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Dean of American Interior Decorating Dead at 84

September 10, 1994

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sister Parish, the interior designer whose career carried her from a one- room New Jersey business to refurbishing the White House for the Kennedys, has died at 84.

Mrs. Parish died Thursday at her home in Dark Harbor, Maine, after suffering a lengthy illness, said her daughter, Dorothy B. Gilbert.

During her six decades in the business, Mrs. Parish became the grande dame of American interior decorating. In addition to the Kennedys, she worked for many of America’s best-known families: the Astors, Mellons, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Whitneys.

Mrs. Parish was ″the most famous of all living women interior decorators ... (her) ideas have influenced life styles all over America,″ Vogue magazine once wrote.

Her business started in a one-room office at a farmhouse in Far Hills, N.J., and evolved into the pricey Manhattan-based Parish-Hadley Associates.

Born Dorothy May Kinnicut in Morristown, N.J., she was dubbed Sister as a child and the name stuck. Her interest in decorating was first aroused by a visit to Paris, where she was impressed by painted French furniture.

She married Wall Street stockbroker Henry Parish in 1930 and moved to Far Hills.

The White House was her biggest coup. She had met Jacqueline Kennedy in the late 1950s and redcorated the Georgetown home she shared with then-Sen. John F. Kennedy.

When Kennedy became president, Mrs. Kennedy named Mrs. Parish a consultant in the redecorating of the White House and placed her on a committee to furnish it with 19th-century pieces.

Mrs. Parish was a champion of the American country style, which dovetailed with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes. The first lady was a person of ″simple tastes who wants to create a home,″ said Parish.

Mrs. Parish is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Gilbert of Hot Springs, Ark., and May Appleton Bartlett, of Boston, as well as eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1977.

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