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Ernest L. Brothers Interior Design Collection

A Louis XVI-inspired, canopy bed by Ernest L. Brothers, a leading interior designer to New York and Newport elites from the 1920s-60s, c. 1950. Watercolor by Ernest L. Brothers.
Collection of the National Building Museum
Bed alcove drapery, Louis XVI, after Morreau, March 4, 1960. Gift of Frances Griffin Brohters and Diana Brothers McGee.
Collection of the National Building Museum

Gift of Frances Griffin Brothers and Diana Brothers McGee

Donated in 1986

Ernest L. Brothers (1891–1974) was a highly successful and sought-after interior designer whose grandest projects were undertaken for New York and Newport elites in the second quarter of the 20th century—including visionary merchant and tastemaker Samuel H. Kress. Born in England to a family of antique dealers and decorators, Brothers embraced the business and arrived in New York via Paris in 1919 as branch manager for the French firm Carlhian & Co. He established his own business in 1927.

Brothers cultivated his strong connections across the Atlantic and attracted clients who favored old-world elegance for their newly built residences. His referrals came from established architects such as Delano & Aldrich and Horace Trumbauer. As a recognized authority on late-18th-century English and French design, Brothers was consulted on projects for Colonial Williamsburg and the Kennedy White House.

Photographs, drawings, and luxuriant watercolors attest to Ernest L. Brothers' artistry and his now underappreciated specialty of creating historically accurate wood-paneled rooms.

Donated to the Museum in 1986 by his widow and daughter, this collection provides valuable insight into the practice of interior design during the early part of the last century.