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One Mercantile

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Style Shopping: Stair Galleries’ Albert Hadley Warehouse Sale

Rural Intelligence Style This Friday, Stair Galleries in Hudson will conduct an auction that includes items from the warehouse of Albert Hadley, interior designer extraordinaire, who is retiring at 93.

As Christopher Petkanas writing for the The New York Times recently observed, in the late 1970s through 80s and well beyond, Hadley was so in-demand that the switchboard at his firm Parish-Hadley routinely blew off prospective clients (at least those who were not friends of friends) with, “We’re very busy.”

In my experience, the same went for journalists the firm did not already know.  In the late 70s, when I was starting out as a reporter covering the design beat for that newspaper, I made it my business to get to know all the players—Mark Hampton, Mario Buatta, John Saladino—and if I did not call them first, such was the power of The Times that they made a point of calling me.  All, that is, except Albert Hadley, who neither reached out nor responded to my timid overtures.  So imagine my delight one day on my lunch hour, when I caught The Great Mr. Hadley, Rural Intelligence StyleMrs. Astor’s decorator, shopping in my favorite junk store—the Doyle Galleries Clearance Center, where, in those days, they unloaded the leftovers from estates deemed unworthy of the auction block.  As I had no reason to believe he knew who I was, I felt free to furtively observe as he gathered up item-after-item. (The only one I now recall was a slightly crude, but clever, seemingly homemade shoeshine kit—presumably not destined for Mrs. Astor’s dressing room.)  When he was ready to settle up, coincidentally, so was I.  As we stood side-by-side at the counter, pens poised over our respective checkbooks, he cocked his head slightly in my direction, and smiling shyly whispered, “Don’t tell Mark.”

Rural Intelligence StyleThe soul of charm—even at the height of his success, and it shows in his work, which holds up astonishingly well from first publication (a 1959 bedroom created for a Vogue editorial, “Summer on a Shoestring”) to last.  Much has been made of Hadley’s technical proficiency, and surely he has that, but that is not something the untrained eye would necessarily catch—at least not consciously.  What drew in Princess Diana (who, until the Queen put the royal kabosh on it, had planned for Hadley to do her and Prince Charles’ palace near Windsor) is that charm. 

Now the remains of Hadley’s decorating arsenal are ours for the bidding, 40 lots within a sale of 400 lots of European and Continental furnishings.  In other words, plenty of stuff.  Now it falls to bidders to try to spin Hadley magic out of them.

Stair Galleries
549 Warren Street, Hudson
Thursday, March 31, 1 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday, April 1, 10 a. m. – 6 p.m.
Auction starts on Friday at 6 p.m.

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 03/28/11 at 09:51 AM • Permalink