Harold R. Simmons Jr.

Dec. 8, 1939-Aug. 12, 2014
Harold R. Simmons Jr., Interior Designer Dec. 8, 1939-Aug. 12, 2014

Harold Ralston Simmons Jr., an internationally noted interior designer, died at home in East Hampton on Aug. 12. He was 74 and had been treated for cancer for six months.

Mr. Simmons was born on Dec. 8, 1939, in Clarksdale, Miss., to Harold R. Simmons and the former Frances Caffey. He grew up in Clarksdale and attended the University of Mississippi at Oxford, from which he graduated cum laude in 1961. After spending a year with Kimbrough-Goldate, a design firm in Memphis, Tenn., he came to New York to study at the Parsons School of Design. Soon after his arrival in New York in 1962, he met Peter J. van Hattum, his spouse, who survives him.

“I was in ‘The Sound of Music’ at the time,” Mr. van Hattum said, “and was on my way to Mary Martin’s party at the Waldorf-Astoria after the show. I stopped at a bar, where I met a friend who introduced me to Harold. He was 22, had just come to the city, and didn’t yet know anybody. We’ve been together ever since.”

Mr. Simmons and Mr. van Hattum first came to East Hampton in 1974 and lived for 20 years in the Settlers Landing area before moving into a house of their own design in the Grace Estate. They were active members of the East Hampton Historical Society and hosted a cocktail benefit for the organization in 2009.

Mr. Simmons graduated from Parsons with honors in 1965 and worked for a year at the architectural firm of Alfred Easton Pool before joining the decorating firm of Mrs. Henry Parish II, where he worked for Albert Hadley. When Parish and Hadley formed Parish-Hadley Inc., Mr. Simmons was named senior vice president and remained with the company until 1987. Subsequently, he and Mr. van Hattum formed Van Hattum and Simmons, a decorating firm that thrived until it was closed in 2013. The firm’s work was for embassies, residences, and country estates, and was often featured in showhouses in New York and Southampton.

In addition to Mr. van Hattum, whom he married on Sept. 7, 2011, Mr. Simmons is survived by a sister, Frances Simmons Keesee of Waynesville, N.C. A funeral service will take place Sept. 7  at 3 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, the Rev. Denis Brunelle officiating. Mr. Simmons’s ashes will be put to rest in St. Luke’s memorial garden.

According to Mr. van Hattum, “Har­old loved the town pond. He said to me, ‘When I die, just dig a hole in the ground next to Lion Gardiner, put my ashes in a cigar box, and bury me there.’ I’ve come as close to that as I could.”

Memorial gifts in Mr. Simmons’s memory have been suggested to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.