for antiques and fabrics. This ‘one stop shop’ was not often seen in America at these times and thus Cumming was creating a controversial and niche business for herself. Furthermore, Cumming dressed her windows in her favourite items of furniture and left her display lights on over night for people to see; something people did not do in these times.

Cumming dared to be different and make a statement and once said “I have no time for boring furniture, boring fabrics, or boring people”. She created rooms with an almost theatrical finish collaborating pieces which seemed random in what was actually a very disciplined approach. In particular Cumming worked with elements from eras including Gothic and early English, Asian, Chippendale, Louis XV, Austrian Baroque and painted Venetian furniture.

Alongside her almost eclectic style Cumming would paint her walls in fantastically vivid colours such as lime green, teal, aubergine and blood red. She saw no obstacle in colour and instead pushed to create real vitality and personality in her designs.

To fulfil her desire for colour Cumming designed and printed her own fabrics in vivid colours sometimes re-colouring old English style fabrics or making them from scratch. After Cumming’s death in 1968 this element of the business was kept on by her sister Eileen Cecil and was later sold to Dessin Fournir who operates the business in present day.

Rose Cumming defined glamour with her ease and sophistication with bold colour, striking designs and collaboration of different styles, themes and eras. Her forward thinking approach and desire for theatre made her designs exciting and a first within her era. Her use of bright colour and collaboration of design eras is hugely influential, inspirational and popular today.

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