Eliza Harris, Chief Creative Officer, Sister Parish Design
You come from a family with big shoes to fill as it pertains to Interior Design. Were you always certain you wanted to join the family business? Were your roles before coming to SP always part of the plan?
I was sure I wanted to be in a creative field. Coming from such a creative family - not just Sister, but also my grandmother Apple being an artist - I do think creativity runs very strongly in our family. However, I needed to get an education in Interior Design before joining Sister Parish Design. I was a project manager at Markham Roberts after college which gave me the experience I needed to go on to be the Chief Creative Director at Sister Parish and carry on the family business.
What was the first area in which you first had strong opinions about aesthetics? Interiors? Clothing? Hair? Makeup? How did little Eliza test and flex her aesthetic muscles? I think design as a whole goes together to create a lifestyle; since I was young I have been infatuated with fashion, art, interiors, and trends. When I was little, I always wanted my room to be beautiful and cared a lot for my space.
What do you think distinguishes good interiors firms of today from those of the past? How have these businesses evolved and how has SP kept pace?
A good firm has to be aware of the changing world but also stay true to themselves. In the past you stay on top of industry trends – but trends didn’t change as rapidly as they do now. Now it’s imperative that you’re not only keeping up with industry trends, but with social media/marketing trends as well. An online presence and beautiful e-commerce experience alone is not enough. One way that Sister Parish has been able to evolve into the present is by prioritizing a strong presence on Instagram. We love sharing insider tips and tricks, new products, behind the scenes at SPD and connecting with our clients and community. We prioritize answering all of our DMs and using Instagram as a channel to understand what we can improve upon and what people are loving.
How do you channel the original Sister Parish aesthetic identity in SP’s work today? Do you try to hew to tradition in some respects or are you comfortable eschewing tradition in favor of what’s right for today’s business and clients?
I don’t think you ever have to throw away the past to stay in the present – one of Sister’s most famous quotes is, “Innovation is often the ability to reach into the past and bring back what is good, what is beautiful, what is useful, what is lasting.” We add new colors that are more modern than what Sister may have used and update the scale of a print if we find that a lot of people are suggesting we go bigger or smaller. We have also introduced performance fabric since it is so useful! One of my favorite examples of how we’ve channeled Sister’s aesthetic identity to product today is our recent roll out of Dolly Stripe Fabric and Dolly Flower Fabric. We took the iconic Dolly print and isolated two details (the flower and stripe) to create two separate fabrics that are more versatile but can be matched back to the original Dolly and mix seamlessly with the rest of our collection too. Traditional doesn’t mean staying stagnant, tradition can be a living thing and I think Sister Parish embodies that sentiment.
Do you have a keen sense of how interior design work is fitted for the lives of the family, versus the lives of childless or post-child adults?
Yes, I think with children you have to account for the fact that they’re messy! A performance fabric is a great option for someone with kids but more than just that you have to think about how kids come with so many toys and things. I think it is important to have the kids play area and know that will be a crazy part of the house and try to have areas for yourself. When the kids grow up then you can really go at it designing your home and trying to keep it perfect but when they’re young embrace the chaos! Also when it comes to designing a nursery, always think long term. I make sure that the spaces I design for my children can be transformed into guest rooms, or that the curtains, pillows or window treatments I make can be moved throughout the house as well.
What are some of your favorite SP prints - - in fabric or wallpaper and where would we find them in your home?
I just wallpapered my kitchen in Kismet which is such a fun print and a nod to some of Sister’s more modern interiors. Of course Sintra is a classic print so I used that in red in my guest room and really created a dramatic space. The walls are papered in Sintra and the bed is upholstered in the inverted colors. Definitely one of my favorite rooms in my house. I also am so happy we introduced performance fabric. I have a couch upholstered in Mahalo in Indigo in my living room. This couch gets so much wear and I love how Mahalo is holding up.
How do you go about introducing the next generation of potential customers to this heritage brand?
In terms of the “next generation”, we prioritize our digital presence through Instagram and email. We’ve also been having a blast doing in-person events, working with influencers and doing collaborations with other “younger” brands. At the same time, we still honor the timelessness of print and enjoy creating beautiful mailings.
How do you bring young people who aren’t ready or able to afford customization in home into the proverbial fold of a firm like SP? What kind of design is accessible to them, especially renters?
One of our core values is sustainable luxury. We are always encouraging people to find special pieces at tag sales, estate sales, on Facebook Marketplace, etc. Sister was famous for repurposing treasures with a bit of chalk paint! On Instagram we love to share tips on what you can do with a small amount of fabric (pillows, napkins, lampshades, etc.) or wallpaper (shelves, drawer liners, etc.) Also we encourage everyone to shop our sales! We recently had a tent at Brimfield selling heavily discounted fabric and wallpaper followed by an online warehouse sale. In terms of renting, we always suggest bringing your treasures with you to the next place, so perhaps investing in fabric and not wallpaper since you can’t easily take it down. We have home products already available on our website such as pillows, aprons, napkins, and more that you can purchase to have a bit of Sister Parish in your home!
What most excites you about motherhood?
Coming from a family of strong working mothers I have always had great role models. I was excited to become a mother to keep our tradition going and share this part of life with the people I love most. I was nervous with a quickly growing company at just how difficult it would be to do both excellently, but so many women (and not just in my family) have been able to have amazing careers while being terrific mothers as well – I’m always inspired by them.
With some much unwelcome advice dispensed on parenthood and motherhood, what advice have you chosen to ignore when volunteered (innocuously, or otherwise) by other parents?
I think everyone has such a specific life, so there is no one size fits all when it comes to tips and advice, that is something everyone should try to remember. Something that worked for one person may not even be possible for someone else. I try to keep this in mind with advice given to me and remember that it comes from a good place.