Sister Parish Rises Again, in a pop-up



Sister Parish, the great lady of American interior design, was a young mother from the Depression era when she launched her career. She had no formal training in design, yet she continued to reimagine the rooms of the White House with Jacqueline Kennedy after her husband became president.

Ms Parish exalted luxury, but the interiors that she and her business partner Albert Hadley created for the homes of Brooke Astor, Bunny Mellon and Oscar de la Renta had a feel of comfort and life. Rooted in traditional American decorative arts, she was the first to mix and match furniture from different eras, styles and prices.

A follower of chintz and ticking stripes, she treasured collections and used bright colors in her decorative schemes; she painted floors, layered textiles and put a lot of emphasis on selecting furniture that would give a home a sense of permanence. She worked well until she was 80 and died in 1994.

These days, Ms. Parish’s family is dedicated to bringing her aesthetic sensibility to a wider audience. Her great-granddaughter, Eliza Harris, 32, is the Creative Director of Sister Parish Design, a line her mother, Susan Bartlett Crater, started nearly 20 years ago that focuses on patterns from fabrics and wallpapers recreated from the archives of Mrs. Parish and Mr. Hadley. (Ms Crater’s mother is Apple Bartlett, daughter of Sister Parish, now 88.)

As part of this effort, Sister Parish Design is hosting its first pop-up store at Montage Antiques in Millerton, NY through November 28. in Caroline Kennedy’s room at the White House.

Against a backdrop of Sister Parish memories, the pop-up has a festive flair. Ms Parish loved Christmas and had specific traditions: Gifts were wrapped in crisp white paper with a bright red ribbon, and Rigaud Cypres candles were paired with white paper bouquets, Ms Harris said.

In addition to holiday accents, the line includes dinnerware, linens and quilts in a variety of designs. Antiques collected by Ms Parish and other women in her family are also available for sale, along with collages featuring birds, butterflies and wildlife made by Ms Harris’ grandmother Apple Bartlett.

Since its creation, Sister Parish Design products have been offered exclusively to designers of the profession. But after the Covid-19 hit, Ms Crater, the president of the company, and Ms Harris, who has worked at the company since 2018 – she was previously an interior designer for the Manhattan firm Markham Roberts – reassessed their business model.

“A year and a half ago we saw the showrooms close and the design industry changed very quickly,” Ms. Harris said. “We no longer saw any reason to lock out the retail customer. The company’s entire product line, including its signature fabrics and wall coverings, is now available online, direct to the consumer. Each new model introduced is based on the one from Ms. Parish’s archives.

Interior designers continue to make up the bulk of Ms. Harris’ clientele, but she is delighted to reach homeowners directly. “Not everyone has access to an interior designer,” she said. “Some design enthusiasts just want to line a room, and we want to be able to support them. “

Providing customer service, she added, is different when it comes to an interior designer, who typically looks to the brand to provide specifications and samples. “The consumer wants more education,” Ms. Harris said. “They want great lifestyle pictures and more suggestions on how to use our products.” Last year, the company presented a video series, “Tell a Sister,” which serves as a panel discussion in which Ms. Harris interviews design-conscious professional women.

“My great-grandmother laid the foundation for women’s leadership in the design industry, and we want to continue on this path,” she said.

Sister Parish Design also collaborates with other brands, including Artemis Design Company, a Boston workshop that makes shoes from Kilim textiles. In January, the company will collaborate with Tibetano on a collection of hand-woven and flat-woven rugs, based on some of its most coveted patterns.

“Rugs are not only luxurious, they are also very practical,” Ms. Harris said. “Sister Parish believed in sustainable craftsmanship and design that showed ‘the work of the hand’. Rugs are a great illustration of both.

The company is also committed to supporting local artisans and vendors. “All of our products were made in New York City during Covid,” Ms. Harris said. “Since the home industry exploded, we worked with a fashion studio in town because fashion was so quiet back then. They did a great job. “

Ms Harris, who is down-to-earth and passionate about her great-grandmother’s legacy, will stop on and off for the duration of the pop-up at Montage Antiques, one of her favorite haunts. While her great-grandmother served a largely elite clientele, Ms. Harris has a wealth of budget-friendly design advice at their fingertips for the next wave of design enthusiasts.

“You can absolutely create a great design on a budget,” Ms. Harris said. “If you buy a dart from our fabric, you can make a headboard that can be passed down to another generation. She remembers a linen velvet sofa that Mrs. Parish made for her parents when they got married almost 40 years ago.

“My parents always have the sofa,” she says. “It’s always so beautiful.


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