Sister Parish Design is a household name in the interior design world. Founded in 1933 by Sister Parish and Albert Hadley, the studio’s classic aesthetic has a rich history and legacy in the interior design industry. Their work is characterized by a unique design aesthetic that blends a traditional style with artful prints to create spaces that are timeless, elegant, and functional. The family-run and female-owned business stays true to their principal philosophy with sustainable American design that stands the test of time. We had the privilege of sitting down with the Chief Creative Officer and Sister’s great-granddaughter, Eliza Crater Harris, for today’s creator interview. Join us as we delve into her design experience, creative inspiration, and journey in the design industry!
01 / We’re so inspired by your personal style and design aesthetic. Can you tell us a little about your background and your journey to where you are now?
Thank you! I’m very lucky to have grown up in a family where many of our conversations centered around interior design. We love houses, gardens, and all that comes with them. I have always been inspired by the fantasy of well-decorated houses and how they tell a story.
My fascination has only grown with time. I began as a child playing with baskets of my great-grandmother’s scarves and textiles at her house in Maine and went on to study art history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Upon graduating, I worked as an assistant stylist and went on to work on the most amazing design projects under Markham Roberts in New York City.
We recently moved to a pre-revolutionary house in the countryside and am now really honing in on my own personal tastes. I’m a total sponge and keep learning and loving this world more and more as I get older.
02 / How did your experiences in set design, interior design, and product design lead you to join Sister Parish Design? How did you feel those experiences prepared you?
We are a family business so I knew when I was well-educated in the industry, I would be joining. I’m so grateful for my time working for some of the most talented and hardworking makers and interior designers in the business. It takes hours of hard work and meticulous attention to detail to make a fantasy world in your mind come alive and for it also to be comfortable, within budget, and on time! I hold myself and my team to these same standards. My goal is to not only make unique, sustainably made, and inspiring fabrics and wallcoverings, but also to provide unbelievable customer service and to make working with us as easy and professional as possible.
03 / Your creative vision is truly refreshing and reflective of the unique prints Sister Parish Design offers. There are so many thoughtful details incorporated in your company’s identity that communicate your family’s story. Can you explain how you do this so seamlessly as Chief Creative Officer?
I think that this is the lucky piece of working for your family business. The story telling piece comes totally naturally and I don’t have to think too much about it. I’m really proud of all the women in my family that came before me. We are one another’s biggest cheerleaders and fans. It is my intention to infuse the company with this family pride in hopes that it will inspire our customers to cheer one another on and inspire one another in the same way. As my mom always says, a rising tide lifts all boats!
04 / Something that sets Sister Parish Design apart is the variety of textiles you have available. Your collections consist of older patterns from your great-grandmother’s archives mixed with newer patterns designed and launched by your current team. How do you continue to honor your family’s design legacy through the patterns you continue to create?
Truly good design lasts through generations. I’ve been lucky and privileged enough to be surrounded by good design my entire life and this is not lost on me. Many of my favorite pieces are either inherited from my great grandmother or inspired by her work. I just had a custom sofa made with BuildLane that is inspired by a custom sofa she would make for her Parish Hadley clients. My superpower is tapping into all of this unbelievable exposure and to cultivate and grow a team that continues to develop my great grandmother’s sentiment that “Innovation is the ability to reach into the past and bring back what is good, what is useful, what is beautiful, what is lasting.”
05 / Congratulations on Sister Parish Design’s first brick and mortar shop! How was it to dream up the interiors of your company’s lovely space?
Thank you! It’s so much fun to create a little shop in the countryside. Both my grandmother and my great grandmother had little shops on the island we go to in Maine. This is definitely an homage to those shops. You can find special prices on discounted textiles side by side with beautifully upholstered antique furniture and heaps of pillows and lampshades. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is meant to be a space to explore and be inspired. I personally love working out of the space. It’s like a little colorful patterned cocoon. Come visit us!!
06 / You recently embarked on a completely new and special journey — motherhood. How do you navigate balancing work life with life as a mama?
All I can say is that there is absolutely no one size fits all to motherhood. Every mother / working mother has their own entirely unique journey. For me, one of the most fun parts of motherhood is learning and laughing with other mothers. Actually, I can say one thing. You need a sense of humor. Otherwise you are doomed!! As far as the workpiece goes, my mother is my inspiration and role model. She started her career as a corporate lawyer and then became an artist and then a writer and then officially preserved my great grandmother’s legacy in her reignition of my great grandmother’s company Parish Hadley in her textile and wallcovering company Sister Parish Design that she started in 2000.
07 / When you’re not working, what does your day-to-day look like?
I’m with my kids and husband. I have a 2 year old and a 3 month year old. We spend a ton of time making giant messes at my house and then cleaning them up!
08 / In the words of Sister Parish, “To Design is to Dream.” How do you incorporate this principle in your life?
I highly value tapping into my imagination, whether I’m working at Sister Parish or at home with my kids. Being in the moment and reaching into that place where anything is possible is in my opinion what life is all about. A sofa is no longer a sofa but a whaling ship. Or a dining room is no longer a dining room but a metallic palm leaf forest.
09 / What piece of advice would you share with aspiring creators?
If it feels good, then it’s right.
10 / What are you working on at the moment, and what’s next for Sister Parish Design?
We have a new print called Brio (named after my grandmother’s Cairn terrier) that will be released in a few weeks. It comes in a fabric and a wallcovering and I can’t wait to see how our customers use it. Albert Hadley used the pattern in his Southport house and I’ve been forever obsessed with the images of it. I’m thrilled we are able to bring the pattern back to market. We will continue to build our collection and inspire our clients by tapping into what we know best, good lasting design originally cultivated by my great grandmother, Mrs. Henry Parish II, when she opened her business during the great depression.
We hope you’re feeling inspired by Eliza and her family’s studio – we know we are! Follow along with Sister Parish Design on Instagram to keep the inspiration flowing and head to their website to shop their impressive collection of fabric, wallcoverings, and furniture. For more creator interviews, check out our recent sit-downs with Blakely Made and Riley Sheehey. Thanks so much for tuning in. Until next time!