Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Once upon a time, and for a very long time indeed, Albert Hadley was the king of American decorating — and his business partner, Mrs. Henry Parish 2nd, otherwise known as Sister, was the queen. For many people, Mr. Hadley, a shy Tennessean with huge, owlish glasses, still wears the crown. He continues to work at Albert Hadley Inc., the firm he founded in 1999 after he closed the doors of Parish-Hadley, the 33-year-old firm he ran with Mrs. Parish until her death in 1994. And he continues to be the designer for the rich and famous.

“Practicing a kind of decorating that prized subtlety over statement and gloss over glitz,” Julie Iovine of The New York Times wrote the week Parish-Hadley shut down, “Mr. Hadley, 79, has brought a knowing sophistication and a hint of modernism to his interiors without ever making his clients — among them Brooke Astor, Happy Rockefeller, Henry and Louise Grunwald, Al and Tipper Gore (in the Naval Observatory, the official vice presidential residence) and Oscar and Annette de la Renta — look like old-school snobs.”

Mr. Hadley’s first job with Mrs. Parish in the early 1960s was the White House breakfast room of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy. “I really only did the curtains,” he told Ms. Iovine in 1999.

Albert Livingston Hadley Jr. was born in Nashville in 1921 and graduated from Peabody College there. After serving in World War II as a payroll clerk, he came to New York City in 1947 to study and teach at the Parsons School of Design. He worked first at Macmillan, another blue-chip decorating firm, and joined with Mrs. Parish in 1962, his spare modernist taste a counterpoint to her more English style. Their firm created beautiful interiors for the country’s elite and also became a training ground for the best in the interior design profession — part boot camp, part Ivy League university, with alumni like Bunny Williams, David Easton, Thomas Jayne, Mariette Himes Gomez and Mario Buatta, who went on to become design stars in their own right.

In 2005, on the occasion of Mr. Hadley’s 85th birthday, Mitchell Owens of The Times spoke with one of Mr. Hadley’s current clients, Diana Quasha, for whom he was designing the interior of a condominium in the Bloomberg tower at Lexington Avenue and 58th Street. “He’s still the hippest thing out there,” Ms. Quasha said. “I don’t want it to be modern, and I don’t want it to be traditional. I want it to look interesting. Who else would I ask?”

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