Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Maine Cottage of Sister Parish

The January 1967 issue of House & Garden featured the canary yellow Dark Harbor, Maine cottage of Mrs. Henry Parish II, or Sister Parish as we think of her. She was not referred to as Sister Parish in the article. I wonder if anyone other than her family and closest friends dared call her that to her face. Did her famous business partner Albert Hadley, Jr. call her that? Mr. Hadley, by the way, we Nashvillians claim as a hometown boy, Hadley's Bend being named after his family.

The much missed House & Garden seems to have misspelled Mrs. Parish's name, putting two Rs in Parish all through the article so I'll leave that extra R in when quoting the magazine. Was Mrs. Parish so unknown then that the mistake was easily made? If she was, that didn't last long.

Evidently this article struck an immediate chord with readers and soon many were eyeing their gloomy brown furniture with a gleam in their eyes and a paintbrush in their hands. White enamel paint flew off the shelves and a new decorating style spread quickly.

Here in my forty-seven year old copy of H & G is the 1967 version of Mrs. Parish's Dark Harbor, Maine cottage. Golden oak is hidden underneath the white enamel furniture in her dining room. She bought 100 pieces of it for $100. Got her money's worth, don't you think?

"A paradox among interior designers, Mrs. Parrish believes 
in the un-decorated look."

The rug in the comfortable sitting room is a beauty, and the furniture looks exactly what should be in a summer cottage, pieces that have been handed down through the years.

Mrs. Parish's style consists of "propping paintings instead of hanging them,
perching them on window sills, and mixing (rather than matching)
anything with everything."

In her bedroom and the guests' rooms upstairs, mattresses and bedding was comfortable and luxurious. I would love to have been a guest in that cottage back then. Would I have been as intimidated in 1967 as I know I would have been in her later years? Probably. Mrs. Parish was from a wealthy society family as well as being an interior designer. 

To quote F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."

"Mattresses, box springs, and their respective trappings are never allowed
to age beyond their prime…The bathrooms are full of towels an inch thick,
luscious sponges, dressing gowns for guests, and…
electric towel warmers."

House & Garden said that since "Mrs. Parrish believes that a static house soon becomes tiresome, she changes something every day." Ha! Mrs. Parish and I do have something in common! I'll blame her when R.H. wonders why I constantly want to rearrange a table, a room, or all the rooms.

"Visually, the room is a delight because she has indulged her fondness
for pattern with four different floral motifs."

I loved that living room when I saw it in 1967, I love it now, and I loved all future versions of it pictured in magazine spreads.

 But if I did have a Dark Harbor, Maine cottage today, I think I would call on Tom Scheerer for an updated version like his room below:

Mr. Scheerer said: "I was going for the old-fashioned Maine of Sister Parish and her crowd--cheerful, lively, improvisational, and slightly eccentric."

Tom Scheerer had me at this quote when interviewed by House Beautiful:

"Don't make too much trouble for yourself.
Work with what you have and get on with it.
Live life now, 
rather than after a torturous renovation."

I hope you enjoyed seeing the rooms of Sister Parish from 1967. You can't begin to imagine how recent that seems to me. Wasn't it only yesterday?

Remember, "Don't make too much trouble for yourself."

[All pictures and quotes about Mrs. Parish were of course from the January 1967 issue of House & Garden.]

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