Tabulous Tastemaker: Syrie Maugham

July 10, 2014

By Tab Byrum

Syrie Maugham Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Gwendoline Maude Syrie Barnardo was born on July 10, 1879 in England.  Born during the Victorian era, Syrie was raised in small rooms and surrounded by dark colors so when she came into her own she embraced the color white and the use of natural light.

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Her client list reads like a Who’s Who of the time: Wallis Simpson, Babe Paley, Elsa Schiaparelli, Bunny Mellon and Stephen Tennant.

A Maugham mirrored screen

A Maugham mirrored screen

She adored and used mirrors, with mirrored screens eventually becoming one of the things she was best known for along with all white interiors.  In the 1930’s Maugham abandoned the all white decorating scheme and once again embraced color using greens, pinks, and reds.

 

An amazing mirrored bathroom by Maugham

An amazing mirrored bathroom by Maugham

Jean Harlow on the Maugham decorated set for the film Dinner at Eight

Jean Harlow on the Maugham decorated set for the film Dinner at Eight

Mona Von Bismarck in her Paris apartment decorated by Maugham Photo courtesy of theredlist.com

Mona Von Bismarck in her Paris apartment decorated by Maugham, Image courtesy of theredlist.com

 

In addition to her decorating talents, Maugham was famous for the men in her life.  In the early 1900’s she met and married the British industrialist Henry Wellcome, their marriage was reportedly not a happy one and she favored the company of other men including the writer M. Somerset Maugham. She eventually became pregnant with Maugham’s only child, this led to Wellcome divorcing Syrie, she and Maugham were married in New Jersey in 1917 and divorced 11 years later in 1928.

Maugham and her second husband, noted author and playwright, W. Somerset Maugham

Maugham and her second husband noted author and playwright W. Somerset Maugham

Notice the brush fringe all along the chair and its cushion, this was a hallmark of Syrie Maugham’s decorating.

Poet Stephen Tennent in his Maugham designed bedroom

Poet Stephen Tennent in his Maugham designed bedroom

A Syrie Maugham designed entryway and hall

A Syrie Maugham designed entryway and hall

Syrie Maugham was known for many things, furniture being her specialty.  She loved wearing frilly blouses with black suits that showed off her porcelain skin and bright eyes. Glamour is a word that definitely describes the work of Syrie Maugham, she left an imprint in the design world and has been a great influence over designers during the last 80 years.  Syrie Maugham died in 1955 at the age of 76.

A contemporary take on an all white room Photo courtesy of House Beautiful

A contemporary take on an all white room, image courtesy of House Beautiful

 A recreation of a Syrie Maugham room by James Shearron in 2001 Photo courtesy of Cottage and Garden

A recreation of a Syrie Maugham room by James Shearron in 2001, via Cottage and Garden

Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy of Pinterest

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