Edith Wharton: Designing the Drawing Room

Edith Wharton (1862–1937) is best known today for her fiction, such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Age of Innocence (1920). Yet she also had a keen interest in architecture and interior design. Her first full-length publication was an interior design treatise titled The Decoration of Houses (1897) and she directed the design of many of her homes throughout her life.

Edith Wharton: Designing the Drawing Room brings together both aspects of Wharton’s career. It explores the rules she defined in The Decoration of Houses and their application in her own homes, alongside her attention to design details in the handwritten manuscript of The Age of Innocence. This exhibit focuses on Wharton’s treatment of the drawing room, which provides a particularly rich context for understanding Wharton’s elite New York City society at the turn of the twentieth century and the role of women within it.

Watch a video interview with curator Julia Carabatsos ’20 to learn more about her English Department Senior Essay that inspired this exhibit, her curation process, and the materials she included from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Edith Wharton Collection.


Edith Wharton: Designing the Drawing Room was curated by Julia Carabatsos ’20 for the 2020 Senior Exhibit project. She was advised by Professor Edward Cooke, Jr., Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts in the Department of the History of Art, and Tess Colwell, Arts Librarian for Research Services at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library. Planning and production for the physical exhibit was managed and executed by Kerri Sancomb, Library Exhibits Program Manager and Sarah Davis, Library Exhibits Technician. This online exhibit was created by Sarah Davis.