The Best Books About Legendary Interior Designer Albert Hadley

Here, in his own words, is the first complete look at the career of Albert Hadley, legendary interior designer. A lavishly illustrated celebration of more than half a century of stunning interiors work, the book explores Hadley’s personal and professional influences.  Albert Hadley, with his partner of twenty-five years and fellow Hall of Fame member “Sister” Parish, is responsible for transforming some of the most remembered rooms in design.   Some of the most distinguished rooms were for Ambassador and Mrs. Henry Grunwald, former Vice President and Mrs. Albert Gore, Dr. and Mrs. Patrick Maxwell, Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols, Ann Getty, William s. Paley, and Mrs. Vincent Astor.

Hadley was a student and then a professor at Parsons School of Design, where he became a close friend of Billy Baldwin and was by turn a student, friend, and colleague of Van Day Truex; to his working with Eleanor Brown at McMillen, Inc.; to his influential partnership, Parish Hadley, with the venerable Sister Parish; to his current work as the head of Albert Hadley, Inc.

This book explores Hadley’s design philosophy and process in great detail.  This book covers the rooms that made design history, from the magnificent Rosedown Plantation to the Kennedy White House to Mrs. Vincent Astor’s library. This book is enriched with dozens of new and archival images, as well as Hadley’s acclaimed sketches. Albert Hadley is the definitive, exclusive look at one of the most brilliant designers this country has ever seen.

In a New York Times article called “Master Class” interior decorator Albert Hadley has some strong words for young designers.

Here are some of quotes I found interesting:

So many young decorators today are trying to reinvent the wheel, and the results are sometimes very dubious,”  Albert Hadley says “They’re looking to do things that have never been done before. And quite often it’s done without authority, without knowledge or a background in taste.”

Growing up in Nashville, Hadley acquired a precocious thirst for high style at Saturday matinees. “I had enormous curiosity about my idols,” he recalls. “First, Joan Crawford and Garbo and Hepburn and all the beautiful guys who were their playmates.”

He’s less taken with current popular-culture icons. “Look at the Academy Awards!” he says. “Some of those girls and boys are very pretty, but they’re not stars. They don’t have a presence that anyone would wish to emulate, except the young people today who do emulate them. And it’s sad.”

And what is the net effect of all this on contemporary design? Things that strive for sophistication but somehow look exactly the same. “They’re all doing beige rooms,” he groans. Hadley wishes that young designers would take more time to educate themselves about Versailles and the twenties and “ancient history.” “It’s all about acquiring a richer vocabulary,” he says.

He also believes strongly that if you’re in a position to walk away from a client you can’t help, you should. “There’s no point creating anything beautiful for somebody who’s a slob,” he notes. “Housekeeping is part of the art of living. If you don’t have that, forget it.

Sadly, Albert Hadley passed away in 2012.  Former Parish-Hadley employee Thomas Jayne wrote an article for the  NY TIMES blog,  which included some photos that may not have seen before.  Anthony Barzilay Freund wrote a fitting tribute for 1st Dibs , as well as, Elle Decor, and VERANDA magazine has a similar tribute in their May-June, 2012, issue.


Hadley chose a flattering parchment color for the living room walls. An untitled painting by William Auerbach-Levy dominates the wall above a large 19th-century bookcase with cane shelves. On ebonized floors, two of Hadley’s signature zebra-pattern hooked rugs; nearby chairs wear a Brunschwig & Fils fabric with leopard stripes. The Directoire-style bergère is covered in a robin’s egg silk strié- Home Beautiful Magazine Picture By Fernando Bengoechea

The Résumé of Albert Hadley- Home Beautiful

The dining room has a light blue ceiling, a favorite Hadley hue for the upper plane. The American Empire mahogany armoire is topped by a Tibetan gong. Next to them are two works on paper by Connecticut artist Mark Sciarillo, also a metalworker, who made the sculpted bronze base of the living room’s coffee table. The vellum lampshade, the Eyelet gold-on-ivory wallpaper, and the chairs are all Hadley’s designs. -Home Beautiful Magazine Picture By Fernando Bengoechea

The Résumé of Albert Hadley- Home Beautiful

Albert Hadley chose a soft off-white and a pale gray for the clapboard and shutters of this 1820 Colonial in New Jersey.  

On the table that marks an imaginary “center hall” in the house, Asian wood figures surround a bronze censer. A well-polished old barrel holds the owner’s collection of new and antique canes.

In the living room, a Louis XVI fauteuil, one of two French chairs amid a sea of English and American antiques, has been newly reupholstered in a neat small check. The pair of club chairs and other seating have been slipcovered in white cotton. The combination of the white walls with pale gray painted floor seems airy and clean. Like exclamation points, black lampshades punctuate the windows at the far end of the room.

Albert Hadley’s Colonial Home- Home Beautiful

The centerpiece of a cozy seating area is an antique English settee that’s still dressed in the Schumacher chintz Albert Hadley selected when he decorated for the client the first time around, forty years ago.

“You know what I also like about having that vintage fabric on this settee? It looks really nice against all this freshness,” he said. “There are times when it works well to have something with a ratty past.”

5 Unforgettable Rooms by Designer Albert Hadley- House Beautiful

An Albert Hadley Design for Brooke Astor

Architectural Digest

New York City philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor approached Hadley to decorate her Park Avenue apartment’s library with the help of British antique curator Geoffrey Bennison.

Immediately Hadley wanted to remove the faux Louis XV wall panelling and paint a rich red lacquer with brass accents. “While it should be classical in spirit, it must also be a room to live in,” he said, adding plenty of lighting and chairs for curling up with a book.

Albert Hadley’s own home in Naples, Florida.

This mostly-white living room features pops of yellow, wood and brass that keep the eye grounded.

See scans of this home at the The Devoted Classicist Blog

Decor Arts Now Blog scanned in some of the most stunning pictures from the American Furniture and Folk Art auction from Sotheby’s featuring Albert Hadley’s furniture choices.  

See More from this post – Some Rarely Seen Albert Hadley Interiors

Decor Arts Now Blog- Some Rarely Seen Albert Hadley Interiors

Decor Arts Now Blog- Some Rarely Seen Albert Hadley Interiors

Other Books To Consider:

Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design by Christopher Petkanas, Albert Hadley and Sister Parish(Nov 1995)

Albert Hadley: Drawings and the Design Process by Mark Hampton, Mario Buatta, David Anthony Easton and Mariette Himes Jayne(2004)

Timeless Elegance: The Houses of David Easton by David Easton and Albert Hadley(2010)

Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator by Adam Lewis and Albert Hadley(Oct 26, 2010)

Sister Parish: The Life of the Legendary American Interior Designer by Bartlett, Apple Parish, Crater, Susan Bartlett and Hadley, Albert(Nov 15, 2012)

Frances Elkins: Interior Design by Stephen M. Salny and Albert Hadley(Jul 17, 2005)

The House in Good Taste by Elsie De Wolfe and Albert Hadley(Jun 12, 2004)

Sister Parish Design: On Decorating by Crater, Susan Bartlett, Cameron, Libby and Corsini Bland, Mita(Oct 27, 2009)

Sister Parish: American Style by Martin Wood(Nov 8, 2011)

Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style by Adam Lewis and Albert Hadley(Oct 29, 2001)

Van Day Truex- New York Apartment- Seen On A DecorativeAffair Blog

Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style 

Timeless Elegance: The Houses of David Easton

Get some more looks from David Easton at Cote de Texas – David Easton and the Center Table

Libby Cameron For Sister Parish

 Born into a prominent New York family in 1910, Dorothy May Kinnicutt (better known as Sister – a nickname her brother gave her) spent her childhood attending elite schools, sailing yachts and going to coming-out parties. She met her husband, Henry Parish II at her own debut party. During the Great Depression, Sister was compelled to work and launched her first design firm in 1933. Her design ability coupled with her social connections, allowed her business to prosper.  Over the decades, Albert Hadley joined Parish in 1962, and together formed a list of clients including the Rockefellers, Astors, Gettys and Kennedys.

Sister paved the way for the “American Country” style. She championed the humble striped cloth called mattress ticking, which had traditionally covered mattresses, and used it to cover chairs and throw pillows.

“She taught me that it doesn’t have to be perfect. That it doesn’t have to match. To follow your instincts.” – Libby Cameron – Parish’s last apprentice.

Sister Parish famously decorating the Kennedy White House – here, the Yellow Oval Room explores her love for color- Take a look behind Sister Parish Design: On Decorating with Kevin Sharkey

Sister Parish -White House Dressing Room

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