Stylephile: Bunny Williams

Interior designer and tastemaker Bunny Williams talks about rug designs, why color palettes are important, and more.

Bunny Williams
Photo by Tria Giovan.

“Rugs are the magic of every room,” says internationally celebrated designer Bunny Williams. “They are where I begin every project.”

In 1988, after working with legendary design firm Parish-Hadley Associates for 22 years, she started Bunny Williams Inc. Today, in addition to her design business, Williams runs Manhattan-based Treillage Ltd. (which sells garden objects and decorative accessories), and furnishings company Bunny Williams Home.

But the big news is that Williams has just completed her first rug collection for the Doris Leslie Blau Gallery, longtime source for many of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 Designers. In more than 40 rugs, Williams reinterprets classic motifs with stylized, all-over patterns. We were invited to preview the collection at the DLB showroom in Manhattan, and had the pleasure of meeting the designer herself.

How did your collection for Doris Leslie Blau come about?

I have worked with the gallery and owner Nader Bolour for years and learned about rugs from Doris herself. I know the quality of their custom rugs and manufacturing capabilities, so there was no hesitation in my choice to collaborate with them. The project took less than a year from conception to launch.

Which of your rug designs is the most versatile? Dramatic? Whimsical?

I love the versatile Quiver pattern in muted green on a cream hemp ground. To me, that rug can be used anywhere. The Aegean is probably the most whimsical of the designs. Though its deep shades of blue are bold, the tonal difference in the blues is subtle, so I find it quite sophisticated. The Taj pattern is the most dramatic. Its overall motif, modified from an early 13th-century Persian bowl, is a classical design made modern by transformation of scale. Rugs are so important to an overall design scheme—I select them before choosing paint colors or fabrics for a room, but I always want the rug to be a backdrop for furniture and art.

How does rug design differ from furniture design?

What’s so interesting about designing a rug is that there are so many different ways in which it can be woven—and the same pattern can look vastly different in wool versus hemp. I wanted my collection to be versatile, so textures include hemp, wool, silk and aloe, looped and flat weaves.

How did you arrive at your color palette?

It’s important to choose colors that are easy to live with, which means ignoring trends. One of my favorite colors, which you’ll find in my office, my own home and in my collection, is a mossy green. It works like a neutral, so a rug in this palette allows me to mix in fabrics in stronger colors, like turquoise or chromium yellow. The best color schemes, as with the best designs, are those that are timeless.

What’s your next big thing? Any more rug collections?

A second rug collection is not currently in the works, but I did just revisit existing patterns and picked a few new color palettes that will be available this fall. And Bunny Williams Home just introduced metal and lacquer lighting, upholstered pieces and desks. I also launched a collection of artwork for J. Pocker that is special to me, because many of the items are copies of things from my personal collection. I always have something in the works.

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