Craft and High Style
Sister Parish loved handicrafts -- needlework, basketry, quilts, hand-printed textiles. Maybe this was because she enjoyed working with her own hands, doing decoupage and other crafts. Or perhaps she had seen her share of grand formal homes and longed to warm them up with homespun touches.
Working intuitively, and in collaboration with partner Albert Hadley, she often upholstered exquisite 18th century French furniture with "primitive" hand-waxed cotton batiks by Alan Campbell. The fresh and inviting bedroom of Brooke Astor, shown above, is one example.
Colorful patchwork quilts appealed to Sister too. She used them conventionally but also commissioned the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alabama to create a patchwork fabric that, according to her protege Bunny Williams, was used in a chic Georgetown dining room. In fact, Parish-Hadley became known for upholstering wing chairs and sofas with quilts.
During her famous refurbishing of the White House, Jackie Kennedy selected Morgantown glassware produced in West Virginia. A political gesture? Probably. But JBK seems to have had a genuine fondness for American crafts. The way she and Sister Parish mixed the ultra-refined with the rustic greatly influenced residential interior decorating in the U.S. for decades.
I couldn't help noticing that both Natalie "Alabama" Chanin and craft artist Nathalie Lete received coverage in the newest Vogue Living. Are arbiters of high style embracing craft again as they did in the 1980s when simple pine furniture was mixed with lavish florals?
Of course, in their own unique ways Jonathan Adler and Lulu de Kwiatkowski have been doing a 21st century mix of sleek with rustic. But it will be interesting to see if more contemporary designers -- those associated with modern glamour -- inject homespun elements into their interiors.
Above, Alan Campbell fabric currently available through Quadrille.
Reminder: Tradition/Innovation: American Masterpieces of Southern Craft and Traditional Art remains on view through May 18.
Photo of Sister Parish shown top is from Margaret Russell's 2001 book, Designing Women: Interiors By Leading Style-Makers; The Astor bedroom is from Albert Hadley: The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer; and Sister Parish's Maine bedroom is from Designers on Designers.