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Syrie Maugham: Adventurous, Trendy Interior Designer of the Interwar Years

Published on , by Laurence Mouillefarine

Interior designer Syrie Maugham was wild about patinated mirrors. As one of her looking glass screens makes an appearance in a Parisian gallery, we look back at the story of this quirky Englishwoman who rocked the world of interior design during the interwar period.

ARR Syrie Maugham: Adventurous, Trendy Interior Designer of the Interwar Years


"Féeries!" ("Enchantment!"), the exhibition staged at the Chastel-Maréchal  Gallery in Paris, certainly appeals to our fantasies. Among other neo-Baroque creations by Janine Janet, Serge Roche and Line Vautrin , we discover a gem: a screen made of mirrors dreamed up by interior designer Syrie Maugham in the 1920s. Syrie Maugham possessed a strange first name and a famous surname, that of her second husband, the novelist and playwright William Somerset Maugham. She was born Gwendoline Maud Syrie Barnardo. Her father, a Protestant doctor and philanthropist, founded the children's home named after him. The family atmosphere was austere, with compulsory Bible reading every Sunday. To escape all this, Syrie married an American from Wisconsin, Henry Solomon Wellcome, a chemist 26 years her senior who had made a fortune in pharmaceuticals. They soon proved to be incompatible. In her boredom, Syrie diverted herself with another American, Harry Gordon Selfridge, owner of the famous London department store. The Wellcomes parted company. Her husband refused to divorce her, as it was improper, so Syrie was still Mrs. Wellcome when, with Selfridge now off the scene, she met Somerset Maugham. Their affair resulted in a daughter, her beloved Liza.…
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