Designer Q&A with Bunny Williams

SH: What are some of the most memorable rooms or houses you’ve been in?

BW: One of my favorite memories is having tea with Nancy Lancaster in her yellow room above Colefax and Fowler. When I was young and working with Albert Hadley and Sister Parish at Parish-Hadley, I remember going with them to William and Babe Paley’s apartment and Mrs. Astor’s house in Briarcliff Manor. They lived in incredibly high style, but it was always comfortable. The rooms were spaces you just wanted to be in. It was an extraordinary era with people who really knew how to live well and had incredible personal taste.

SH: Is there a distinction between having good taste and having great style?

BW: Well, taste is relative. There are people with terrible taste, at least to my eye, but who absolutely own it with great style. Style is something you either have or you don’t. You can be exposed to things, but it’s the confidence to make them yours—instead of wearing head-to-toe Chanel, you take the jacket and put it on with a pair of blue jeans and a shirt from H&M. It’s the same with houses. You have a great antique, you buy something new at Pottery Barn, and you find a basket during a trip to Guatemala. Then you somehow make it all work together. I see apartments in magazines and think, “Oh my, how could they live with that?” But that doesn’t mean they don’t have style. It is about knowing who you are. I always say that you own your house; the house doesn’t own you.

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