Book Review: Parish Hadley Tree of Life

parish hadley tree of life book

This fall has seen the release of so many wonderful new books. I am still working my way through my latest pile, but the standout for me is without a doubt, Parish Hadley Tree of Life by Brian McCarthy and Bunny Williams. The book chronicles the history of what many would consider to be the most important and influential design firm in the history of the decorating business. Helmed by Sister Parish and Albert Hadley, Parish Hadley was the go-to design firm for the most elite American families. They designed homes for everyone from the Astors and Gettys and even decorated the White House during the Kennedy era. Parish Hadley was also the place where some of today’s most lauded and sought-after designers received what they affectionately refer to as “the best education money could not pay for”.

parish hadley

{One of my Favorite Rooms Designed by Mr. Albert Hadley}

Talents such as Bunny Williams, Brian McCarthy, David Kleinberg, Thomas Jayne, Thom Filicia, David Easton, and architects Ferguson & Shamamian came from the hallowed halls of Parish Hadley. Under Mrs. Parish’s and Albert’s tutelage (she was never referred to as Sister and was a harder nut to crack than the personable “Albert”), each of these extraordinarily talented people learned not only about running a thriving design firm, but they were able to absorb invaluable lessons in the process of decorating.


{Another Favorite Parish Hadley Room}

For Mrs. Parish, decorating was instinctual. She cared very much about the way people lived and the proper way to run a house. Each room she decorated had to be beautiful, comfortable, and practical. Where would one set their drink? Was their a slop sink upstairs and a linen closet near each bedroom? Mr. Hadley had a more modern sensibility and would design spaces beginning with the floor plans and elevations. He taught his staff to create a “skyline” in each room. He embraced specific palettes and had a gift for injecting a touch of modern style into even the most traditional environment.

Parish Hadley Bunny Williams

{An Elegant Dining Room by Bunny Williams}

Parish Hadley Tree of Life is truly a gift. It reads so intimately, with each of the designers who came from Parish Hadley sharing their personal anecdotes and even gossip about their bosses and mentors. There are also powerful reminders and lessons for designers working today and for design enthusiasts to keep in mind. I’ve been able to get to know Brian McCarthy over the past few months after interviewing him for the Style Files and on his recent visit to Houston when he shared a little more about his wonderful experience working for Parish Hadley. This book was truly a labor of love for him and for Bunny, which shines through in each page. The interiors are beautiful and the stories are engaging, funny, and heartwarming. This is a book I know I will treasure and will return to time and time again.

david kleinberg

{A Beautiful Bedroom Designed by Parish Hadley Alum, David Kleinberg}

parish hadley3

{A Chic Living Room Designed by Brian McCarthy, C0-Author of Parish Hadley Tree of Life and former Partner in the Firm}

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Tell Me What You Think! leave a comment...

  1. Paloma I found Brian and Bunny’s perspectives so fascinating; however also all of the additional designers who shared their stories of life with the Parish-Hadley Firm. Excellent!!

    The Arts by Karena

  2. I’ve already received some of the newest design books out this season…both of which are great disappointments…..but The Parish Hadley Tree of Life is the one to read over and over…a perfect “10”.