For this year’s Sotheby's Designer Showhouse and Auction, twelve established and up-and-coming designers are curating signature rooms with unique pieces from a range of Sotheby’s departments, including 20th Century Design, Prints, Silver, Photography and English furniture. Here, Bunny Williams, who is creating the Showhouse Living Room, shares her design philosophy, tips for new collectors and more.
“I like complex rooms that become more interesting over time,” says Williams, who opened her Manhattan firm in 1988. “A room should unfold to you. I don’t think you should walk in and be hit over the head by anything.” Instead, Williams believes in a tailored approach and creates a rich atmosphere with high-quality, one-of-a-kind pieces. “You can never get bored with real quality, beautifully crafted art and furniture.”
BUNNY WILLIAMS. PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BESSLER.
What is the starting point for your Showhouse Living Room?
Every room starts with a trigger. I find a rug, or see two pieces of furniture, or someone has a great art collection – that’s the beginning. I always have to see what I get to choose from before I know where I’m going.
How can someone easily update a living room?
Unclutter and simplify. Get rid of the chintz, take down the curtains. Open it up, air it out, have fewer things. Make sure that what you do have, you arrange so it’s not scattered all over the room. You kind of tighten it up. Then all the things that remain will stand out more.
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCESCO LAGNESE.
Do you have any tips for integrating art into a room?
If you have a big wall, try to find a big painting or hang a lot of smaller pictures as a group. So much art is badly hung because people aren’t thinking about the relationship of the art to the space. And the worst thing you can do is to match your art to the colours in the room.
A DINING ROOM DESIGNED BY WILLIAMS.
What’s your advice for first-time buyers of antiques?
I think it’s so important to use the auction houses. When I first came to New York, I would go to Sotheby’s on weekends to look at the furniture. It was an incredible way of learning about the decorative arts. I think new buyers should go to sales and train their eyes, because that’s how people gain the confidence to find something hidden when they’re on the hunt out in the country.