Podcast, Ep. 349: Life in the Garden with Bunny Williams

Author and Designer Bunny Williams

This week, we welcome back legendary interior designer Bunny Williams. In preparation of her new book Life in the Garden to release in March 2024, Bunny generously shares some great tips on planning successful gardens from starting small to considering ongoing maintenance.

Bunny also offers advice for novice gardeners, including prioritizing manageable tasks, plant care, pot selection, and using garden structures to enhance outdoor spaces. Get ready to be inspired to spend some time outdoors!

"Life in the Garden" by Designer Bunny Williams

Pre-order Bunny Williams new upcoming book “Life in the Garden” here.

What You’ll Hear This Episode:

  • What inspired Bunny Williams to compose Life in the Garden. 
  • How a plan in your garden can help you stay organized and on track.
  • Bunny shares memories of growing up in Virginia and how it shaped her approach to hospitality and entertaining.
  • Great advice for novice gardeners.
  • All about plant care and keeping your garden healthy and beautiful.
  • How to find the right pot for your plant.
  • Ornamentation and structure is such a huge part of your garden.
  • What Bunny Williams’ planting season looks like.
  • The logistics of garden photography.
  • Where Bunny Williams sources her plants and garden materials.
Bunny Williams home garden

Image excerpt from “Life in the Garden” by Bunny Williams

Decorating Dilemma:

Hello How to Decorate,

We recently bought a 1980s lake house and would love to get your design advice. Except for the living room, it’s a real hodgepodge, with lots of dated finishes and some floor-plan issues. My goal is cozy and relaxed, nothing fancy. We’ll be here during summer and winter.

The center area, which is open to the upper level, was the main living space until former owners added the living room. Though the area is too big to be just a pass-through, there’s no need to furnish it as a “real” room. Also we like seeing the wood-burning stove from the living room and don’t want to block that with anything bulky. Thinking chairs or small benches that can be pulled up to sit by the fire, or pushed aside in the summer. And what about a rug—is it odd to have a big, room-sized rug if there’s not much furniture to anchor it? Do I even need a rug? (The area is not as expansive as the pictures make it look.)

The dining area could definitely use a rug, as well as a new light fixture. The far end has a built-in window seat, and our table is 4’ wide x 8’ long. Because the table is pulled up to the window seat, the light fixture won’t be centered on  the table (it’s centered on doorway to a porch). Is a flush mount a better option in this case, so the off-center position will be less obvious?

The kitchen and back-hall lighting is very harsh and institutional and is probably my biggest priority. There are 3 large fluorescent lights in the hallway and laundry, and the kitchen’s main fixture is especially clunky. What do you suggest? There are a few recessed lights in the kitchen already, not interested in adding any more.

I’d also like to paint the back hall and laundry walls a richer color, maybe a deep green. Should the back door be green too, or possibly black? I plan to replace the ancient fridge with a stainless steel one after I paint.

And finally, do you have experience with solar shades? The huge window in the living room lets in a lot of heat. With no AC, we need to put the cellular shades down on summer days, blocking our lake view.

Sincere thanks for your advice. I’ve learned so much from you and your wonderful guests and can’t wait to hear your ideas.

All the best,


Hi Wendy!

First off, you have a beautiful house. Bunny suggests adding a large wool or area rug to define the space and make it extra cozy. Arranging a pair of comfortable wingback chairs on either side of the fireplace with an ottoman or bench between them for extra seating will draw attention to the fireplace rather than block the view.

You could also consider small sofas or built-in banquettes along the walls for additional seating options

Placing furniture in this space will help utilize it beyond just a pass-through, connecting it more to the living room area. A rug, chairs and ottoman/bench would make it a lovely sitting space to enjoy the fireplace from. Installing flush mount light fixtures rather than fluorescent lights can provide softer, more attractive lighting in areas like the kitchen and back hallway. Finally, moving the dining room table to the center of the space rather than against the window seat can improve the low and use of the dining area.

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Happy Decorating!

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Kelley Bostian

Kelley enjoys a light and livable home and is always searching for that perfect finishing touch. Here on How to Decorate, it's his goal to help you bring your own unique design vision to life.