I am in love with houses (as I imagine many of you are), which is why the title of Bunny Williams’ book, An Affair with a House, got my attention.
I first checked it out from the library and pored over it, and then went ahead and bought my own copy. I viewed it as an investment; it’s such a classic that I expect to learn from and be inspired by it for years to come.
Bunny is an interior designer, but I found this book to be less about decorating and more about living and living well.
The introduction tells the story of Bunny finding her house (“Without even going inside, I somehow knew that I was home.”) and the rest of the book is broken into sections according to the parts of the house and grounds (the conservatory, the barn, the guest house, the gardens (she has many), the chicken pavilion!, etc.)
Each individual room has it’s own chapter about what makes it up and how it came to be, and interspersed among them are pages on subjects like the thrill of the hunt, collecting art, and living with dogs.
The photographs are plentiful and beautiful, so much so that the book is worth flipping through for them alone.
But I like the thoughts that accompany the pictures. Bunny is a high end, East Coast design professional and an expert on gardening and antiques – in other words, her life couldn’t be more different from my own – but I still found things to relate to in her writing.
On the hunt: “I have to admit there’s something thrilling in the quest. Anyone can walk into the finest shop run by a great connoisseur and buy a masterpiece. The real challenge is to walk into some poky little place and find something that’s stylish or rare.”
On collecting art: “Most of my pictures would be classified as merely decorative, but that’s all right with me. John and I buy pieces that mean something to us, without worrying about their provenance or whether they will greatly increase in value.”
On living with books: “Always build as many shelves as you can – eventually you’ll fill them.”
On entertaining: “Sometimes simple is better — there’s nothing finer than a great meat loaf, as our friends will testify. You may serve it on 18th-century china if you like or dishes from K-Mart. The point is to serve it with confidence and pride.”
A few other tidbits I picked up from the book:
- She uses king-size bedspreads as tablecloths on her large, round dining table.
- She recommends serving food buffet-style for a dinner party. (I loved hearing this!)
- And she mentions Pier 1 as a good source for textiles.
And a couple of quotes that I thought were worth noting:
“Special thought should be given to the utilitarian spaces where you spend the most time – make them enjoyable.”
“The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul.”
Finally, I was struck by this section from the ending:
“As I walk into the house with John on a Friday evening, I have thought of those who have no homes. As I have gradually grown into a gardener, I have become more aware of the beauty of our environment and the urgent need to preserve it. My wonderful dogs have made me want to protect all abandoned animals. Now when I sit on the porch, my thoughts no longer focus only on my own little corner but run more to what I can do with my time and resources to contribute to the world.”