by Marisa Marcantonio

Sister Parish Design: On Decorating just came out from St. Martin’s Press. It was written and created by Sister Parish's granddaughter Susan Bartlett Crater and Libby Cameron, Parish's last protégé. Both of them bring a unique perspective and stylish take on interiors. For 15 years, Cameron worked for Sister Parish at Parish-Hadley Associates. Crater, an accomplished decoupage artist, and her mother, Apple Bartlett, also wrote Sister the Life of Legendary Decorator Mrs. Henry Parish II. With design running in the family, Bartlett started Sister Parish Design in 2001, and created a wildly successful line of fabrics and wallpapers based on the extensive Parish-Hadley archival designs. The line reflects Parish's loved pattern and color with a sense of whimsy. The book incorporates a charming array of watercolor interiors done by Mita Corsini Bland. They are so beautiful and bring each interior to life--- it is tempting to want to frame every last one.

I recently spoke with Susan about the project.

Why this book, why now?

I inherited a lot of water color interiors as I believe it was the fashion then to have interiors painted the way people had portraits of their children painted so there were a lot of them in our family. I love the way they look, but more importantly, they tell the story of a house or room a lot more than a photograph does- at least for me. I think they bring you in and make you think a little more. There is a bit more fantasy at work as well. You can use your imagination as to what went on in the room. Finally, Sally Richardson,head of St. Martins Press, promoted the idea as there are so many books of photographs on the market and she thought this one could be a little bit different. People have also said they have been reading the text of our book more because of the watercolors. They tend to just flip through the pictures in books with all photographs and ignore the text.

Libby and I both love books on design so we just naturally wanted to do one. You can see a list of our favorites and those of the contributors in the recommended reading list at the end of our book. We took the first apartment idea from Dorothy Drapers chapter in Decorating is Fun on the Brides apartment. We also referred back to books we have loved. Of course we both love Mark Hamptons books of watercolors so you can see the obvious references there.

What can the reader take away from the room paintings?

Hopefully inspiration, education and the desire to use your imagination and have fun making the rooms in your house comfortable, inviting and functional. Everyone who contributed to the book has a great passion for design and we hope it translated into the painting and text!


The black walls in Daniel Romualdez’s library provide a wonderful background for the colors in the bright rug and the books.

Sister Parish’s porch in Maine has a wonderful collection of wicker furniture, iron tables, and plant stands. The arched latticework adds an architectural element to the porch and frames the view.

A magnificent collection of reproduction bird prints dominates a game room designed by Tom Scheerer.

A creamware collection is beautifully set off in a cabinet in Todd Romano’s living room.

The bookcases in Brooke Astor’s library are framed in brass and the walls are lacquered in a deep, dark red, creating a wonderful framework for her late husband’s book collection.

Libby Cameron’s living room has a variety of patterns and textures. The pyramid-shaped bookcases flank a pair of French doors. Sister Parish Design’s “Serendipity” fabric is used for the curtains, and yellow “Campbell” covers an Ellis chair.

Miles Redd uses color and textiles to create a warm and inviting living room.

Albert Hadley’s bedroom represents his spare use of objects and his vivid use of color.