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Irene Walker interior design papers

Identifier: KA-0157-01


Irene Walker (1919-2002) was a Parsons School of Design alumna ('51) and an interior designer, who worked for the firm McMillen Inc., before establishing her own firm, Joie de Vivre, Irene Walker Inc., in 1966. The collection consists of Walker's student work and documentation of her professional work.


  • circa 1947-circa 1970s



1.7 Cubic Feet (8 folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

This collection consists of Irene Walker's student work from her time at Parsons School of Design, circa 1947-1951, as well as documentation of her professional interior design work at McMillen Inc. and at her own firm, Joie de Vivre, Irene Walker Inc., circa 1950s-1970s. The student work consists of measured drawings and renderings of interiors, mainly in the format of pencil drawings and watercolors. Most of the student work is consistent with other examples of Parsons student work from that time; a few additional items included seem likely to be student work. The professional work mainly consists of photographs documenting fashion designer Norman Norell's apartment, which Walker designed, and a related 1968 magazine story from House Beautiful, and also includes a resume, a clipping showing another apartment Walker designed, a few furniture sketches from her time at McMillen Inc., and a couple of photographs of unidentified interiors. The collection also includes photographic portraits of Walker, likely taken for professional purposes. Two contact sheets document a photo shoot of Walker in what may have been her apartment, likely in the late 1960s or 1970s. Two enlargements from that photo shoot accompany the contact sheets. An additional formal photographic portrait of Walker as a younger woman, perhaps in the 1950s, is present.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical note

This biographical note was taken from an article by Janine Sullivan-Wiley, and slightly edited and modified for length. The full version can be accessed online at the following URL:

Irene Mabel Walker was born in Detroit, Michigan, January 7, 1919. She graduated in 1951 with high honors, first in her class, from the Parsons School of Design in New York City (now part of The New School). She was recruited directly to the prestigious McMillen design firm in NYC, and was a senior decorator there for 14 years. Her work was included in the book “The Finest Rooms by America’s Great Decorators,” as well as in the New York Times magazine.

In 1966 she started her own decorating firm, Joie de Vivre, Irene Walker Inc. Many well-known personalities were among her clients, including Jeanne Murray Vanderbilt. “Joie de Vivre” seems to reflect both her attitude in decorating and her time spent studying design in Europe, including in Paris.

Walker’s later life in Connecticut included Heritage Village in Southbury, where she continued her work, and then Washington Depot. She spent her last years in Steeplechase in Middlebury. Walker died October 24, 2002.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to The New School Archives by Susan Stiller, Irene Walker's friend and executor of her estate, in 2019.

Processing Information

Many of Walker's student work drawings and watercolors were removed from their acidic mats, for preservation purposes.

Guide to the Irene Walker interior design papers
Irene Gates
June 22, 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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