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.