Now that our holiday catalog is unwrapped, we can finally talk about our favorite things, and that includes our second holiday collection with world-renowned designer, Bunny Williams. Inspired by her own collected treasures from holidays past, she’s helping us celebrate the holidays the only way we know how: with unforgettable style. We recently spoke with Bunny about her new collection and how she celebrates Christmas.
Ballard Designs: What’s the first thing you do to prepare for Christmas?
BW: Make out my Christmas list — around now, actually. I want to get the Christmas shopping out of the way, so I try to get my list together fairly soon and think about what I want to get people. Then I can relax and enjoy Christmas. If you put that off until the last minute, you go crazy.
BD: What’s your favorite holiday tradition you look forward to most?
BW: I love wrapping presents. I love giving them, and I love wrapping them. There’s nothing better than spending an evening at home listening to Christmas music just wrapping gifts. I also love decorating my Christmas tree, because I’ve collected ornaments over a lifetime. I still have ornaments from when I was a child.
You know, holidays are an interesting time. For me they’re happy, but for some people they’re not. I think it so much depends on what your childhood was like, and I was lucky enough to have exciting Christmases and always enjoyed it. But it can be an emotional time for a lot of people, so I find that during the holidays I want to look around me and make sure the people I love who might be alone are included and nurtured. I want to make it a wonderful time.
BD: You do have a knack for making the holidays feel special. The gold-and-white table setting on our cover is visually stunning, yet actually very simple. What are your tricks to creating such a beautiful table?
BW: At Christmastime I like to make the table sparkly, like lights on the Christmas tree. I love to use things I’ve collected, like the glittered Reindeer and, of course, candlelight. You could also put little Christmas trees down the table. We tend to have our Christmas meal later in the day when it’s starting to get a little dark, or sometimes I’ll do a Christmas Eve dinner that’s dressier and I’ll do the table with the candles and the glittery things then. If it’s lunch in the middle of the day, then I’ll do a buffet and keep it more casual. It depends on how many people are here.
BD: We are absolutely in love with your Gold Star Dinnerware. Tell us about it.
BW: The pattern is based on these early French china pieces I’ve collected over the years. I have pieces that are white and gold and peach and gold, but it all mixes together. We did different patterns to give it that collected look. It’s simple, but a little elegant because it’s got the gold. But you really can use it all the time. When you buy china you want to be able to use it a lot and not think, “Oh, I can only use this at Christmas.” That’s why I don’t buy china with Santa Claus and reindeer on it.
BD: This collection really is so versatile. It dresses up or down.
BW: It really is. After Christmas, you could use it with an Indian bedspread tablecloth to tone it down and it would look fabulous.
BD: You’ve added this china pattern in gold, and you’ve expanded your Paris Flea Market flatware to include a gold finish. The look is very much vintage inspired, yet it all feels so fresh and modern. Why is that?
BW: I think when you use simple designs with dots and stripes it has a very clean, modern feeling to it. It’s not overly decorated, and that’s what keeps it fresh. Sometimes china is just too patterned and busy. These patterns give you a little bit of design and makes it more interesting than an all-white plate.
BD: We also all got a kick out of your Dog Salt and Pepper Cellar.
BW: Well, when you love dogs as much as we do! It’s a copy of one that I had and I just think it’s amusing on the table. When you’re sitting at a table, you’re very close to the things on the table and you really look at them. And so it’s fun to have something amusing like the dog carrying the salt and pepper, and it gives the table a little bit of whimsy.
BD: You have all of the essentials for setting up a first-class bar: the two-tone Hammered Gilt Punch Bowl, Pear Ice Bucket, Wooden Tray, the Gold Rimmed Glassware and these fun Bubbly Glasses. How do you use these pieces during the holidays? Do you have a signature drink and an open bar?
BW: I find today that most people either drink wine or champagne. So on Christmas Eve we’ll open a few bottles of champagne, because it’s festive, and set out wine. I also always have an open bar if someone wants something else, so I’ll set out the Wooden Tray with liquor and mixers — I have the original — and the Ice Bucket. Often I’ll serve the wine in flat-bottomed glasses, like the Gold Rimmed Glassware, during cocktails. Traditional wine glasses are harder to handle when you’re mingling and can tip over more easily.
BD: We hear you have a great punch.
BW: I grew up in the South and we always made a wonderful milk punch at Christmas. It’s milk, bourbon, sugar and a little bit of nutmeg. It’s a delicious punch you can pour over ice. This is my version of light eggnog, because sometimes eggnog is just too rich. It’s absolutely delicious. I’ll make a batch and add it to the punch bowl and use the ladle to pour it over ice in the small glasses.
BD: You also added a few new pieces to your popular Melange and Campbell House dinnerware collections, including two different platter sizes, small bowls and an accent plate. Perfect timing!
BW: Yes. During the holidays, you need all the serving pieces you can get. We do a lot of buffets, so we tend to have turkey, ham and roasted vegetables, so you need a lot of platters in different sizes.
BD: Let’s talk about decorating. What are your favorite Christmas decorating traditions, and are they different in your apartment in New York and your home in Connecticut?
BW: We spend Christmas in the country, so we tend to decorate that house more than the one in New York. We leave the apartment and go up to the country for most of the holidays, so that’s where I spend most of my efforts in decorating. I always have a big Christmas tree and I don’t do a theme. I always bring out my old ornaments that are familiar to me. I love the look of an old fashioned Christmas tree.
I like fresh greenery, so part of my gardening is planting a variety of evergreens on the property for winter cuttings. I have all these wonderful cuttings with unusual pinecones, and I’ll use them to decorate the mantels in the library and dining room.
BD: It’s so fitting that you’ve created this Live Magnolia Greenery for us. How would you use it?
BW: Swag it across your mantel. Sometimes I stick white pine with it, because I love to mix the greens, and then I’ll put objects or tall candlesticks in the greens across the mantel. I’ll do a different theme on each mantel based on things I’ve collected, such as the Golden Reindeer, Pineapple Trio or my Angels. Decorating usually involves recycling the things you’ve collected and using them in new and different ways each year.
BD: Your collection just wouldn’t be complete without a cachepot. How are you using your Satinwood Cachepot this year?
BW: I love things like paperwhite narcissus at Christmas. They’re everywhere, you can get them at at any hardware store or garden shop. I like to buy them and put them in those cachepots and it instantly dresses them up. It’s so easy and I love the scent — it smells like Christmas to me.
BD: You have this really wonderful felt ensemble with your adorable Animal Ornaments, pom pom Felt Garland and sequined Fruit Ornaments. Nothing says homey quite like wool felt.
BW: I love felt. These are all reminders of old ones I’ve collected and have had in my collection for years. I think it’s more fun to have things that look more homemade than just a commercial ball. And I certainly mix these on the tree with the commercial balls, because I want the glitter, but there is something about seeing that felt ornament. And a fun thing about these ornaments is that you can use them as placecards, and then your guests can take them home as a gift. Or tie them on packages.
BD: They’re fun for kids, too.
BW: And isn’t Christmas about children and decorating the tree? The great thing about these ornaments is that they don’t break, so you don’t have to constantly say, “watch that.” That’s why I love them.
BD: You’ve added a smaller size Leather Charging Station and all-new desktop Leather Accessories. How do you stay organized and stress-free during the chaos of the holidays?
BW: One of the things that drives me crazy is when I go someplace and I can’t find an outlet or I have too many things to plug in and I’m crawling around on the floor. So we designed two sizes of this Charging Station so you can have it in several rooms, especially the guest bedroom, so your holiday houseguests are easily accommodated. They don’t have to go searching for a place to plug in their phone or iPad. The desktop accessories are really about everyday organization and having a place for all those little things.
At Christmas there’s always chaos in unwrapping the presents, and it seems like it’s just so hard to keep your house neat during this time.That’s why I make sure there are plenty of big baskets to throw things in. If you’re not using the Shopping Bag Waste Bin for trash, use it to toss magazines or a throw in. Just make sure things have a place to go, so you can clean up quickly.
Thanks, Bunny! You’ve got us counting down to the holidays.
Browse all of Bunny Williams’ products designed for Ballard Designs, or learn more about Bunny Williams and her decorating style.
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I loved your book, ” One Man’s Folly”, re: Furlow Gatewood……however I did not see his recipe for the famous
cheese stix. Yummmm!.
Hopefully he shared it with you.