11 April, 2010

The Duchess Recommends . . .

"The Great Lady Decorators" by Adam Lewis

The Duchess just wrapped up her weekly session with the Sunday edition of the New York Times, which this week included the semi-annual T Magazine on spring 2010 design. Boy, was it a doozy. The Duchess has never seen such a well-curated collection of hideous looking things . . . ever. Dear New York Times, simply because something is novel, or weird, or bordering on the verge of insanity does not make it well-designed. Quite the opposite, to the Duchess's thinking.

Interior designed by Sister Parish

This T Magazine did contain an article by Christopher Petkanas about a "great lady decorator" profiled in Adam Lewis's terrific book (purchased just yesterday by the Duchess at the Malibu Colony Company), Ruby Ross Wood. The late Ruby Wood is an oft-overlooked member of the sisterhood of the decorating saints, and Mr. Petkanas, conveniently aided by the vehicle of Mr. Lewis's book (which Mr. Petkanas gives unfair treatment), seeks to give the decorator her due. This is all fine and good, but the Duchess admits that she just can't get behind the effort. Of course, she is certain that Ruby Wood made important contributions to the world of design, not least of which providing tutelage to Billy Baldwin, but the real star of the show -- as always -- is Mrs. Henry (Sister) Parish II.

A room in the home of former Vice-President Al Gore and Mrs. Gore, designed by Parish-Hadley, Inc.

Sister Parish, as we all know by now, gave birth to the modern cadre of great decorators -- Albert Hadley (who later went into a wildly successful partnership with Sis), Michael Taylor, Bunny Williams, Mariette Himes-Gomez, David Kleinberg, et cetera et cetera. She stole the thunder right out from under Mrs. Eleanor Brown over at McMillen (which is staging a powerful comeback, though not in the Mrs. Brown way) to become the most revered American decorator of all time, and rightfully so. Only Mr. Hadley and Ms. Williams hold a candle, and perhaps even outshine, the fantastic Mrs. Sis.

Another Gore room by Parish-Hadley

The Duchess will recommend to you Readers Mr. Lewis's book. The mini-biographies provided of each of the decorating greats of last century -- Elsie de Wolfe, Rose Cumming, Frances Elkins, Dorothy Draper, Nancy Lancaster, and Mrs. Parish, to name a few, are entertaining and illuminating, and the original room portaits by Jeremiah Goodman are divine. Topped off with a foreword by Bunny Williams, and this book should be at the top of your list of shelter stories for spring 2010. And you can skip the New York Times.

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