Bunny Williams knows her stuff. When it comes to the world of interior design, she’s learned from the best, led (and continues to lead) a lengthy and successful career, written several books on her many projects and created classic yet innovative pieces for the home. But Bunny’s wealth of experience, creative talent and vast knowledge in this field are not the only reasons we like her so much. It’s her gracious manner, her approachable personality and authentic humility that keep her at the top of our list and solidify her as one of the true “greats” in interior design.
This February, at the 2013 Antiques and Garden Show in Nashville, Interior Canvas had the pleasure of interviewing Bunny Williams. We are delighted to share that conversation with you today.
What do you consider to be a designer’s greatest challenge when starting a new project?
Relating to the client. You have an intense relationship with this person and you have to find a way to get them to relate to you and be comfortable with you. Clients need to know that you are always looking in their best interests. If you are advising them to buy an expensive piece of furniture, then you are meaning it. But then the next thing you should do is find an inexpensive rug to accompany it–so they know you aren’t just looking at the most expensive things. You have to be conscious of your business relationship with them. I think designers are hesitant to ask their clients how much they want to spend, they think it’ll end the relationship. Well that’s stupid! Just put it on the table.
What is one of the most out-of-the-box projects you have done for a client?
The penthouse I did above the apartment in New York. (Bunny’s Park Avenue clients purchased a penthouse above the apartment they were currently in. They hired Bunny to not only redo their new penthouse addition, but combine the two spaces together).
I put in a glass staircase with a contemporary look, to connect the two floors. (It helped that my client wanted that look!) Sometimes I try to push clients a bit more out of the box than they like to go. Buy modern art, find young painters, etc. Pushing them a bit farther than they are used to going with design, for me, is challenging and fun.
With younger clients, how does your approach to a project possibly differ?
I think when a younger client comes to me, it’s because they know they are coming to a person with a wealth of knowledge. I’ve been there and done that! I encourage them to buy a couple of pieces of good furniture. I want to start them on the process of buying their house/filling their house. It’s something that is done over a period of time. But I think you have to know with younger clients you need playrooms, family rooms, places to watch TV. That a sofa has to be covered in something that can handle grape jelly and peanut butter. It can still be attractive, but needs to also be practical and sensible and be able to function.
Do you find yourself with your own personal spaces, constantly wanting to redo things?
Shockingly, I am just redoing my dining room in Connecticut. It’s got green and white striped wallpaper, which has been there for 32 years. And I decided I was going to change it.
And it’s now off-white with a textured wallpaper that’s more modern. I’ll put the same furniture back in there–(the furniture’s still good!), it will just have a different background. I’ll update smaller rooms here and there, but normally, I don’t have to redecorate every five minutes.
With over 150 items created within your Bunny Williams Home furniture line, are there a few pieces you can single out as personal favorites?
The hourglass table, I think is a modern classic.
The Work Horse Desk–I use every day in my office.
The Regale chairs are in my house in Falls Village.
The Punta Cana sofa was replicated from my home in Punta Cana.
A lot of the designs come from me owning the original. I loved certain pieces so much, I decided to replicate them for the line. There are also original designs I’ve done because I think everyone needs end tables, everyone needs bedside tables: Things I’ve spent so much time trying to find and ended up creating them instead.
What’s next for Bunny Williams?
Trying to find 2 more days in the week! (laughing). I’m going to concentrate on making Treillage, Bunny Williams Home and Bunny Williams Decorating the best they can be. The worst thing I could do would be do go off on another tangent. My concentration needs to be in these three different things and be creative with them. What I am so proud about is how hands on I am with all of my products. I am not just putting my name on my products, lines, etc. I am going to North Carolina or Vietnam or China and looking at the product, inspecting the product, approving the final design, etc.
I know gardening is a big hobby of yours. Is there a favorite cut flower you like to use in your own home or when entertaining?
What’s so exciting about gardening is that you have your seasonal favorites: shrubs in the fall, tulips in the spring, hydrangeas in early summer, then on to dahlias, but you only get those for such a short period of time. One of my favorite flowers is a tuberose. It’s actually not that pretty of a flower – I put it in pots. I love the scent of it. In New York, I order a big bunch and put them in a vase so my whole apartment can smell like it.
It’s interesting that even though so much of your world and business is focused on the visual, you love this flower for its scent and not its beauty.
Scent is important. It shouldn’t be overdone–but it makes me feel good.
Thank you Bunny! It was such a pleasure to interview you. Please come back to Nashville soon!
*Special Thanks to Liza Morten at Blitzer & Co.
(Image credits: 1- Tria Giovan Photographer ; 2-”Affair with a House,” published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang; 3-Roger Davis Photography; 4,5-”Affair with a House”, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang; 6-9-Bunnywilliamshome.com; 10,12-”Affair with a House,” published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang; 11- itslife.in ;13-Interior Canvas.)
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