Albert Hadley was, and remains, a legend. Together, he and the late decorator Sister Parish created some of the most compelling spaces to date for high society and New York’s glitterati. But the Kennedy White House and residences for the Rockefellers, the Paleys, and Brooke Astor notwithstanding, perhaps the purest vision of his genius can be found in his own Manhattan apartment.
Read on for decorating ideas from America’s premier decorator>>
In his own home, Mr. Hadley put conventions aside and fused his much-admired modern aesthetic with his penchant for wildly creative flourishes. Textured walls were a signature, as was shine–seen here in both the Mark Scharillo sunburst mirror and the wall paint.
Idea to Steal: To achieve a subtle bit of texture and add shimmer to his living room walls, Hadley mixed glitter in with neutral paint color.
Hadley not only attended but later taught at Parsons. As much a scholar as a decorator, he filled his home with stacks of books thoughtfully piled high on shelves and tables. With a voracious appetite for knowledge, he believed that a cultured background (whether achieved through study or life experience) was the basis for good taste.
Idea to Steal: Showcase your books. Instead of arranging them in neat rows, give your library a lived-in feeling by stacking your tomes both horizontally and vertically. Adding a piece of art on your bookshelf adds a cultured note.
Hadley championed modernity and could fuse it with the most traditional architecture. It’s a quality that influenced now-famous pupils such as Bunny Williams and Thomas Jayne. It also kept him au courant in his later years. Statement art, a zebra rug, and irreverent yellow, blue, and pink accents transformed his prewar two-bedroom into a space in which ebonized chairs and a midcentury chrome lamp made sense.
Idea to Steal: Play with unexpected colors (just keep the palette simple), and invest in a few modern art and design pieces that look less decorative and more “collected.” Even in the most traditional setting, a contemporary piece that works in your color scheme will be a natural fit.
Hadley’s ability to set trends that eventually became established canons of decorating make him the foremost American decorator of our time. He possessed a strong understanding of scale and knew how to play with it to make a space feel larger or smaller. Covering his bathroom in a fabulous patterned wallpaper of his own design, he turned the traditional New York City-sized loo into a much grander, more significant space .
Idea to Steal: Small spaces deserve as much attention as larger rooms. Covering a tiny room in a patterned wallpaper print makes the walls seem to grow beyond their diminutive proportions. Minimal wall decor maintains this illusion.
The story of a life well-lived is told through the impressive art collection Hadley amassed. Many of his prized pieces are mementos—ties to the glamorous social set with which he kept company. This cherished portrait, featuring Anne Morgan’s head on Elsie de Wolfe’s body, earned Hadley his first invitation to one of de Wolfe’s famed cocktail parties. To enhance its special nature, the work is styled in a tabletop vignette among other collectibles such as an intriguing acrylic orb.
Idea to Steal: Art doesn’t have to be expensive to be significant. It’s all about how you display it. Let your most beloved artworks stand on their own on a table, atop a stack of books, or solo on a wall.