Sister Parish and the Development of American Country Style

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Dorothy May Kinnicutt was an American interior decorator. She was born in New Jersey during the year 1910. Although her nickname may suggest someone of a religious background, whose life is dedicated to prayer and penitence. Sister Parish actually got her nickname from her childhood as she was commonly referred to as “Sister”. Her older brother came up with the nickname when she was younger, because she was the only girl in a family with five children. Sister got married to Harry Parish in 1930. Together they had two daughters and one son. And as of today her granddaughter still runs an interior design company in her name.
She is widely credited with developing the style of interior decoration known as “American Country Style”. Sister never knew her grandmother because she died shortly after she was born, but she recalls her grandparent’s house as “large, dark and musty and full of polar bear rugs, moose heads and antlers everywhere”. Her parents were wealthy and spent a considerable amount of money on trips to Europe, in hope that the exposure of art and architecture would improve their children’s education. Her style has been called baroque and freewheeling.

Sister Parish was credited with developing American Country Style, which was established during the 1960’s. Sister was partial to the English country house look. She would typically use overstuffed armchairs, brocade sofas, knitted throws and four-poster beds. Continuity and character along with color and comfort were the foundation of Sister’s decorating and style. When redecorating a room, it was her tradition to roll a teacart through the house, getting rid of anything she deemed unnecessary often intimidating the clients.
In 1933, during the Depression Sister decided to go into the interior decorating business officially. She was very young when she opened her business and even stated, “She had never opened a window or poured a glass of water myself. In 1962 after she had made a name for herself, she created a firm partnership with Albert Hadley. And then the firm Parish-Hadley was born. Their company motto was that rooms are for people, and that we want to make them as attractive and comfortable as possible. She decorated her first country home after her and her family moved to New Jersey. The house was a huge success and all of her neighbors started to hire her to decorate their houses. She lived next to the senator, Joseph Frelinghuysen and he asked her to decorate a new restaurant nearby.

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