A Conversation with Eliza Crater Harris of Sister Parish Design

Sister Parish Design is one of the most iconic American brands, founded by legendary interior designer Sister Parish in 1933 at the age of 23.  SPD is a fourth generation female owned and operated family business, now run by Susan Crater (Sister’s granddaughter) and her daughter, Creative Director Eliza Crater Harris. Kneeland Co. Rarities is proud to be the Los Angeles showroom for their diverse and thoughtfully designed line of fabric and wall coverings, all produced in the US.  With a deep love and insatiable curiosity for pattern and color, Eliza shares her creative process and the design ethos of SPD in A Conversation With.

1. What is your approach to designing a print, and how does it come to life?  Prints are so personal, as is color.  Do you have a process for deciding on both, or do you like to go with the flow and experiment?

I typically begin my design process with a vintage textile I have collected or an archival textile from the Parish Hadley archives . I have been collecting patterns for years, so it really comes down to editing. This is when I start to envision my clients and their dream projects. What can I design for them that will make their dream projects come to life? 

2. My favorite stories about Sister are of her visiting artists in New York who were making textiles in their apartments, dyeing fabric in bathtubs.  She also loved to pick up textiles on her worldwide travels, and she was a true champion of craft.  What was her creative vision for the business, and did she and her business partner Albert Hadley share that vision?

Her creative vision was to design comfortable, imaginative, luxurious rooms for people that had it all, who “had made it”, so to speak.  This sounds simple, but it was actually quite difficult.  Sister and Albert were the best at designing spaces that felt both comfortable and luxurious for the most grand moments, as well as, for the most intimate. A dining room, for example, should be a space to host the most glamorous of guests, as well as, the closest of family. I believe that the great designers of today are great for this reason as well. Together she and Albert always aimed for the pinnacle of craftsmanship, professionalism, and style!

3. I really feel that there is a perfect mix of traditional prints and unexpected prints that tie in to various design aesthetics in the SP collection.  For example, the Sintra is such a classic Tree of Life pattern that feels like a mainstay.  And then you have the Rees, my personal favorite and what I’m about to use in my bedroom, that feels very cool and has a sort of tribal mood.  The Rees was based on an archival piece that Sister found while traveling.  The collection really feels like a great balance.  Is that something that was important to Sister, and how do you continue to honor her sensibility?

Thank you! Yes, Sister believed that great design is truly created by designers that are curious and that have had exposure. Exposure to travel, books, museums, people. I make a point to stay curious and to stretch my comfort zone around color and pattern. Whether I’m taking a risk on color or scale or learning how to work with a new vendor, my goal is to keep building a collection that is as thoughtful as it is diverse. 

4. What fabrics and wallpapers are you currently using in your house?

I love our Mahalo performance textile check. This is a more traditional woven check that works really well with more complicated patterns or a more neutral scheme. I can't recommend this textile enough. I also love our Campobello woven on my outdoor sofa. It’s perfect for my kids to lounge around on and eat ice cream and is also so classic and chic for when I have friends over for a glass of wine. 

5. Will you be introducing anymore prints based on archival pieces?

Yes! Always! My great grandmother had such a robust body of work that the inspiration is endless. 

Please email us for samples or additional information on Sister Parish wall coverings and fabrics