If you know world-renowned designer Bunny Williams, then you know there’s only one place she’d rather be in the summertime. That would be her beloved New England country house and gardens. Room by room, she has thought of every detail, so her friends, family and other guests can simply enjoy themselves. Lucky for us, she has recreated some of those special touches in her newest collection for Ballard. Below, we chat with Bunny about her collection and how she welcomes summer.
Ballard Designs: What do you look forward to most in the summer?
Bunny Williams: I still work in New York, but I love to come home to the country. I look forward to spending time outdoors and working in the garden and filling my containers with annuals. Summer is wonderful for outdoor entertaining, too. Because you’re outside and you’re gathered around the picnic table, you can do things in a more casual way. You can have family over and just have a picnic or grill out hamburgers and hot dogs.
BD: How do you prepare your house and garden for summer?
BW: There’s a lot of preparation that goes into the garden for the summer months. I bring out my antique containers and plant annuals in them and place them around the house and garden. I have boxwoods in the greenhouse that I bring out. We plant the vegetable garden. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can make your home feel more summery by placing containers around the porch and walkway.
BD: And what about indoors?
BW: There are a few things that I do. I take up rugs and put down sisal carpets. I have lighter summer slipcovers I put in the library, and I put away the faux fur throw that’s on the sofa. You could certainly just switch out a few throw pillows to get that lighter look. The main thing I love about summer is that you can open up the windows and the doors and let the air come through — and suddenly the house feels lighter and fresher. There’s also an abundance of fresh flowers and plants from the garden around the house.
BD: Do you have any specific plans this summer?
BW: My one trip this summer is going with a group of friends in July to England to look at gardens.
BD: Fun! In your past collections you’ve really focused on tabletop and your dinnerware collections, but this summer it feels like it’s more about the details that give personality and lend comfort to a home.
BW: I think that it’s those kinds of touches that make a house interesting. If you go into a room and there are tables and chairs, what do you put on those tables? Even if you have the simplest table, it needs something on it to make it yours. I happen to like and collect quirky things. The new collection is a combination of things I own and items I find amusing, like the Koi Fish Object, the Turtle Candy Dish and the little Brass Pagoda Hurricane. And I love to move these objects from room to room. For example, if I had two koi fish, I might take them from the table into the living room and put them on the table in the dining room with flowers in between.
BD: Your Woodland Vases are very distinctive, too. They’re from an antique garniture set?
BW: Yes, I own the terra cotta originals. I love faux bois and bringing the outside in, and these have a sense of humor to them. You can put them on a mantel or a big table. I love to put flowers in the vases, but you can also leave them empty.
BW: I want to make my guests feel welcome, so I always keep a bar tray set up all the time. When guests stop by, you don’t have to run around looking for the ice bucket and other barware. You know where it is and they can help themselves. All you have to do is fill the ice bucket. The Herringbone Wood Tray is perfect for holding an ice bucket, a couple of glasses, Coke, Perrier and a canister with wine.
BD: And when extra dinner guests come, you’ve found a stylish and comfortable solution for your ballroom chairs.
BW: Whether you already own ballroom chairs or you rent them for special occasions, this Slipcover is the perfect way to give them a completely different look. It makes them special. They’re padded, so they add a little extra comfort.
BW: I have the same soap dish and I love to fill it with soaps and put it in the guest bathroom. One of my favorite things for the bathroom, though, is the vanity tower, which I have in my bathroom to keep extra rolls of toilet paper. It solves the problem of where to store your toilet paper in an attractive manner.
BD: The luggage rack is one of those things people often don’t think about having at home.
BW: When you have visitors, they usually come with a suitcase and it’s so much nicer to be able to put it on a luggage rack rather than on the floor. This is one of those details that makes your guests feel comfortable. This luggage rack is particularly nice with leather straps and it easily folds up and fits in the closet.
BD: The Silver Tray has so many uses, from the bedroom to the dining room.
BW: Put it in the bedroom and put perfume bottles on it. You can also use it to serve or even put it on the table as a charger. It’s got a lot of uses.
BD: There must be a story behind the Nap Time Sign.
BW: Years ago at my house in the country, friends and neighbors were always stopping by and they would just open the door and walk in. Sometimes, it would drive me crazy and I’d think, “I’m tired, I want to take a nap.” So a friend painted this sign for me. You can put it by your back door or your bedroom door and it means, “Don’t bother me!” It’s a funny sign for the husband, the wife, the children — anybody. Sometimes you just want to get away and take a break.
BD: Your Faux Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree gives you the look of the real thing without the hassle of trying to keep it alive.
BW: It’s fabulous. It’s a great thing in the house if you don’t want to maintain something live. I’m not a big artificial flower person, but I don’t mind artificial trees. They really add something to a room.
BD: Your birdhouse looks very familiar.
BW: My Campbell Birdhouse is so charming. It’s actually a copy of my guest house. It can be used outside for the birds or you can use it as an object. I have a collection of old birdhouses, and right now I have one sitting on a table in my screened porch as something decorative.
BD: Can you tell us about Campbell House?
BW: This is a house right across the street from me that was owned by my friend Alan Campbell, who was a fabric designer. He got very ill and I bought the house for him, so he could continue living there. It was built by the man who built my house. Today, I use it as a guest house, and I call it Campbell House.
BD: There’s nothing quite as practical as a coir door mat.
BW: I love having coir mats by the door. It helps get the mud off your feet before stepping inside. I designed this one with a really pretty Chinese border. I like a simple design — I don’t like them to have ducks and geese.
BD: Every collection of yours features at least one item inspired by your pups. How did the Stitched Pet Blanket come about?
BW: Not everyone loves your dog as much as you do. If you let your dogs jump all over the sofas, no one will feel comfortable coming over and sitting down. I like to wrap the cushions of my sofa in different fabrics for the dogs, but I want them to look good. I hate seeing someone just throwing a sheet over the chair. This blanket is great, because it’s attractive and it tucks into the cushions easily. If your dog wants to jump up on it, fine. You can throw it into the wash. I call it a pet blanket, but I would put it at the foot of my bed any day, because it’s nice to have a lightweight blanket that you can pull over you when you want to take a nap. So it’s not just for pets.
BW: I had all these big handbags that I used to carry around and they were hurting my shoulder. One day I thought, “What am I doing this for?” They’re too big and heavy, and I realized that most of the time all I need is just a few items: my phone, credit cards, money and lipstick. So I started putting those items in a zippered pouch that goes into my tote that I use to carry my books, magazines and notebooks. And if I want to go out without all the books, I just grab my pouch and go. I never have time to change out pocketbooks and this pouch works for me most of the time. It’s so much better than lugging around a large handbag.
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