Betty Sherrill: decorating with restraint, quality, good taste
Betty Sherrill, president of McMillen Inc., one of the country's best-known decorating firms, says she feels like the shoemaker's daughter when it comes to her own home. She claims she is always looking for time to freshen up her own decorating schemes. But the need doesn't show.Skip to next paragraph
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What does show is that the designer and her husband, H. V. Sherrill, head of a New York investment concern, come home each night to what many might consider the "ideal" Manhattan apartment. It is in a fine old building with high ceilings and handsome architectural details. Its rooms are on two levels, and many of its windows overlook the East River and frame a picturesque bridge or two.
The yellow living room walls give a perpetually sunny, springtime look. A log burns in the fireplace, and the lamps and lighting produce a special glow.
Contemporary French paintings combine with period French chairs, European porcelain accessories, and small brass tables. The modern upholstery is comfortably plump, but not too plump. And the living room is spacious enough to hold three sofas, each of which centers a small conversational arrangement.
The deep melon-colored walls in the dining-room-cum-study are upbeat and welcoming. Like some other New Yorkers, the Sherrills decided to use one corner of their library-study for dining, since they rarely entertain more than eight guests. The idea works well for them. Their dining area is now replete with books, art, and artifacts and is used, as well, for writing and reading, televiewing, record listening, and friendly chats.
The home obviously works and pleases. Its decoration appears as a stylish but unforced coming together of possessions in a manner that conveys the couple's tastes and interests.
Is this the well-bred McMillen look that is sought by clients worldwide and that has been expressed in homes, offices, villas, palaces, hotels, yachts, and planes? Mrs. Sherrill demurs modestly and talks about some needed paint jobs. But she admits the thoughtful blend of old and new is quite McMillen. And she agrees that their apartment does represent the "eclectic mold" that she thinks is so distinctive to American interior design, and that has been distilled to its essence by McMillen decorators.
"We in the United States," she says, "have the great advantage of being able to draw from all cultures, including French, English, Italian, Chinese, Japanese , and Greek. The eclectic look we have refined here combines both modern and traditional furnishings. On a personal level, it is often the culmination of all our experiences and travels. Since it represents so much -- family, friends , memories, and treasured objects of many kinds -- it can be a great joy all of our lives."
McMillen Inc. was founded in 1924 by Eleanor McMillen Brown, who is still an active chairman of the board. Mrs. Sherrill joined McMillen Inc. in 1951 and became president in 1975.