Monday, August 20, 2012

Bunny Williams: Past, Present and Future

House in Provence, decorated by Bunny Williams. Image:  

Another interesting and informative lecture I attended at the Design Bloggers’ Conference was given by Bunny Williams. I’ve heard Bunny speak on several occasions when she was launching one of her books but this talk was about how to develop as a designer and how to practice as a good designer.

Bunny grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia on a family farm with her parents, an older brother, horses, ponies, cows, chickens and lots of dogs. Her mother loved her home and took great care to create an environment where everyone (including children and dogs) felt welcome and nurtured. Entertaining was frequent at their home and at the homes of many relatives nearby. These people and experiences shaped Bunny’s philosophy that home should be a place to really live in and this has become the essence of her work. She describes this in detail in a way that makes one long for such a home in the introduction to her gorgeous book "Bunny Williams’ Point of View".
The Greenbrier carpeted steps.  Image:

Bunny had never considered decorating as a career until she and her parents stayed at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. It had been redecorated by the legendary Dorothy Draper and she says she had never seen anything like it and thought how fun it would be to pick out all those things and choose all those colors! Bunny has learned from virtually all of her experiences and many mentors since that time.

Albert Hadley and Sister Parish

The two years she worked in an antiques shop helped to train her eye before she began working for Parish-Hadley. Sister Parish never used floor plans but had an instinctive ability to create cozy rooms. Albert Hadley was more of a modernist and taught her to "look outside the box" and try new things.
Room designed by Albert Hadley and Sister Parish for Brook Astor in the late 1960s.

She said that Pauline de Rothschild was a great inspiration and credits Nancy Lancaster with reviving English decoration. Designers need to get out, travel and visit home and gardens firsthand to continually cultivate taste and discernment.

Sitting room in the Mirador designed by Nancy Lancaster photographed in the 1950s.

Bunny has her hand in quite a few additional business ventures these days. When she and her husband John Rosselli were travelling in Europe they adored all the garden shops. Bunny lamented the fact that there weren’t any like them in New York and John suggested that she open one. They started Treillage which now has two locations. The East 75th St. shop sells primarily garden furniture, lighting, and accessories, many of which can transition from indoors to out and vice versa. The Lexington shop focuses on one of Bunny’s other loves—table top. Treillage has recently launched an online shop which also offers tips from Bunny about how to use the items offered on the site. And she has developed Beeline Home which offers a collection of furniture and accessories based on the items that Bunny thinks a well-designed room needs.

Beeline Home showroom in High Point.
I have long been an admirer of Bunny Williams am grateful that she and other successful designers share their expertise and advice so graciously.

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