Decorating Wisdom from Designer Bunny Williams

If you aren’t familiar with Bunny’s name, chances are you are with her work. Her designs have been featured in all the top decorating magazines, from Architectural Digest to House Beautiful to Elle Décor and Veranda. She’s the author of numerous books on home and garden design, the newest of which is Life in the Garden which features her stunning home and gardens in the Connecticut Berkshires. Today I’m sharing Decorating Wisdom from Designer Bunny Williams.

I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Bunny speak at an industry event a while back, and took notes! {of course!!} Bunny spoke about decorating your home with love, attention to details, and to suit you and your family, never mind about trends. Because I am not really someone to ask for a selfie – even though I was fortunate to have a conversation one on one with her {her husband is an antique dealer so we talked antiques!} …I didn’t get any photos of her with me, or otherwise! So I took a photo of the photo of her in the book for you.

Bunny was warm and gracious, funny and down-to-earth as she told us about her childhood, serving as her mother’s sidekick as they decorated their family’s home in Charlottesville, Virginia. After studying design in Boston, she landed a job with celebrated New York interior design firm Parish-Hadley. She went on to open her own interior design firm, and today, also has a line of signature furnishings and accents.

Here are a few of my favorite pearls of wisdom from Bunny about decorating your home:

Design your home to fit your lifestyle.

As you create your interior spaces, ask yourself, “How do I really live in my home?” Make sure all your design decisions support your day-to-day lifestyle. For example, if you have a formal living room that you never go into, turn it into a space you will use, like a den or a library or an office. Your home should be used, a stack of books or some sign about who uses your rooms create a certain warmth.

In our own living room, we have regular visits with children, little people AND their dogs, so I have a coffee table that is not precious, once every few years we strip it down and refinish the top. The little people use a tiny chair and color there, the bigger people tend to put their feet up on it, but that’s fine with me!

Follow your heart, not trends.

Decorate with what you love, and don’t worry so much about what is in and out of style at the moment. Bunny said she likes to decorate with chintz, and when someone asked her, “Isn’t chintz out of style?” she replied:  “Only if you don’t like it. If you like it, it’s in style!”

In our own home, I change things around all the time. For summer, this stunning 18th Century Polychrome Italian Christ Child is currently on display on my French side board. Because my little people are arriving this week with their mama, I let him hold a shell, and surrounded him with a few favorite things, a vintage Florentine tray in an ocean green color, some antique French missals, and a French Antique Bronze Presse Papier.

18th Century Polychrome Italian Christ Child |Antique French Bronze Hand Presse Papier

Classic style should not be predictable.

I loved this point, as my own traditional approach to decorating has evolved over the years. For Bunny, classic style is a mix of traditional and modern elements. Her body of work includes sleek modern spaces and traditional ones, and often she blends the two. The key, she said, is to mix beautiful things together in interesting ways. If you span periods—a pretty antique with a modern lamp—it’s going to feel timeless. 

It’s fun to switch out your pillows all through the house seasonally, and while in winter and fall you might use antique Aubusson pillows, for spring and summer you can bring in fresh, contemporary ones. Another way to add life to your home is to have bold, graphic art mixed with your antiques.

Make your home inviting to guests.

Bunny said she and her husband had entertaining in mind when they designed their own home, and now it is often filled with visitors. To make people feel at home, she pays attention to little details, like always having a self-serve bar when she entertains, so guests can feel comfortable helping themselves. You can literally set up a bar anywhere! I often use a combination of silver trays topped with large Staffordshire platters for little impromtu bar moments. This one shown below is smaller, but using huge platters is a great way to have room for several bottles and glasses, and they protect your furniture surface!

Bring French Style To Your Holiday Home
Antique Blue & White | Antique Silver

Restore and reuse when you can.

A lifelong lover of antiques, Bunny likes to use imperfect pieces in her designs because they have a history and add to the room’s character. Adding just a few antiques to every room in your home can tell a story, your story!

Architectural pieces from old buildings and walls in France are a fabulous way to add instant warmth and history to your home. This panel came from a wall in a grand Maison, it has texture and imperfections that I adore. A stack of antique books holds on of the four seasons figures, and the antique blue French vase is filled with flowers from the garden. Instant French charm!

Antique Decorative Objects

An enameled coffee pot from France can add the romance and flair of storied, classic design to an area of your home, and remind you of your once-in-a-lifetime whirlwind trip to Paris to celebrate a banner birthday!

Antique Culinary

What I love about Bunny Williams and the homes she designs, is that she creates high-style interiors infused with her trademark down-to-earth sensibility. Your home is completely a place for YOU to showcase your style, your taste, your passions and everything you love. You have a great antique, you buy something new at a furniture lifestyle shop, and you add those to a souvenir from your latest trip abroad. Because you love it, it will all work together!

Style is all about knowing who you are. You own your house; the house doesn’t own you.

Thank you for your visit. I hope you are inspired to create a home you love, filled with beautiful things that speak to your heart. Old, new, and in between. {although I vote heavily for antiques! }

A BIENTOT

Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and above all uniquely yours. Visit our shop FrenchGardenHouse.com

10 thoughts on “Decorating Wisdom from Designer Bunny Williams”

  1. Gloria P

    You are an inspiration to live with what you love in your home. You know how many antique linens I have purchased from your site. I have some of them wrapped in the same ribbon you sent them to me. I wanted to save them for future generations. However none of the family want them. I need someone to tell me “use and enjoy the things you love”. All ways love your blogs.

    1. Gloria, thank you for your sweet visit. Yes, I say please enjoy all your treasures! I’m not sure my kids or grandkids will want everything we have, but I’m sure they will at least want one or two things they have special memories of. Xo

  2. Shannon@Belle Bleu Interiors

    Good morning, Lidy! Your home is beautiful! All of your vignettes are so pretty, and that antique armoire is stunning. I have enjoyed reading your post this morning detailing Bunny’s decorating tips. I agree your home should be furnished with only the things that you love. Like you, I love antiques especially, French and English ones. Happy Tuesday, sweet friend!

    1. Happy July Shannon! Thank you so much for your visit, I love your home, we’re kindred spirits in what we love. I hope you are enjoying a beautiful and blessed summer. Xo

  3. REBECCA STUART

    ALWAYS ENJOY RECEIVING YOUR EMAILS AND READING YOUR BLOG. WE RECENTLY FINISHED RESTORING MY GRANDPARENTS HOME WHICH WAS BUILT IN 1932 .I HAD BEEN COLLECTING ANTIQUE FURNISHINGS AND DECOR FOR 3 YRS, IT HAS BEEN AN ADVENTURE FOR MYSELF AND MY HUSBAND. I LOVE ANTIQUES WITH A FRENCH COUNTRY INFLUENCE THROUGHOUT MY HOUSE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INSPIRING POSTS,I ENJOY THEM SO MUCH .

  4. Alice Genzlinger

    I’ve long been a fan of Bunny and really enjoyed this post. I use everything now because I think no one will appreciate it as much as I do. I agree with you that if you love it buy it and use it. I want everywhere I look in my home to see something beautiful to me. If it offends my eye then I remove it. I often dream up pretty homes in my mind and decorate them. My sister and I (she lives in NC and I’m in Co) read the same magazines and I will say to her, What’s wrong in that picture! We choose the same thing. It’s fun. I

    1. I love that you share your decorating ideas with your sister! So fun! It is such wise advice that you shared, Alice: “I want everywhere I look in my home to see something beautiful to me. If it offends my eye then I remove it. ” We should spend our days surrounded by beauty, what we consider beautiful! xo Lidy

    1. Thank you so much Ricki! I love the little chair too…sadly, only one more little at 4…although sometimes our 15 year old teen sits on it. It goes by so so fast!!
      I hope you are having a beautiful summer!

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