Few designers are more quintessentially Southern than Bunny Williams. So the fact that she is behind the interiors in the incredible 2015 Southern Living Idea House comes as no surprise. Long a favorite for choreographing stunning interiors, Williams leaves her distinctive mark everywhere she goes. From the rooms she decorates to the lines she creates, her flawless eye ensures that Williams’ look stays fresh yet true to those basic tenants that make her so unique. Even more refreshingly, Williams hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a brand new homeowner. We spoke with her about her favorite decorating tips, those nuggets, or, as is more fitting in the South, pearls, that homeowners can apply to their first house or their tenth. A pinnacle of Southern style, just like the rooms she designs, Bunny Williams is timeless.
Did your experience with your first home influence any of the tips you offer young homeowners today?
I find that today people rush into buying furniture. When I first got my house in Connecticut, I didn’t have furniture in the living room for four years. (There was plenty of room for a Christmas tree!) I would suggest that all young homeowners live in their homes – get a good sense of how they’ll use the room – what furniture types are required, what are the traffic patterns and the room’s proportions. When I first moved in, I cut my plastic countertops myself to save time and money. Resist the urge to be impulsive. You’ll be happier in the long run.
Did you incorporate any of your tips into your own first home?
I like to tell first time homeowners to go to tag sales, estate sales and local auctions – with a good eye you can find wonderful things. I still have a pair of chairs I bought in a “junk shop” on Columbus Avenue when I was 27 years old. Don’t treat your furniture as disposable; it’s too costly. Buy the best that you can and add to it little by little.
Do you have any simple tips for changing up a room’s look without a complete overhaul?
Jazz up a room with accessories – new decorative pillows, affordable artwork, an interesting throw for over the back of a sofa. These things will make a difference but won’t make you feel guilty if you get sick of them.
What are your recommendations for designing small spaces?
Keep things simple and focus on function. No matter what your taste in decorating, you must find places for everyday things – a big basket for newspapers and magazines, a drinks tray set for guests, and books.
What is your favorite splurge?
My bedroom is my sanctuary and nothing is more luxurious than climbing into my freshly made bed at the end of the day. I like to splurge on sheets with embroidered detailing that coordinates with the color of my bedroom.
Is there one element that you consider the “starting point” of the room? Or is it different in every room?
A carefully conceived floor plan is the starting point for all good rooms. After that, it’s different for every room – I might be inspired by a new fabric I’ve found, a beautiful antique rug, or the view out the window.
Is there anywhere you recommend clients save money?
Save money on rugs. I love the look of a sisal or seagrass rug and they are very inexpensive. Cotton dhurries and indoor/outdoor rugs (like my line for Dash & Albert!) won’t break the bank, so you can change them out often.
Are there certain styles, fabrics or furniture you recommend to clients who want to make their look last for years to come?
Choose fabrics for upholstery that are more neutral. That way the room is not dependent on one fabric. So, if you recover one chair the entire room is not affected. Don’t get caught up in trends. Buy what you love. Invest in quality, good materials and good basic pieces of furniture. Look for classic lines – things like klismos style chairs or an Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair. These will never go out of style, and also look good mixed with other styles.
Below, watch Bunny Williams give her tips for new homeowners.