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Feb 22, 2006
On a list of influential twentieth-century designers, Albert Hadley sits at the top, with the likes of Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper and Billy Baldwin. No doubt, his decades-long partnership with Sister Parrish and unerring eye for suitability in design have made him the darling of generations of style makers, including Jack and Jackie Kennedy, Brooke Astor, Al and Tipper Gore, and Carly Simon. Yet his protégés may be the contribution that places Hadley in a class by himself-not just current EOL Insiders Bunny Williams, David Easton and Thomas Jayne but also design elites Mario Buatta and Mariette Himes Gomez. After 65 years of practicing and teaching, Hadley now has fourth-generation disciples, including employees of Matthew Patrick Smyth, who traces his Hadley lineage through his former mentor, Easton.
Given Hadley’s influence, it is a disarming surprise to discover that his legend is wrapped in unassuming Southern charm. At 85, he still refers to clients as Mr. or Mrs. (or Duke and Duchess); prefers evenings with students over dinner parties; and reveres Herbert Rodgers, the Nashville decorator who first hired him six decades ago. "He was the outstanding decorator in the South," Hadley says, always gracious with a compliment.
Although the Parrish-Hadley firm has given way to Albert Hadley, Inc., he continues to design the crisp, modern homes without artifice that are his signature. "It’s amazing how many spaces today are not laid out in the most efficient and attractive way for practical living," he says, counseling designers to begin with the architecture in mind. It might seem axiomatic, perhaps, but those who’ve studied at his side understand intuitively: Suitability, simplicity and a lack of ostentation define both the man and his work.
Albert Hadley, Inc.
24 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10021