Photo: Baba Beaton (Cecil’s younger sister) strikes a pose in Maugham’s celebrated all-white party room.
4. In 1923, Maugham borrowed 400 pounds, and with furnishings from her own Regent’s Park home, opened a shop on Baker Street called Syrie Ltd. Within two years, she was able to move around the corner to swank Grosvenor Square, an ideal location for capturing the attention of elite patrons, which she began to do in spades. (Among her most notable clients were Wallis Simpson, Noël Coward, and Standard Oil heiress Beatrice Cartwright.) As Maugham’s professional life flourished, her willingness to tolerate her husband’s affair with his male lover, Gerald Haxton, waned. The couple was finally granted a French divorce in 1929.
5. Maugham spent World War II in New York, where she devoted herself to the war effort (becoming, in the process, a friend and compatriot of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) while never giving up her career. In 1944, she returned to England, where she continued to work at the peak of her profession. In 1953, Maugham suffered a heart attack from which she never fully recovered, and passed away two years later. In her honor, friends, including Cecil Beaton, Rebecca West, and Oliver Messel, raised money to donate a white marble sculpture of Catherine the Great (created by Fedot Shubin in 1771) to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Today, Maugham is celebrated as a trendsetter,
a fashion icon, and one of the visionaries of interior design.