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


  1. Oh goodness me, Pamela, that top dog of yours must have set many a female dog's heart fluttering. Isn't he handsome.

  2. Timeless is as timeless does. Definitely will look up Sister Parish. Oh what friends she must have had in the Rockfeelers, Gettys, Astors and more. And what tales she could tell!

  3. Well, of course Edward would win! He is a handsome fellow!
    I was thinking about you the other day when I was posting some pictures of my house on my blog, and wondering if you'd look at them and roll your eyes at my decorating attempts. So, of course, I quickly moved them to the about me section. But now reading your words, I feel the graciousness of your soul and know that you are above the eye rolling.


    Edward is more handsome than Sister, let's just say, and she was a rather beautiful woman

    cheers, woof woof,

  5. It is certainly a gift when we find our passion.
    The neighborhood dog show sounds fantastic! Edward is his handsome, handsome self-as always.

  6. I've often wondered what your rooms look like, Pamela. I imagine them to be beautiful, timeless and inviting. How interesting to read about someone who inspired you. Yes, I think you really need that passion to be really successful at something.

    Lovely about the dog show, and dear Edward looks completely gorgeous.

  7. How handsome is Edward? Wow..he is a looker :)

  8. Beautiful posting as always
    Love Jeanne

  9. Lovely post from you again, thank you

  10. Oh, Pamela...Edward is my perfect dog. I think that I love him, nearly as much as you do!!
    How lovely that Sister Parish has inspired you so much..... and I can see why.....such beautiful and elegant rooms. XXXX

  11. your dog is really beautiful and adorable!
    always so photografic!
    my dogs usually turn away from me!
    they don't like the paparazzi
    I think!!!
    What do I see there...does Edward have a blue/ purple tongue?
    gr. Anna

  12. How fun, Pamela!
    I've read a little about Sister Parish. Very interesting!
    Tanner would love to come to the show! He might eat up all the prizes, though.

  13. Edward does looked devoted. What a great idea & I do think Sister would be pleased. la

  14. I totally agree that Edward is top dog. And I second the opinion that we would like for you to feature your work.

  15. Lovely, your opening line reminded me of Celia Thaxter's writing. Surely you have, An Island Garden ?

    Reading House & Garden magazine in the late 80's I saw a living room that looked like mine. Well, similar. Finally, a home WITHOUT a decorator.

    In the article I discovered it was Sister Parish. Don't you love the confidence of pure youthful ignorance? (Mine, not hers!)

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  16. Interesting post and now neat that Sister Parish inspired you and I can see why, that room is beautiful.
    How fun to have a dog show and I can see why Edward got best dog of show ~ I love him.


  17. An elegant lady, and Edward so noble and handsome!

  18. Gorgeous post. I thought I was the only person who knew about Sister Parish... LOL.

    Oh how I love Edward. My greyhound Molly Brown would love Edward too, I bet. ;)

    Candace in Athens.

  19. Your neighbor dog show sounds like a fun event. It's this sort of thing that brings neighbors together and makes friends of them. Dogs have a way of doing that as well, don't they? Who can resist a friendly dog?

  20. Gorgeous Edward! Where would we be without these beautiful creatures - the world would be a poorer place.

  21. It's amazing how much happiness our dogs bring to our lives. I can't imagine my life without Frasier and Bebe. Congratulations to you and Edward!

    I enjoyed reading about your love of Sister Parish's work. I will definitely buy her new book. It sounds like it will be a wonderful addition to my design library.


  22. I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture given by "Sister" and one of the things I walked away with was that a room should make one feel like a "top dog" - happy to come home to with a warm welcome. Gracious and well mannered dogs require a home full of treats as well as their owners.
    (I adore the book and the illustrations of Mita are as lovely as she! She signed my copy!)

  23. Love sister & Edward!
    Real gems .....

  24. Hello P&E,

    I'm just a little sad for Apple at the moment, not having won anything? What a great neighbourhood tradition you've established and great advice on discovering that passion.

  25. homage to the mountain, to sister parish, you, and of course, the pic in the side bar with him hugging you in your hat!! most affectionate, indeed!!

  26. She sounds like a wonderful woman. I wonder if she has a diary which has been published? What tales she would be able to tell.

  27. What a fantastic post, Pamela. I love Sister Parish, too, and can relate to studying her work closely. She is one of the design greats.

    I also love what you said about that curiosity having no age limit. That is the key, I believe, to a joyous, full life. You are such an inspiration!! xoxo

  28. Sister Parish was very influenced by the cosy/grand style of English interiors, wasn't she? Rugs, beautiful curtains and cushions, good furniture from different time periods . . . handed down through the generations if possible.

    I love the quotation from her; that resonated with me.

    Have you ever done a post on your dog shows? They sound charming.

  29. Edward is always #1 in my book.

    So is Sister Parish; good role models are hard to find these days.

  30. Sister is very elegant looking...and I love her quote of "...the happy feelings that familiar things can bring..."

  31. sometimes it's a little eccentricity that gets it done - gorgeous room and as always, Edward steals the show :)

  32. The idea of a neighborhood dog show has my brain turned up and on. I'd invite them all, Edward and Apple can come too...I'll make the dog treats, we'll have plenty of water and toys and medals for sure! Love the magic and the creativity of who you are and what you bring to the world. Have you ever been to the blog "Nowhere"? A small group of writers are on a journey to Nowhere...You may enjoy it.

  33. Congratulations Edward. And to you too of course!! suzie. xx

  34. Interesting post Pamela.
    Isn't it wonderful finding new passions and heroes?
    Love the idea of running your own dog show - Edward deserved to win, he is a beauty.
    We used to show Dobermanns many moons ago.
    Sorry I have not been by lately, life has been hectic.

  35. I can see why you admire Sister Parish and her work. It is a remarkable skill to be able to create a beautiful home; so many designers create show houses, which lack that certain something.

    Our local dog show has a category called “the dog most like its owner”, now I hope I am not going to offend you here but I do think Edward would stand a good chance of winning! You have the same smile.

  36. How wonderful Sister Parish sounds. Thanks for introducing me to her and I love that you are continuing her neighborhood dog show tradition.

  37. very well done to edward, clever fellow. It is a very precious thing, to find a passion that absorbes. It can cure many ills!! I hadn't heard of sister Parish before, thank you for the post x ruthie

  38. How fun, Pamela... a neighborhood dog show. Do you have a "dog most likely to find the only, tiny patch of dirt in the whole yard and roll in it every day" award? My Bob would win that one, no contest.
    Of course, I love all the rest you wrote about passion and Sister Parish but there's just too much to say and only this little box...

  39. Edward will always be "Top Dog" to me! He always looks so cheerful.

    Sister Parish sounds like a very interesting person.

    "It is the fortunate person who discovers his passion early on in life" ...would you believe that reading the book "Nancy Nurse" when I was four made me wish to become an Registered Nurse? Fantasy became true and I worked many years as an RN until my knees were giving me too much trouble and I had to retire.
    Thankfully blogging had become a new "career" lol. It has been so gratifying to meet lovely people as yourself through it, Pamela.

  40. I love the idea of a dog show! How cute Edward looks.

  41. oh I love that quote from Sister Parish - that is just how I see a home. And a dog show on the lawn - how grand! I wish I could bring Milla - although I dread to think what title she would win! Lovely post Pamela

  42. Lovely post and photos as usual, Pamela. I always love coming over here. Your dog show sounds marvelous and the Sister Parish room is gorgeous--some of my favorite colors.

    Have a lovely weekend.

  43. Very inspiring post...if I wasn't following you already then 'infacto'(thats the word verification to fill in :) I would do so today..Happy weekend!

  44. A wonderful portrait Pamela ....and I am a fan too, xv.

  45. This Edward of your is a gem.... and handsome to behold! Love that furry creature, I am a dog lover myself.
    Mine is a humle, but noble mutt...

    Sister Parish is one of my all time favorites and idols in early design, she is so graceful and I love her colors.



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