It seems some clients of the venerable firm Parish-Hadley experienced an unpleasant thing known as being "trayed" or "tea-carted." At the beginning of a project (or sometimes years after a decorating job was done) Mrs. Parish would sweep through a room and load all of her client's offending objects on a tea-cart or tray.
So as much as Parish-Hadley was about creating beautiful rooms for family living -- anti-showplace rooms that offered a sense of permanence and reassurance -- the look nevertheless reflected what Mrs. Parish deemed to be comfortable, appropriate and lovely. There was a bit of a decorator-as-dictator thing happening. (Of course, clients hired the firm for these expert eyes.)
No doubt some clients needed far less editing than others. Albert Hadley has referred to client Annette de la Renta as having "the greatest taste of any American woman of her generation." In the 1960s Hadley worked with her on a Federal-style house in Katonah, New York. The entry hall, shown second from the top, has lilac walls and is meant to convey a "pleasing decay."
William and Babe Paley possessed a world class collection of important paintings. Still, I've read that Sister Parish had strong views on which Picasso's to hang and which to store. Shown directly above is the Paley's home, Kiluna Farm, as decorated after 1962.
Most designers working today reject the dictator role. Often they even take pride in finding a way to work with a client's unfortunate belongings -- well, to a point. Thom Filicia is a master at this. And in the podcast I mentioned the other day, Peter Dunham explains that he tries to guide his young clients without being a dictator; in a way, to help them become better versions of themselves. He introduces them to new forms of art, to the concept of collecting, and to books.
The last den shown here is a modern Dunham design from the November '08 House Beautiful. All other images are from Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design.
The wicker tea cart is part of the Smith & Hawken collection available at Target.