Couples rarely come to us with anything written, much less a poetic letter describing their dream for a new home, down to the required number of rooms. But these two clients took a long view. First they purchased a piece of property for its lush trees (a love I share). Then they commissioned architect Michael Dwyer to design a house inspired by the 20th century luminaries David Adler and Frances Elkins. (Michael’s drawings were so exquisite we later had them printed in sepia to cover the powder room walls.)
A key aspect of the couple’s vision was a large library, not only for their book collection but also as a place to work. They specified sizable surfaces for reading, comfortable seating for visiting with family and friends, and views to the garden created by Quincy Hammond.
Their wish list could have been mine: 18th- and 19th-century English, Irish, Swedish, and French pieces; porcelains; chintz; stripes; Chinese wallpaper; needlepoint carpets; and ‘a sprinkling of twentieth-century furniture.’ Their decorating muses were Nancy Lancaster, Billy Baldwin, and Parish-Hadley, close to home for me, too.
As Elizabeth and I worked with them and Michael on choosing materials and finishes, we developed floor plans and colour schemes. When an amazing 18th-century Chinese wallpaper came up at auction, we had the dining room’s first piece. Our client called to say she wanted the living room to be the very same blue as the drawing room in Pride & Prejudice, the 2005 movie. We watched it repeatedly because each frame contained so many different shades. With master painter John LaPolla, we ultimately achieved the right one.
Creating this house involved so many wonderful experiences, none more so than a shopping trip abroad. We began at the Masterpiece antiques fair. But it was the next few days in London where we found, one by one, fabulous pieces to place throughout. When the couple finally crossed the threshold, their eyes welled up. Their dream had become reality, to the letter.
Love Affairs with Houses by Bunny Williams (Abrams, £45). Photography: Fritz von der Schulenburg