The Road to Good Taste: The Design Life of Ruby Ross Wood Press Page

Hailing from Murder Creek, Georgia-born decorator Ruby Ross Wood had professional connections with architect Philip Shutze and the Inman family, leading her to decorate Swan House, Buckhead’s crown jewel. 

Ruby Ross Wood was a woman to be reckoned with. At a time when women had limited rights, the inability to vote, and were prohibited from holding a personal checking account, she created not only a career but a profession. For herself and others, Ruby established an occupation that allowed women financial reward, creative achievement, and commercial independence. As a result, for decades, she was one of—if not the—most prominent interior decorators and professional women in the nation.  

Exuding an air of adventure that extended to her innovative use of color and pattern, Ruby’s mantra was comfort, personality, and beauty. Decorating, she said, is the art of arranging beautiful things comfortably.  Throughout her 30-year career, she excelled as a businesswoman and influential columnist with prominent features in Vogue, House & Garden, The Delineator, and many other publications. Her legacy is unfortunately overshadowed despite her considerable power and influence during her time. Wood passed away in 1950, preceding many of today’s more well-known decorators. Nevertheless, there has been a notable revival of interest in her contributions, with many professionals in the field rediscovering the legacy of Ruby Ross Wood. 

She decorated the 1909 Ansley Park residence of Edward and Emily Inman in addition to their 1920s home, Swan House, located on Atlanta History Center’s Buckhead campus. The latter remains the only residence decorated by Wood that remains today.  As tastes change and buildings are demolished, including Ruby’s own 1928 house, which was razed in the 1990s, the fragile interior is one of the preservationists’ most cherished rewards.  Today, Swan House retains its original appearance inside and out as it was initially presented in 1928 by Ruby and Philip Shutze. 

Importantly, Ruby led the field in prioritizing the relationship between the client and their home above all else. Her primary objective was to harmonize the client’s personality with the chosen decor, emphasizing the significance of this match. In her creative process, Wood dedicated her efforts to crafting a warm and inviting environment to embrace and reflect the client’s individuality. By emphasizing creating a welcoming space, Ruby aimed to ensure that the client felt genuine comfort and belonging in their home. Essential to her credo, was that a room should never look “decorated.” 


  • A copy of the 1913 book The House in Good Taste originally attributed to actress and interior decorator Elsie De Wolfe but ghostwritten by Ruby Ross Wood. 
  • Original furnishings from Swan House, including a set of Empire-style stools. 
  • Photography of the interior of the Inman’s Ansley Park residence before the home was damaged by an attic fire in 1924, which led the Inmans to build Swan House. 
  • Philip T. Shutze’s interior decoration sketches of Swan House drawn in 1926.