“It still thrills me that every new project is like a romance,” writes Bunny Williams in the opening lines of her book, Love Affairs with Houses (Abrams, 2019). Despite 40 years in the decorating business, Williams still has the passion of a young romantic.
An echo of her 2005 book, An Affair with a House, Williams’s latest title features 15 recent projects, ranging from Virginia to New York to Provence. Beautiful images dominate the pages, of course, but her commentary on the origins, allure, and challenges of each home reads like liner notes to a favorite album. (“Although I was rather intimidated to be decorating for one of America’s most powerful CEOs, I had to tell him what I thought,” she writes of one encounter. And buying the property that would become her studio, she writes, “felt a bit like kissing an ugly frog.”)
An editor once called Williams “the Meryl Streep of the design world,” meaning she is in a class all her own. Indeed, this book showcases not just Williams’s agility as she moves effortlessly between contemporary and historic modes, but also the depth of her expertise. This is a designer with ample arrows in her quiver, who ensconces one room in Venetian plaster, another in the French technique of decoupage, and another in panels of shirred silk. And those are just the dining rooms. Perhaps most impressive (and equally Streep-like) is Williams’s skill at inhabiting the aesthetic of her clients and then elevating it, rather than contorting each room into her own singular look. It’s a talent that quickens the heart of design lovers everywhere, leaving us hoping her longtime romance continues.
By Kirk Reed Forrester