How a Groundbreaking Interior Designer Helped Jackie O. Change the White House

Sister Parish is credited with creating American country style, a recognizable and quirky mix of old and new.


During her life, designer and decorator Sister Parish was known for her unique taste. Today, her influence can be felt across the country. As the inventor of American country style, sometimes called “shabby chic,” echoes of her style can be seen in Ralph Lauren catalogs and Martha Stewart Living magazines. “If you have a quilt,” the New York Times wrote, “you probably owe it to Ms. Parish.”
Parish was the first person who First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy hired to decorate the White House, and her influence can still be seen in several rooms in the building. In the end, Parish had a clash with the First Lady, leading her to move on to other well-known buildings–but not before she helped Kennedy found the White House Historical Association.

The first day Kennedy visited the White House as First Lady, Bernard West, a White House usher, said in an interview, she brought Parish with her. “They called me into the [Blue Room],” he recalled, and “she wanted to know what I knew about the history of the room.”

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