The Sumptuous Home of Bunny Williams and John Rosselli
Interior Designer Bunny creates rich, inviting rooms where antiques and contemporary pieces work in harmony.
In addition to running her own business and overseeing multiple home decor collaborations, for the past 25 years she and her husband, antiques dealer John Rosselli, ran Treillage, a trendsetting garden shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that sold patinated urns and weathered furniture long before anybody else did.
Treillage closed this past June, and shortly thereafter, Bunny Williams Home, a showcase for all of Bunny’s designs, opened.
Over the course of 30 years, Bunny has worked to transform her weekend retreat, located in the town of Falls Village, in the northwest corner of Connecticut, into a place that’s stunning but never intimidating.
In addition to renovating and decorating the federal-style house, Bunny has created multiple gardens and used the windowed facade of a 19th-century house to transform the existing barn into a conservatory.
Decorated with handsome antiques and sparkles of gold, the house has a sense of history and gravitas, but also of life and change. Collections of favorite things old and new are proudly and playfully displayed, plants abound, and the gardens are never far from view.
“People always ask me, ‘What’s in in decorating?’ And I say, ‘I don’t know.’ Decorating to me is an interesting combination of interesting things in a space. Mix modern with old, mix black with white, but give it personality. It shouldn’t be thematic.”
In Bunny’s house, the mixture includes polished mahogany furniture set atop rough sea-grass rugs, or a rusted urn on a glossy surface. “You want different textures.
You don’t want everything white or everything brown or everything black, so it’s having a dark wood piece mixed with something that’s gold or glass with wood.”
This mixing creates a timeless feel and keeps the house from ever feeling out of date (the inevitable downside of a trendy home) or what Bunny calls “dead” (the curse of an all-traditional one).
On tables and mantelpieces are lively collections of ceramics and servingware coupled with animal figurines—all from different decades and regions, all in different styles—and everywhere there is gold.
“Every room should have some gold in it. It reflects light, and to me it’s not formal—to me it’s happy.”
Not everything in the house is perfect, and this is by design. “Perfection puts people off. That’s why I love going in a room that’s a little messy or the chair cushion is a little sagged—I know they sit in it. If you walk into a room and it looks like no one has ever sat on the sofa—well, guess what? You’re not going to sit on it.”
Though she’s a self-proclaimed “fanatic” when it comes to cleaning and maintenance, she is a firm believer in the value of patina (patinated objects were one of the things Treillage was famous for) both aesthetically and for its ability to put people at ease.
The kitchen features modern appliances alongside the house’s original 18th-century fireplace; the “tree trunk” pottery pieces atop the bookcase are antique.
How much china does Bunny Williams own? “I don’t want to tell you,” she says. She doesn’t collect full sets; when she and John entertain, the dinner plates might not match the dessert plates and may come from disparate eras, but they always share the same color scheme.
Bunny and John eat breakfast (including eggs from their own chickens) at this table in the kitchen while the dogs sit on the leather couch—known as “the dogs’ TV”—looking out at the world.
A warm palette and a wide range of textures and materials—linen, velvet, satin, sea grass, rough cotton, polished wood—create depth and interest in the library.
“It’s heaven” waking up in her pale turquoise bedroom, says Bunny. The bed, made of bone, was designed by John and built in his shop; the limestone-topped bedside table is from Bunny Williams Home.
Bunny bought this painted English chest at an auction; the mirror is a carved French antique, and the “hydrangeas” and their pots are all made of tole.
Bunny has a grand conservatory, but she also has plenty of plants indoors—and ideas about how to show them to their best advantage. “You want to get the plants up over your head. You don’t want everything low. If all of your plants are on the ground, you don’t see them. But if you put them on pedestals and elevate them, it is much more dramatic, and it makes the room so much more interesting.”
Inside the house, her plants don’t stay in one spot; to maintain their health, she regularly moves them around. “Frankly, no plant does perfectly indoors. Plants are meant to grow outside, and they will do well for a while indoors, but then they go into a stage where they don’t look so good, and you have to take them out. If you don’t have a greenhouse you can take them to a sunny back porch or someplace, so you’re always getting your plants to the point that when you put them out for show they’re in good shape.”
The conservatory is one of Bunny’s favorite places to entertain—it’s common for her to serve dinner to 10 to 12 people at its limestone-topped table—but it’s not just for show. The room is designed to nurture plants, so the floors are made of French roofing tiles set in sand, with drains built underneath, so that the floors, even after a heavy watering, won’t remain wet.
The chairs are slipcovered to survive in a space where water is splashed around, and the furnishings are in pale colors so that they don’t compete with the colors of plants in bloom.
Bunny is a huge fan of hurricane lamps, and of candelight in general. “I have two tall torchieres that bounce light off the ceiling, and everything else is candlelight.” For a time she used real candles but eventually switched to electric-powered Luminara candles. “They are fabulous. They are wax, and they look like real candles—the flame flickers and moves. I used to have to go around and light all of these candles, but that took too long. So now I have my little remote control and I light them all at once.”
via:One kings Lane