Saturday, April 28, 2012

Albert Hadley Remembered

Several blogs have paid tribute to the passing of the Dean of American Interior Design, Albert Hadley.  One, written by my friend and former Parish-Hadley employee Thomas Jayne for a NY TIMES blog includes some photos that Devoted Readers may not have seen before.  Anthony Barzilay Freund wrote a fitting tribute for 1st Dibs in which some former employees (including The Devoted Classicist), friends, and clients were quoted in praise of the legendary designer, accompanied by photos of his work.  And now VERANDA magazine has a similar tribute produced by long-time A.H. devotee Carolyn Englefied with interviews by Mimi Read in the May-June, 2012, issue.
Rendering by Albert Hadley
now in the collection of the New York School of Interior Design.
This Albert Hadley sketch of a proposed New York City Living Room is from the VERANDA article, as is the photo at the start of the post.  The sketch is a remarkably characteristic expression by Mr. Hadley, showing a ceiling perhaps a bit higher than actual, a mixture of antiques and contemporary furniture, comfortable upholstery and auxiliary pieces and an acknowledgement of architecture, in this case the large scale paving and the big but well-proportioned window.  Although the art appears to be contemporary, it could be a large traditional painting in the final realized scheme.  Of course there is decorative lighting instead of recessed downlights, in this case a two-tiered chandelier.  The indication of pattern might be the most telling, however.  It is not the intent that it be a spotted room, but rather that is just a proposal for the walls, curtains, folding screen, armless chairs, and large pair of square cushions to be all the same fabric.  The sofa is shown in a subtle stripe, but that meant a fabric different from the previous.  And the center decorative cushion in an accent fabric meant just that;  maybe it was a Alan Campbell batik just as it appears.  A study of any of Albert Hadley's later sketches reveals similar thought put into his initial designs.

The Sanctuary of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville.
Photo:  American Guild of Organists

Albert Hadley lived a long life and shared his talent for design and gracious living with scores of clients and employees whose careers he so greatly influenced.  Uncharacteristic of an individual of such stature in the the design field, he was modest and very private.  Along with relatives, friends, and other former employees, I attended his funeral a few weeks ago in Nashville.  It was as sparse and modest as he undoubtedly requested.  The Sanctuary appeared as it would on any other day;  there was no additional decoration for the funeral.  The pastor gave a brief history of Mr. Hadley's life, but there was no eulogizing.  For me, the memorial service will be the opening of the exhibit of selections from the personal archives that had been donated to the Nashville Public Library as related in my February 9, 2012, post Albert Hadley: The Zen of Seeing.  Surrounded by a sampling of personal scrapbooks and sketches, Bunny Williams addressed a gathering of appreciative Albert Hadley fans with stories of his achievements and influence, interspersed with anecdotes.  I have many personal recollections, of course, but that address by Bunny will be the tribute to the great man to remember.


  1. Devoted readers, I am currenting having some difficulties in being allowed to edit. But the intent of the last sentence is to say that Bunny's address at the exhibit opening would take the place in my mind as the memorial service.

  2. Dear John,

    Another great post! Albert would have loved your tribute, displaying such masculine modesty.
    You are part of the legacy he left behind, and so am I. What luck!


    1. Thanks, Dean. It is indeed a legacy to be proud of and so many of us will always be indebted.

  3. Beautiful tribute to an extraordinary man. Humility in face of accolades and achievement is a true sign of greatness. He will be missed by all. Mary

  4. Thank you again for that very thoughtful analysis of that room. I love it, but I didn't know why. You are always training my eye! Its interesting that the large art piece is considerable longer than the console. I wouldn't mind a discussion on that.

    1. Liz, in this case the base for the large painting is not just a console but the three elements of console and pair of flanking chairs. The big painting with a minimal frame sets a more contemporary tone than a grouping of art in traditional frames, for example. Not that the latter would necessarily be so much better than the former, but it is just different. While it is important to know "Decorating Rules", it is even better to know when to break them.


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