As I sit down to write this post, I am flooded with memories of the beginning of my affair with a house. I am also filled with feelings of gratitude to a woman I have never met…..Bunny Williams. Bunny’s book, An Affair With A House, was the greatest help and consolation through my two year adventure restoring our 1924 home. I have often thought of writing her a thank you note for all the help and inspiration she unknowingly gave me in her book. So in the form of a blog post…I would like to say, “Thank you, Bunny Williams.”
I will never forget the first time I saw An Affair With A House. I was a sophomore in college and I was in Mrs. Howard’s. There were stacks of them. Phoebe had them beautifully displayed on the base of a Welsh dresser amongst lovely linens and William Yeoward crystal. The title intrigued me, as did the beautiful cover with Manor House, but my college budget precluded the purchase. Throughout the years, I would continue to see her book in antique stores, bookstores, and designer showrooms. To be honest, I would always think, “I’m going to buy that one day because it would look so pretty on a coffee table.”
-A boxwood-lined path at Manor House, that Bunny planted over twenty years ago
Several years passed. I was married with a baby and at twenty-six years old I had, rather unexpectedly, just bought my first and last house. It was a 1924 eclectic, two-story brick directly behind the home I had grown up in. My wife and I were only the third owners of the house and it had great bones, but had fallen into serious disrepair. Many of my friends and relatives thought I had lost my mind. My father-in-law walked in the foyer and said, “Y’all are crazy for buying this thing.” But I saw the potential and was determined to make it work. Stretching myself to buy it in the first place, I couldn’t afford to do all the work that it needed, let alone decorate it. I decided to do all the work that I could myself and began going over every night after work until midnight. For six months this continued, until the place was in a livable state for my wife and young daughter.
-The entrance hall at Manor House
It would seem that the hard part was behind me. I had re-painted and re-plastered almost every surface. I had refinished the floors. No more long hours away from my family. But I found myself even more discouraged than before. I needed a vision for the interior of the house. All good houses evolve organically over time, as this one is still, but I needed some direction. I couldn’t think amongst the paint cans and ladders. I am a collector and had an eye for what to buy, but I needed to know how to make this house a home.
-The Living Room
One day, sitting in my office, stressed and sweating bullets about all the money that this house was sucking out of me, a sensible thought emerged…. I needed to buy Bunny William’s An Affair With A House! Now, my wife and I discuss everything that comes into our home, even down to the faucets and hardware, and every fifty bucks was important. You can imagine the look I got when I walked in from work with a $50 coffee table book for the coffee table we didn’t have. She said, “You did what? I could have bought half a faucet with that!”
Well, it was the best $50.00 I have ever spent in my life. I developed a routine, which I recommend for anyone restoring and decorating an old home, especially if you have kids and dogs running around. Every night, after the chaos settled, I would put on Beegie Adair, make a scotch (or two), and read Bunny’s book. I read it cover-to-cover three times.
-Looking out onto the grounds from the library
Bunny writes a Cinderella story about the transformation of a neglected house, whose spaces suffered from a hodgepodge of décor and purpose, to an elegant, comfortable home where every space was lovingly returned to both appropriate function and visual appeal. From the first pages, I identified our own Nash Abbey with the story of Manor House. The personal stories in An Affair With A House entertained and inspired me. My stress and anxiety gave way to new inspiration and motivation. I found the direction I needed to forge ahead and transform our house into a home to be proud of, a place reflecting the wisdom and practical style of Bunny Williams.
-The Master Bedroom at Manor House
Is my house where I want it to be? No. But I will continue to rely on Bunny’s bold and innovative ideas and timelessly elegant spaces as my home evolves over a lifetime. Therefore An Affair With A House is not on my coffee table, but sits as the sole book in a higher place of honor in the living room, on a Pembroke table with a family picture and a collection of antique papier mache boxes. I couldn’t recommend this book more, whether you are a young collector or an old pro. I am looking forward to meeting Bunny Williams at this year’s show and, Ms. Williams, if you’re reading this, consider it a long overdue thank you note for the inspiration and joy you gave this family in An Affair With A House.