What a treat it was to hear Bunny Williams speak at the Mint Museum Symposium here in Charlotte this week. She started off with a glimpse inside the 18th century Connecticut house, which her book An Affair With A House is about. She said bought this house with her ex-husband thirty years ago and when she went in the driveway she knew it was the house for her, but “like all love affairs you never see the bad parts in the beginning”. We all laughed, she is quite funny. She learned early on that the trees would take constant work and that there is considerable upkeep that comes with a house like this one. She truly loves this house and you could feel it.
She gave us a glimpse into her life, revealed her wonderful personality and spoke about how she met her husband John Rosselli. Twenty years ago they launched the store Treillage on East 75th Street in New York together, which I have mentioned was one of my favorite spots when we lived a few blocks away. On the property of this house was an old timber frame barn built in 1840. John took it on as a project, brought it to life and they really use it and entertain in it.
She also discussed how John wanted a pool at the house. She loved the idea of incorporating Greek Revival style architecture and they created a rusticated pavilion for the pool house.
She referenced Gil Schafer as the architect who really made sure the proportions were correct.
For most of her discussion she focused on her book Point of View and the design principles that she discusses in it.
By this point I was glued, and I was absorbing every single word that she said. She discussed the importance of mixing furniture, not being afraid to combines styles, colors and periods. The cover shot is her living room at her house in the Dominican Republic. Much of the furniture that is in the house she and John already owned and they wanted to use it. She had light blue linen slipcovers made for the furniture to pull it all together. In this house she also created a pantry for her china. (I am dreaming…)
In this dining room of a clients’ below she spoke about how the wheel back chairs give such visual interest and contrast. She encouraged us to “see each thing individually”. When I see this room I also see that the shapes in the chairs and the patterns in the rug are also reflected in the pattern on the ceiling. While they are different, all of the components of the room compliment each other.
In New York she and John so frequently eat out that they used their dining room for an additional reading room. At one end is a seating area with a TV for John to watch the Yankees, at the other end is a desk where she can work and they can be in the same room together. All rooms need to be used, and she encouraged us to use rooms in your house as you need them. One point that I thought was super was if you have a very long dining room table, but are only seating four, to put such things as flowers, books and serving pieces on the end of the tables and use just the center. In a different dining room, she had slipcovers made for these chairs so sometimes the room feels a little less formal, and she can take them off to dress up the room when she wants to. She offered lots of great ideas and alternatives.
Some other key points she made were to be sure to consider the scale of a room and to fill it appropriately, use the corners of the rooms with game tables and small conversation areas, use old materials in a new house that give a sense of patina and most importantly enjoy the process. She also jokingly said that if you use marble in the kitchen the first spill is the worst.
How do I keep up with her? Straight into my email. Click here to sign up at the bottom of the green column on the left side of her page .
What I will forever remember her saying about her work and process is that it is “like scrambled eggs. You mix it all up and hopefully it comes out soufflé”.
I’d say soufflé indeed.