Monday, June 22, 2009

Bunny Williams and Beeline Home

Interior designer Bunny Williams is perhaps the most famous of the "society decorators" still in business today. Her clients are the true "blue bloods" (the likes of whom I didn't believe still existed until I went away to college in Connecticut): the folks who inherited their fortunes rather than those who made them in reality TV or in Hollywood. Williams' style is evocative of Parish-Hadley (where she spent her early years) and Dorothy Draper. Williams' style is (mostly) traditional and a very, very expensive mix of antiques and custom pieces. In fact, when I think of Bunny I think of cashmere curtains, in-laid marble floors, priceless antiques, and hand painted wallpaper.

While I acknowledge that Williams' style is purely aspirational for 99.5% of us and that this post may be a trip down fantasy-lane, I'd argue that, in the words of
Ms. Williams' herself, "If you look at the best it helps you buy better".

Bunny's online portfolio is subdivided by room, and her entryways were far and away my favorite shots -- perhaps because so many featured absolutely jaw-dropping staircases like the ones shown in the two shots I've included here. Of course, I'm not entirely sure if these stairs were designed by Bunny herself or by an architect, but either way, the wrought-iron work here is gorgeous and understated. The gorgeous marble and stone work on the floors are also stunning. For me at least, the hallmark of a luxury home is a large, gorgeous entryway. Entryways set the stage for the rest of your home -- and a large, grand house needs a similarly large, grand entryway to welcome the visitor into it. Beyond that, giant entryways have a way of publicly announcing the owners' lack of concern for economy. After all, these large two-story foyers are huge "space eaters", especially in areas where square footage comes at a huge premium like New York City.

While the fabric choices in this room are a bit too stodgy for my tastes, I absolutely love the color of this dining room. I think green is a rather unexpected choice for such a formal space and it really does seem to make it more approachable. After all, don't you usually associate green with the more casual spaces in your home like the kitchen or a sunroom?

This living room is one of my absolute favorites (and not just for the neoclassical reliefs, though those are pretty fantastic). While I'm sure this room costs more than my house, it still manages to convey a cozy, lived-in warmth that is a hallmark of Williams' style. I can just imagine flopping down on that sofa to read a book or watch TV. Speaking of, did you notice the TV inside the built-in cabinet on the far right of the picture? It's good to know that even high end designers like Williams acknowledge (and design around) modern necessities when designing a space.

If only I could have a huge veranda like this one. During Houston's milder fall and winter months, I'm sure I'd spend the majority of my free time outside, lounging on similarly cushy couches. My absolutely favorite detail here is how the shape of the cushions mirrors the shape of the wrought-iron backs. It's details like these that make me start to think the (presumably) exorbitant price tag might be worth it.

Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of most of Bunny's bedrooms, which tend towards too much fabric (huge curtains, coordinating canopies or half-canopies, etc.) and too much matching pattern. Sure, the above picture features walls upholstered in the same fabric as the curtains, but the quietly elegant bed linens and simple white floors really help calm the visual noise and the overall effect is very pleasant. I also love how beautifully the vintage settee finishes the room.

I love this room and the room below primarily for their spectacular wood ceilings. Despite their granduer, both rooms are dressed down a bit with more relaxed furniture and fabric choices (like plaid). The use of modern art in both rooms is also brilliant as the modern touches create very smart counterpoints to the traditional surroundings. Despite their grandeur, these rooms do actually look lived in to me.

Perhaps in an effort to reach a wider audience, Bunny Williams has just put out a new, tightly edited line of home furnishings called Beeline Home. While all the pieces are expensive (think over $2000 for a dining chair and $8000 for a sofa), they're nothing compared to what it would cost you to hire Bunny Williams (or her staff), since her clients' budgets for decorating are often well into the seven figures. [By the way, thanks are in order to Cristin at Simplified Bee for cluing me in to this new line.]

My absolute favorite piece from Bunny's line is the olive cotton velvet couch with nail head trim. Unfortunately, at just under $10,000, I'll have to make do with dreaming about it. What about you? What's your favorite? Also, do you think there is anything to be learned from a high-end decorator like Bunny or is she (and her ilk) only good for a little midday fantasizing?


Beth Connolly said...

I love Bunny Williams and her talented husband-his shop in Georgetown is a favorite. Her book "An Affair With a House" was brilliant. I don't think it was as much about money as it was about nurturing your house like you would a relationship-making it comfortable and wonderful. But yes, we can learn a lot and train our eye for great design by looking at work like hers. In her new line I adore the sofa-that apron is to die for. I think the Eclipse and Regale chairs will become classics.

Christy said...

I love that grandstaircase entryway. So beautiful. And that bottom dining room with that ever-so-impressive painting on the wall speaks to me too. I don't know that her style is really my own, but I do love the pieces you've chosen on your board. The green couch is my favorite too. But I could buy several couches for that price, so I never will own any of her items! I clicked around her site and saw a throw pillow I liked, but at $810 - no thank you! Loved this post regardless Averill!

Cristin // Simplified Bee said...

We are on the same wavelength girl! Loved how you brought in some of Bunny's designs. Nicely done!

Also, I completely agree with Style Redux 2 - the Eclipse chairs will become classics.


Sanity Fair said...

Thanks for this nice post! I read up on Williams' new line a few months ago, and I'm excited about it. I think it IS good to look at "aspirational" things. Did you see her in the new Veranda? They have a nice little bit about it.

Kristina at The Purple Pea said...

I am loving the veranda furniture. Too bad I don't have a veranda {or zillions of dollars to boot!}

I'll take that blue chair tho. I love the details on it.

Sarah Klassen said...

Where do I begin? First off, I completely agree with conditioning your eye with the finest in quality, whether it be a coat or sofa. Very smart. You will be able to spot the differences far easier and judge appropriately...Next, what beautiful rooms! Image 02 is absolutely stunning. So simple and beautiful, yet with ornate touches. That floor is timeless - I love it! The furniture line is very pretty as well. Such a fantastic post~

alison giese Interiors said...

I think my take-away is also that one can learn to decipher quality from price. In Bunny's world, the two almost undoubtedly go hand-in-hand, but I feel sometimes people with more money than knowledge buy something simply because it is expensive ASSUMING it is authentic, or tasteful.
Not necessarily so...

Kellie Collis said...

Such a grand staircase. So regal!

annechovie said...

I really like that sofa, too, Averill. Great post and thanks for including my silhouette cards in your esty faves showcase! XO

Dumbwit Tellher said... all those rooms just not ooze class? I adore her talents. The outdoor space like you stated would be wonderful in our Houston winter months. The green dining room is my favorite!

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