Albert Hadley, often called “The Dean of Design,” died on Friday, March 30 at the age of 91. After attending Parsons School of Design, Hadley began his career with Eleanor Brown at McMillen in 1956. Then in 1962, he began to work for Sister Parish, where his first project was the breakfast room at the White House for the Kennedys. Two years later, he became a full partner in Parish Hadley. Beloved by the entire design community, Hadley leaves a legacy of work which defines 20th century interior design. His influence is wide-reaching, but he also leaves an imprint on the hearts and minds of those who knew him. Quest asked a few of his friends how they will remember Albert Hadley. — GEORGINA SCHAEFFER
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He was so brilliant as a designer and his interiors were works of art—with an aesthetic and design sensibility that imparted certain sense of value and appropriateness. I felt so honored to be a client of his. He didn’t only create beautiful homes, but he created a design for living with a sort of rationality. He had a sense not only of elegance and proportion, but also how you lived your life. I’m so glad our lives intersected. He had a profound effect on not only the houses we live in, but the way in which we lived in them.
When I first met Albert it was in the context of Sister Parish and there was such a striking difference between them. It was such an unlikely marriage and yet it so obviously worked. His sense of color was pitch perfect and he did beautiful sketches. He had such a great kindness and great sense of dignity. He was always willing to go anywhere for his clients and was always excited about it. I don’t think his designs ever got old—they were timeless and never trendy. I could never imagine a time when he wasn’t on his game. Even when the budgets were small, he always worked to get it right. It was a life long connection and friendship. I am honored to be a part of his legacy. As I was interested in design and building things, he too was always fantasizing about having a workshop to design and build things, and play. I would have loved to see him realize his dream. Maybe now…
Albert was a gentleman, a scholar, and a great friend. He was immensely talented with a strict architect’s eye. I had enormous fun working with him for over 30 years. I shall miss him always. My friend, Siri, and I had a great competition on whose dog would get on Albert’s bulletin board. Albert, probably to the detriment of his business, was incredibly generous, giving us all so many presents through the years and Goo Goos every Christmas.
Over 30 years working with Albert, I saw how he used his own vocabulary to tell a different story in each of my homes. But you could always tell that he had been there…a whiff or a real “odeur.” He was utterly un-snobby when it came to provenance. In the early ’80s, he painted our large boiseried living room in white and scattered wicker furniture over a Portuguese carpet. He was always open to including some odd thing I picked up, saying: “Well, it’s absolutely marvelous!” I suspect half the time he was being gracious. I loved his ability to mix whimsy and classicism. He so enjoyed a bit of mischief in an otherwise sedate setting. His wallpapers have followed me everywhere. They are visual Prozac. When we moved, my daughter was so relieved to see the old “shell and dot” in the front hall! To her, that meant she was home. He made us homes, never forgetting who lived in them.
Albert was a great teacher. He loved teaching young people and showing you things you hadn’t seen before. I first met him when I was working in the decorating department of B. Altman. I recognized him from a photo of a room published in Vogue. He was responsible for my beginning. He encouraged me to go to Parsons School of Design’s summer course in Europe, Albert was terrific. He continued to inspire young people to reach into the past and make it modern until the day he left us.”
My father got his summer internship because when he walked into Parish Hadley, Sister heard his voice and thought it sounded like her dead brother, so there has always been something fated about Albert and any member of the Hampton family. Everyone thinks of all the big designers in the ’80s as traditionalists—I think it is a credit to Albert that everyone knows he is a valued modernist, as well as a master of tradition. He wielded his traditionalism with excitement and energy—he was a pioneer.
From the April 2012 issue of Quest Magazine.