Maximal: The Power Of The Powder Room

Maximal is the design buzz word on Irish lips.

Dublin, Ireland: Since the opening on Dawson Street of the iconic eatery The Ivy, with its crazed art deco interior from the legendary Martin Brudnizki, where cacophonies of colour, texture and light embellish every surface imaginable, maximal design is a hot topic. Add to that the uber stylish, exuberant interior at the new Café En Seine from the team at Millimetre, and it seems Maximal is here to stay.

Martin Brudnizki’s Ladies Powder Room at The Ivy, Dawson Street, Dublin 
(Image from The Irish Times)

It’s certainly not a new thing. In the glamorous worlds of 1920’s New York and LA, as the rich got richer and spent money to look as much, the Maximal look was developing in an early form called Hollywood Regency, championed by the quintessential designer of the day, Dorothy Draper.

Though born into New York money and already a respected member of Manhattan High Society, the hugely talented and formidable Dorothy Draper (1889 – 1969) worked hard to earn her credentials. It was during the Depression that her dramatic, colourful, almost riotous design schemes took people out of their normal lives, if just for a moment, and Draper built a huge portfolio and following. Every part of a room, hotel lobby or resort, from floor to ceiling, could carry a contrasting set of bold colours, patterns and fabrics.

The Lobby of the Greenbrier Hotel by Dorothy Draper
(Image courtesy of The Greenbrier Hotel)

Though Draper passed away in 1969, her ‘protégé’ Carleton Varney continued this style and worked with her when the company was commissioned in the 1960s and again in the 1970s to redesign the interior of the renowned Dromoland Castle. Bringing those responsible for the décor of The White House (under President Carter), the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia and the Waldorf Astoria, Manhattan, to Ireland, began an interiors revolution.

“If it looks right, it is right,”

Dorothy Draper
The old world charm of The Gallery at Dromoland Castle
The old world charm of The Gallery at Dromoland Castle
(Image courtesy of Dromoland Castle)

Though Dromoland Castle has been extensively refurbished since, reigniting the luxurious old world charm which attracts its famous clientele, interior designer Carole Roberts of Twelve Queen St. Design in Bath maintained a nod to the glamourous, maximal world of Dorothy Draper and Carleton Varney.

Tucked deep in the heart of the 16th century baronial castle, through wood-panelled corridors adorned with dark, ancestral portraits, under sparkling chandeliers, tasselled drapes and gold cornices, is a little blue Powder Room, nothing short of dreamy.

Behind an inconspicuous white antique door, a narrow foyer closes the mind from the Victorian hallway, to a romantic, playful awakening. A cacophony of summer birds, colourfully adorned on matching wallpaper and fabrics, with complimenting pastel blue paints and tile finishes, makes you smile and feel like you’re above the clouds.

The Draper inspired Powder Room at Dromoland Castle
(Image courtesy of Dromoland Castle)

The vibrant, awesome scheme is surely a homage to the high society days of New York’s Gilded Age with the Vanderbilts and Rockerfellers (clients of Draper, don’t you know) and is a cosy little reminder that all great design rests on great history.

So, who said Maximal was new?

Create Your Story

Though not everyone has the attitude or confidence to go Maximal in their home décor, follow the designers at Dromoland Castle and pay homage to this whimsical and wonderful design approach via a smaller, less significant room in your house, like the bathroom, toilet or under the stairs.

Colour is key, and it’s easy! Play around with your favourite coloured paints and wallpapers. Consider all surfaces, including the ceiling and floors, in terms of adding splashes of colour and accented impact. “If it looks right, it is right,” as Dorothy Draper famously confirmed.

Create the Dromoland Castle look with Cole and Son Archive Anthology Hummingbirds wallpaper and fabric. Compliment the dramatic pattern with Farrow and Ball’s Borrowed Light Blue paint. Tile where necessary, or simple just add tiles to add a new, glossy texture to the design scheme, with a simple square baby blue tile with a white grout. This subtle blue square ceramic tole by Willow from Tile Specialists are small and manageable.

Dtale is a series of interior design tales, telling the story of interesting and impactful design approaches, through history, society, and sometimes, just a little humour.