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Candace Wheeler | Story of the Mother of Interior Design



Known as ‘Mother’ of Interior Design, Candace Wheeler is the first woman interior decorator and Textile designer from America. She has supported women and has given rise to women empowered firms. Her notable setups are the Society of Democratic Arts, New York Exchange for Women’s Work, Associated arts and the interior designing firm.

Early Life

Born on March 24, 1827, Candace Wheeler is the daughter of Abner Gilman Thurber and Lucy Thurber. Brought up in Delhi, New York, she is third of the eight siblings. At the age of six, Candace attended ‘infant school’. She made her first stitch sample by then. Later, Candace enrolled at Delaware Academy in Delhi.


It was in 1876 when Candace Wheeler visited the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition: the first official world’s fair. She got impressed by the display of Royal School of Art Needlework. Not precisely the needlework, It gave her an idea of needlework as a woman-run business, which ultimately proved impressive.
While being there, she proposed the idea of the American version of the Royal School. It was supposed to contain all sorts of feminine articles. The purpose behind this was to educate women from backward areas about newly developed reports.

Society of Democratic Arts

In 1877, Candace founded the New York located Society of Decorative Arts. She set up this as an opportunity for the women. Here they could make a living by handicrafts like needlework and sewing. It specifically helped women left alone after the civil war. Within three years, this society invited five hundred subscribers.
As a result, Candace opened up such societies in Chicago, St.Louis, Hartford, New York and South Carolina.

New York Exchange

In the Next Year, Candace set up another venture supporting women. In “New York Exchange For woman’s work”, Women given allowance to sell any article they could manage to produce at home. It could be anything ranging from linens to baked items. As a result, This venture was more successful with a large number of participants. Women found it more accessible because of no artistic skills required. By the end of the first year, $14000 paid out in commission. Reaching the year 1891, almost seventy-two exchanges existed all over the United States.

Interior-Decorating firm

The year 1879 saw Candace Wheeler setting up her Interior decoration firm. It was in partnership with Comfort Tiffany. The firm received a good amount of projects. They got to work on significant household projects and public buildings. Veterans’ Room of the Seventh Regiment Armory, the Madison Square Theatre, the Union League Club, the George Kemp house are some of their projects.

In 1893, Candace served at Chicago World’s Fair as the interior decorator of the Woman’s Building. Along with artists Alice Rideout, Mary Cassatt, Candace’s daughter Dora Wheeler Keith featured in Woman’s Building. The building contained Crafts, Industrial products, fine arts and worldwide cultural specialities.

Textile Firm

Before opening up the Interior firm, Candace Wheeler set up ‘Associated Artists’, a textile firm. From Curtains and Tapestries to all sorts of textile products, the firm produced a wide range of articles. It was very well known for its ” changeable skills”. Woven with two threads, the resulting fabric showed different colours in different lights.

Who did Candace Wheeler marry?

Candace Wheeler married Thomas Mason Wheeler in 1844. The couple got blessed with 4 kids.

When did Candace Wheeler die?

Candace breathed her last on August 5, 1923.

Also Read : Sunita Kohli | Success Story of the leading interior designer

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