Last Friday, I learned that the great English decorator, Tom Parr, had died in late July. My friend Will Merrill emailed me a link to Parr's obituary in The Telegraph. (Click here if you would like to read it.) A short time later, Toby Worthington also emailed me a link to The Telegraph article. What strange timing that many of us learned of his death a week after the obituary was published and more than a month after his death.
Parr was, to borrow Toby Worthington's description, "one of the last of the gentleman decorators." (According to his obituary, Parr preferred the term "decorator" to "interior designer.") After making a splash on the design scene with an early partnership with David Hicks, Parr went on to become Chairman of the venerable British design firm Colefax and Fowler.
I have featured Parr's work in past blog posts, but I think we should revisit it. His work possessed such finesse. His attention to detail, whether it be in the elaborate edging of a curtain or a decorative finish on a chair, lent polish to his interiors. And what is even more refreshing is that his design schemes don't appear to have been crafted for the sole purpose of publication. Rather, he worked to give his clients comfortable and refined environments in which to live with ease.
It seems too that Parr could be quite witty. When discussing suitability in design, he once said "What is maddening is when people want something that cannot be done in a particular space. Some people buy a cottage in the country and want it to look like a Hollywood villa. And there's that awful idea of putting double basins in a very small bathroom. Why? What is the point, unless the people are going to have a race to see who can do their teeth first." Good point and one that I had never considered before.
Below is a brief survey of his some of his interiors. Unfortunately, my library seems to be lacking in books featuring Parr's work. Thanks to Mr. Worthington's impressive design library, we were able to flesh this post out with some memorable examples.
The images above, including the photo at top, show Parr's flat in Eaton Square. Note that striking carpet in photos #3 and #4; named "Rocksavage", it's a replica of the carpet at Cholmondeley Castle.
A more recent photo of Parr in the famous Yellow Room at Colefax and Fowler. It was Parr who, in the early 1960s, recommended that the firm purchase the lease to their showroom at 39 Brook Street in Mayfair. The showroom remains at that location today.
A drawing room in a Swiss villa that was decorated by Parr. Again, "Rocksavage" carpet was used. According to Mr. Worthington, the velvet was stamped in Parr's favorite "Sans Gene" pattern.
Parr also designed a converted vicarage home for the Earl and Countess of Wilton.
Designed by Parr in the late 1960s, the decor of the drawing room at Easton Grey (an 18th century house owned by Didi and Peter Saunders) still looks fresh today.
A drawing room in a stone manor house near Bath that was decorated by Parr.
In this bedroom at Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire, Parr created a lighter look by painting the room's original c. 1720 paneling in tones of blue. "Charlotte" chintz was used throughout the room.
The dining room in "The Cottage" at Badminton. Parr decorated it for the Somersets before David Somerset became Duke of Beaufort, at which time the family moved into the grander Badminton House. The Duke and Duchess of Beaufort were long-time clients of Parr.
A Parr decorated drawing room at Albany, London.
A more exotic Parr scheme in the Turkish Room at a Mayfair flat. The chairs were Colefax copies of an 18th c. century chair bought by Parr at Sotheby's 25 years earlier.
The first four photos of Parr's Eaton Square flat are from Living in Vogue by Judy Brittain and Patrick Kinmonth. Image #5 from a 1994 World of Interiors brochure published in conjunction with Colefax & Fowler; Jan Baldwin photographer. Images 6-12 from The House and Garden Book of Classic Rooms . Photos of the Chicheley Hall bedroom and the dining room at "The Cottage" at Badminton are from Colefax & Fowler: The Best in English Interior Decoration. Albany drawing room plus Parr quote from World of Interiors, September 1984, James Mortimer photographer. Last two photos of Turkish Room from World of Interiors, August 1987. I would like to thank Toby Worthington for providing me with most of these images.