Betty Sherrill, interior designer and chairman of McMillen Inc., passed away on Monday, May 12, at age 91.
Sherrill was born in New Orleans and studied at Sophie Newcombe College, and later at Parsons School of Design in New York City after relocating there in 1949.
Betty Sherrill c. 1978
She began her decorating career by founding a small firm by the name of Elizabeth Sherrill Interiors, which failed a few years later. In 1952, she knocked on the doors of McMillen Inc. seeking a job, and was hired by the founder Eleanor Brown, who's motto was "If you do it right the first time, you don't have to do it over."
Sherrill took that motto to heart and became the president of McMillen Inc. in 1972 following Brown's retirement. She served as president through 2002 and was succeeded by her daughter Anne Pyne, the current president of the firm. Sherrill’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Pyne, currently oversees the company’s design division, McMillen Plus, which caters to a younger clientele.
From left: Anne Pyne, Betty Sherrill and Elizabeth Pyne. Photo Credit: Architectural Digest
During her years at president, Sherrill raised the firm's public profile through the development of branded furniture lines for Baker, fabrics for Lee Jofa and Robert Allen, bed linens for Springmaid, and carpets for Stark.
Sherill was was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 1989 and received the second Parsons Centurion Award for Design Excellence in 2006 and The Decorator's Club Inc. Medal of Honor in 2008.
According to Architectural Digest, Pyne described Sherrill's style as "spunky, with bright colors and country looking." Pyne is in the process of writing a history of McMillen Inc.—the country's oldest operating design firm—for Acanthus Press and has helped to loosen McMillen’s aesthetic over the years.
Betty Sherrill with the current McMillen Inc. staff
Sherrill, an avid gardener, was also on the board of The Women's Committee and Trustees of the Central Park Conservancy since 1994. She served as Honorary Chairman of the Tree Trust and Co-Chairman of the Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, and was a great advocate for the Park's daffodil plantings.
According to her McMillen Inc. biography, Sherrill favored warm colors, flowered fabrics and needlepoint rugs in her own home. Her seating arrangements were known for being versatile and commodious, and for making guests feel immediately comfortable.
Sherrill will be remembered during a service at St. James Church (865 Madison Avenue, New York City) on Thursday, May 22, at 4:00 p.m.