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Sister Parish Reimagines Mayflower Inn & Spa for the Holiday Season

American heritage textile and wallcovering brand, Sister Parish, is transforming Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge’s New England retreat in Litchfield, Connecticut, into a festive wonderland adorned with custom fabrics and decorations for the holiday season.

The fourth-generation female-owned-and-operated family business pays tribute to iconic interior designer Sister Parish, who decorated the greatest of American homes for more than six decades, including the White House. Now at the helm, Chief Creative Officer Eliza Crater Harris reflects on her great-grandmother’s legacy and how she’s creating a celebratory ambiance filled with holiday spirit at the Mayflower Inn & Spa.

What made Sister Parish such an icon in the design world?

My great-grandmother, Sister Parish, opened her decorating business during the 1930s, and went on to decorate the homes of America’s high society including the Kennedys, Astors, Whitneys, and Rockefellers. There were museum-worthy art collections on the walls of many of her client’s homes, and she had the skill of decorating in a way that felt warm and comfortable, rather than cold and sterile. As her business grew, she brought on Albert Hadley as a partner, forming the legendary design studio, Parish Hadley. The pair hired and shaped generations of design talent including Bunny Williams, David Kleinberg, Nate Berkus and Thom Filicia.

"My great-grandmother was an extremely confident designer and wouldn’t compromise her vision for anyone, including Jackie O and Prince Andrew and Fergie."

Jackie Kennedy’s Bedroom at the White House, Designed by Sister Parish, 1961, Washington, DC, USA.

Sister Parish Portrait, 1976, NYC

Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design, Hardcover, Published January 1, 1995

Sister Parish and Albert Hadley, 1964

Photography by Maura McEvoy

How are you keeping Sister Parish’s legacy alive today?

Most of our designs are inspired by an archive of textiles that Sister and Albert designed at their studio. We have a textile called Petite Fleur that my great-grandmother created for Caroline Kennedy’s childhood bedroom. Our Sintra pattern was developed from a tree of life design she created for curtains in the Astors’ library. And there’s a whole buffet of textiles derived from fabrics and wall coverings she used for her own houses as well.

How will you transform the Mayflower Inn & Spa for the holiday season?

The Mayflower Inn & Spa is inherently cozy, just what you crave during the winter season. But with the Sister Parish touch, expect pots and pots of paperwhites, cut evergreens, candlelight, layers of textiles and a feeling of whimsy and holiday magic.

Our Serendipity fabric is inspired by a print that Albert designed called Trixie and Fireworks, which is a simple but playful star and dot print that we rescaled and recolored with cranberry red and spruce green to create custom, American-made holiday pillows, lampshades and star ornaments that will dress Mayflower’s iconic 18-foot Christmas Tree. We also worked with florist Dark and Diamond who will garnish the public spaces with locally foraged branches, berries, pine cones and all kinds of festive greenery. Needlework artist Hibiscus Linens will add hand-stitched details to our bespoke holiday ornaments. And our Sister Parish holiday stockings will hang on every mantel, which guests can purchase at the hotel to take home as a festive memento of their stay.

"My inspiration and intention for the holiday decorations at the Mayflower Inn & Spa is to bring in the opulent traditions that my great-grandmother Sister, grandmother Apple and my mother have passed on to me. The result will provide the warmth and timeless feeling of a truly New England Christmas!"

Do you have any holiday decorating tips?

I love to collect fallen pine cones and spray paint them in metallic colors to add a little shimmer and sparkle to a garland or table setting. It’s fun, inexpensive and very easy to do! You can also use branches or buy gold magnolia leaves from a craft store if you don’t live in a forested area. Adding garlands or greenery to mantles and tables can really make a home feel festive. Additionally, some of my favorite holiday decorations are family heirlooms and handmade ornaments that we hang on the tree every year. A pretty collection of stockings is always a special touch. In terms of florals, I particularly like paperwhite flowers and amaryllis bulbs. I’m a big fan of any kind of bulb because you know that the flower will last longer.

"When decorating, focus on what makes you feel good. I don’t think there’s any kind of formula, just use your imagination and don’t overthink it."

Photography by John Gruen

Photography by Read McKendree, Styling by Mieke ten Have

Photography by John Gruen

What do you think makes the Mayflower Inn & Spa a special place to visit?

The property is a visual masterpiece, not only because of Celerie Kemble‘s insanely beautiful décor but also for its idyllic location–enveloped by the beautiful, untouched Connecticut countryside. Inside, the guestrooms are gorgeous and there are little nooks to be discovered where you can gather with loved ones or just curl up with a book and a hot toddy.

"The Mayflower is an incredibly magical setting."
Photography by Maura McEvoy

What can guests shop at the Sister Parish boutique located in Litchfield, CT?

At the store, we sell discounted fabric and wallpaper, which you can’t shop anywhere else. We have our entire collection stocked here, and it’s a fun activity to rifle through the samples. Our shop is chock-full of pillows and we can also cut fabrics into custom yardages for our clients to make holiday table runners, stockings and other holiday décor that pays homage to American heritage design.