Friday, 02 September 2016

American Classic

Design firm Parish-Hadley’s interiors have set the style since the 1960s for the Kennedys, the Astors, the Whitneys and Princess Margaret

In 1962, decorator Sister Parish teamed up with designer Albert Hadley, and in their almost 40 years of partnership their firm’s formal yet comfortable interiors set the tone at the Kennedy White House and the New York apartments and country houses of prominent US families including the Astors, Whitneys, Gettys and Rockefellers.

house-590-2Sister Parish (seated, centre) and Albert Hadley (behind her) at the office in 1989

‘Albert and Sister were yin and yang,’ recalls designer Bunny Williams. ‘The design part of it, the control, was Albert. It was Mrs Parish’s real, deep instinct for living that made all of this happen. Her rooms always had a comfortable, lived-in quality, no matter how formal they were.

house-590-3Left: Bunny Williams' bright Long Island living room, setting off a painting by Joan Mitchell. Centre: The rich red lacquered walls show off the Poussin above the sofa in this New York living room by Harold Simmons. Right: A garden foyer leading to an interior fountain courtyard in a North Carolina penthouse designed from scratch by Harold Simmons.

‘We saw and were exposed to the most extraordinary interiors that ever happened. We worked with clients who had extraordinary taste, art collections, furniture. The clients that came to them! The Whitneys’ house on Long Island, Greenstreet, had been lived in by three generations and was full of fabulous things. Albert said the first time he went there, Princess Margaret was coming and they had to do a wing of rooms: “All I had to do was take everything out in the yard, organise it, and put it back to make it have harmony.” We were so lucky to be able to have this experience.’

house-590-4Left: The entrance hall of an Upper East Side apartment by David Kleinberg. Centre: Douglas C Wright's Shingle-style windows in a house on the Maine coast. Right: John B Murray's double height entrance hall and oak staircase in a Park Avenue duplex penthouse.

The Parish-Hadley Tree Of Life by Brian McCarthy and Bunny Williams is published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, £37.50.

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