Friday, November 6, 2009

Sister and the Dogs

It is the fortunate person who discovers his passion early on in life. So many temptations are spread on the table, so many colours spin by. To travel deep within the grand mountain of possibility and bring out that one bright thing which possesses the power to absorb and enchant for the rest of your life is a blessing indeed.

In the heady nascent days of any new passion, one often finds a hero of sorts, someone to look up to, a person who has sailed the waters before you, smoothly and with great finesse. Such was the case for me when I discovered my love for the creation of beautiful rooms.
I discovered Sister Parish.
Sister Parish, or Mrs. Henry Parish II as she liked to be known, was an American decorator before such creatures were actually known to exist. Her talent was innate, and timeless, and she held tight to a philosophy of design that resonated deeply with me. Though she decorated for Rockefellers and Gettys, Astors and Kennedys, and was known to be more than a trifle imperious, her rooms were infinitely approachable, with a comfort and graciousness that could only be called charming. I would study her furniture placement for hours and I learned a great deal from doing so.

One of Sister's glowing designs

Sister was also a dog lover who held a neighborhood dog show every summer on the lawn of her home in Dark Harbor, Maine. I always adored that idea, of course, so some years back I decided to hold a dog show here in my lovely old Southern neighborhood. Ours is a neighborhood of dog lovers, and the show has been a popular event from day one. This past weekend was our 9th annual show! Awards are given in five categories, with a trophy, medallion and gift basket presented to the “Top Dog” of the neighborhood. Quite appropriately, Edward won “Most Devoted” this year, whilst a bouncy Jack Russell named Ellie Mae took home the award for Top Dog. I wonder what Sister Parish would think if she knew how far her influence had reached!

Edward himself won Top Dog a couple of years ago! Doesn’t he look proud?

Oh and by the way, there is absolutely no age limit posted at the entrance to that mountain of possibility that I mentioned above. I have continued to visit it quite often throughout my life, hauling out new passions with each adventurous trek inside.

“As a child I discovered the happy feelings that familiar things can bring -- an old apple tree, a favorite garden, the smell of a fresh-clipped hedge.... Some think a decorator should change a house. I try to give permanence to a house, to bring out the experiences, the memories, the feelings that make it a home.''
Sister Parish

For those of you interested in interior designer, Sister Parish, I would highly recommend the book Sister, by Apple Bartlett Parish and Susan Bartlett Crater. There is also a brand new book on Mrs. Parish called Sister Parish Design: On Decorating, which promises to delight.
Oh, and it is no coincidence that Mrs. Parish’s daughter and my furry black dog, Apple, share the same delicious name! I told you I was a fan.

Portrait of Sister Parish by Ned Murray