Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016

10.09.2008

Innovation with Continuity

Sister Parish knew who she was, knew what she loved, and in general ignored trends. But in the early 1970s she did experiment with modern design in her own home. Enlisting help from her business partner, Albert Hadley, she went in a very adventurous direction: high-gloss aubergine vinyl walls, polished aluminum Levelor blinds, and abstract batik prints and geometrics rather than floral chintz.

She literally stepped out of her comfort zone. Yet she retained her fundamentals -- those inviting elements Hadley describes as "all Sis." The cozy enveloping sofas, the chaise with a throw, downy soft pillows, the handcrafted baskets, and her timeless antiques.

Ultimately Sister returned to her beloved floral chintz and a softer style. But I find it reassuring that she re-used nearly every piece of furniture shown here. Even the arrangement and the ivory upholstery on the larger pieces stayed the same. I've read that some people "make a game out of charting how Mrs. Parish [gave] an old possession new life."

Here's a great Sister quote from Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design, regarding the entrance hall in her New York home:

"The only reason these things are here is because I had them. I didn't buy anything new. What I like is that everything in the hall has a meaning for me. It belonged to my mother, like the vase. Or it reminds me of a friend. Or I found it amusing. You don't really need to go shopping. You make do with what you have."

Obviously Sister Parish had some pretty great things with which to work, and we all want our retail shops to thrive. I think her point was just that it is not necessary to over-buy. It was the Great Depression that prompted her to go to work, and she prided herself on being resourceful, not discarding the past.

All quotes and images are from Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design.

15 comments:

Mrs. Blandings said...

I love all Sister's renditions. I have this book on my mental wish list - it's a dear one.

pve design said...

Sister was so ahead of her time. I love the "aubergine" with the pink. So pretty, so chic.

The Peak of Chic said...

This is definitely food for thought Courtney. I do think previous generations were not so apt to throw out and start anew. We live in such a disposable society today. Especially with the shaky economy, I think it will become necessary for many of us to use what we currently have, but be creative about how we use it.

Pigtown-Design said...

Agree 100%!

Ivy Lane said...

Beautiful rooms, and her quote is a good reminder.

Heather said...

These pictures feel totally timeless to me. Love the pretty glamor. Inspiration for classic, yet forward design.

Style Court said...

Hi everyone. So glad the room is a hit.

As I flip through the book, lines like "all this room needs is some housekeeping" or "we don't need to buy more" tend to jump out at me.

I realize it seems a little ironic to use Parish-Hadley interiors as examples, but I think the concept translates to more modest houses. Whether it's chain store furniture or a vintage find, or fabric from Hancock's, good form is good form.

Thanks for stopping by on this stressful day!

Anonymous said...

This is the first Sister Parish room I've liked. I'm glad you posted it, and broadened my horizons a little. Thanks, Style Court.

Style Court said...

Oh good Anon, I'm so glad. Happy weekend!

annechovie said...

I don't know that I've ever seen anything Sister Parish decorated that I didn't like. Thanks for showing us a different phase of hers, though. Very interesting! Aubergine vinyl mixed with antiques and pink is not a combo that sounds good on paper, but it sure works! I DO like green eggs and ham!

Style Court said...

What a great way of saying it Anne. Love your comment. Thanks!

Brilliant Asylum said...

She hit it out of the park. Inspiring post.

Style Court said...

Thanks Millie.

Karena said...

Yes, the pink and aubergine together comes off very fresh and crisp, while still so traditional.

MIMILEE said...

That Sister was something else! I love that quote,"You make do with what you have!"......In other words, shop at home! and like you said "don't over buy which I have a tendency to do!

Love it!