Whether you are two or four footed, interior decorator Bunny Williams can help. She shares with us some of her design know-how for pet friendly living, and tells us how she works to help “tails in need.”
“I think everybody should go get a dog,” says interior designer Bunny Williams. “It’ll make their houses look much better and much more lived-in, and it’ll make them much nicer people.”
Living with animals comes naturally to Ms. Williams, who grew up on a farm in Virginia in the company of chickens, horses, cows, and, as it happens, beagles, which her father bred and showed. The young Ms. Williams, however, did not inherit her father’s enthusiasm for AKC perfection. “When there was a litter of puppies, I would immediately fall in love with the runt,” she says. “I’ve always had this thing about the homely dog, or the dog with funny ears.”
With two terrier mutts, Charlie and Lucy, Ms. Williams now has the sort of dogs she loves, and together they live harmoniously in luxurious interiors. Ms. Williams’ basic advice on pets: keep them clean, and keep them company. “The more they are part of your life, the better behaved they are going to be,” she says.
A few extra decorating tips: white carpets will bring no joy, but oriental rugs will delight both man and beast. Sea grass, a natural sisal material for the floor, is a gentleman: it never tells. Wrapping favorite cushions in throws helps to save upholstery from repeated four-paw landings. Finally, even food bowls can look good if they’re well-chosen.
Not all of Ms. Williams’ tony clients are as pet-friendly as she is. In her view, Americans in general – and New Yorkers in particular – tend to be a bit straight-laced about their homes. “The English are much, much more relaxed about their houses than Americans,” she says. “They’ve lived with animals, and they don’t care if the fabric is sort of torn or tattered.” By contrast, in New York it’s “My house has to be absolutely perfect, and maybe the dog is going to keep it from being perfect. But we’re making progress,” she says.
Ms. Williams’ love of dogs prompted her to team up with interior designer Kitty Hawks to found Tails in Need (TIN), an organization devoted to promoting the adoption of animals. Its most prominent fundraiser has been the Great American Mutt Show, devoted entirely to mixed breeds, with categories such as “Best Kisser,” “Looks Most Like Owner,” and “Most Misbehaved Mutt.” Corporate sponsorship has been elusive, but Ms. Williams hopes that one of the dog food companies will eventually bite. “More people in America have mixed-breed dogs than purebred dogs,” she points out, “so it’s a venue for them.”
Bunny Williams’ interiors can be viewed at www.bunnywilliams.com, and additional information on Tails in Need can be found on www.tailsinneed.com.
– Tom Frank