Bunny Williams: The BeeLine Home Collection
BUNNY WILLIAMS’ brand new, signature collection of home furnishings and accessories, BeeLine Home, may have just debuted in April, but it’s already causing quite a buzz—in Atlanta and beyond. Marked by superb quality, competitive pricing and exquisite details, BeeLine boasts a stylistic mix that makes it work in just about any setting—and can easily create a collected look in an instant. So in tandem with her recent visit to the Mrs. Howard showroom for the Atlanta launch, we caught up with the designer to find out just what makes BeeLine so special.
Bottoms-up Drinks Table
Porter Drinks Tables
You have said that it is sometimes challenging to find the perfect pieces to complete a room. In your experience as a designer, which pieces have been the hardest to find, and why?Well, when I say hard to find, I mean that these are essential pieces that everybody needs. You need that perfect table to go at the end of a sofa. Coffee tables, bedside tables…every designer needs those things. I really wanted to address the things that people are always looking for: little tables to go next to a chair—I call them drinks tables—just those tiny tables you need to put a glass down or have a cup of coffee. Sometimes you can use four of those in room. I also wanted to create beautiful lamps with beautiful bases, plus accessories, and these very versatile dining chairs.
Eclipse Chair and Eclipse Arm Chai
Your Eclipse Chair and Eclipse Arm Chair embody such a fusion of designs. I notice touches of Hollywood Regency, Mid-Century, and Neoclassical design. What were your inspirations?
Eclipse represents the basis for a lot of things in the collection: to have not-too-traditional but also more modern style at the same time. If you have antiques, you can put it with antiques; if you have more modern furniture, you can put it with that. I was trying to make pieces that were transitional. I think a lot of times people don’t know who they are. They might come from a traditional background and want to be traditional, or they may say, ‘I don’t want that; I want to be modern.’ What’s great about these is that they can work with any taste.
Are there any pieces in the collection that are more special to you than others?
Well, I love the gold Twigs Mirror. I own the original. It’s always something that interests me when you have the juxtaposition of a mirror that’s carved like twigs—something natural—and then gilded. It’s something more simple made to look more elegant. The rooster Parish Cachepot is a reproduction of one I bought from Mrs. [Sister] Parish’s estate. These are things that are sentimental to me.
Work Horse Desk
With its modern style and practicality, the Work Horse Desk fits right into Williams’ daily routine
What design challenges did you face when designing these pieces?
I have a phobia about wires. I hate wires hanging down. So when I was esigning a desk that I knew I was going to work with a lot, I wanted a solution to that. The Work Horse Desk has a hollow slot for the wires that lets them run down the back leg and across the floor. Sometimes design comes from not only things you like but also things that bother you.
What made this the right time for a collection for you, after 22 years with Parish-Hadley and more than 20 years in your own design business?
This has taken a very long time. To get from my first idea to the finished product has taken four years. And it’s taken that long because I had to do it in this complicated way. I had to find the factories; do the design; go to China, Indonesia and India to find suppliers and factories; find warehouses to store it, and so on. All of the upholstery is done in California, but the wood pieces are done in Indonesia. Everything is done by hand—it’s incredible. Take the carved Garden Panel, for example. The workmanship is just beautiful.
A close-up view of the intricate workmanship of the Garden Panel.
What manufacturer did you work with to create this collection?
I am doing it myself. I sought out a company in Lynchburg, Virginia, because I wanted to do things in a different way. I produced the furniture and went directly to the factory because I cared so much about the quality of the finishes. I wanted the insides and the bottom to be as beautiful as the top. Sometimes companies make decisions to cut the costs, and those decisions are out of your hands. But I wanted to produce it myself. We did the design and worked for hours on the finishes, which is what’s so different about these pieces—but also what makes them so beautiful.
Williams’ New York office is elegantly outfitted with pieces from her new BeeLine collection.
What was the unveiling like?
We wanted to show it to people before they saw it in a showroom. So we set up the office so shop owners could come see the prototypes and place their orders from there. Seeing them all together was more exciting than I ever imagined.
Your collection embodies both modern and traditional principles. How did you meld these styles together so seamlessly?
Design is all about proportion and scale. It can be Roman, or it can be contemporary, but when the proportions, scale and finishes are right, it will always be very beautiful. Take the Luna Lamp: I plan to put it on a very traditional French chest, and it will make that French chest more interesting than the porcelain lamps I have on it. Most furniture collections are sold with the mentality of a suite… but I’ve never decorated like that in my life. I would never make a companion piece. And it’s also why I chose to [merchandise] in an interesting way.
What’s interesting with this collection is that I wanted it to be available to designers but also to the retail person, because I think that today there are a lot of people who pore over magazines to get ideas and have developed a style on their own. Many can’t afford to hire a designer, but they like nice things. There are lots of people who are starting out and even have a house, and they want nice things, but they can’t afford to have someone come in and decorate it all at one time. I wanted the product available to them. I didn’t want it tied up in ADAC or D&D showrooms. Anybody can go into these shops and buy what they like.
Why did you choose Mrs. Howard as the Atlanta retailer of these pieces?
There’s such integrity in the shops that will sell it. Roselli will sell it in New York, Mrs. Howard will sell it in the Southeast. I wanted it to be available in beautiful showrooms where you walk in and say, ‘I could live right here.’ I don’t want it just sitting in a showroom with a salesperson that doesn’t know what it’s about. I wanted the collection to be available in Atlanta because I always just say that Atlanta is the most design-friendly place in this country. Between ADAC, the antique shops, the variety of things that are there… it’s just fabulous. I’m so happy that the Howards have decided to carry BeeLine.
What else should we know about this collection?
It’s a limited edition, meaning we have ordered a limited number of pieces. At the moment we don’t have plans to order anymore. I made that decision because throughout my decorating career I’ve been attracted to one-of-a-kind pieces. Even a wonderful piece doesn’t seem so unique after you’ve seen it on a showroom floor or in a magazine year after year, so I wanted to have these pieces in a limited run. If there is a lot of interest or a lot of orders for a piece, I might place one more order for it, but that would have to be the exception.
Why was it important to change the collection every year?
I don’t like to repeat myself, and I know that if I go into a design center and there’s a wonderful table and I order it for a client, and another client, I don’t want to order it again. My clients are coming to me for something special. Some people disagree and say, ‘Oh, that piece will become a classic.’ But when you look at as many magazines as I do, you see the same chair and same table again and again—all in different houses, but for three months running in different magazines. I wanted something different.
When will each new collection become available?
Each spring a new collection will come out. I have already finished the designs for the next collection. There are some other coffee tables, some benches, some things that are more modern, others that are more traditionally based. We are doing full-scale drawings of them. In August I am going off to Virginia to see the prototypes that have been made. I will produce them all once they’ve been approved.