Perusing the pages of Architectural Digest's centennial January 2020 issue, you may have encountered the glossy 12-page spread on Bunny and her husband John Rosselli's Manhattan apartment. It was incredible to see the story included alongside 100 of the top designers and architects bringing us into the new decade, and when Bunny hosted us at the apartment for a holiday party in December we were excited to see it for ourselves.
Bunny has never been shy about opening the doors to her personal space. In fact, she encouraged us to explore every inch, even jokingly advising us to open John's closet (where, as expected, we found labeled shelves with neatly stacked sweaters). The more we explored, with Bunny chiming in to point out details on a curtain rod or explain the history behind a hand-painted dressing table, the more it seemed like each room held a hundred untold stories.
And so we formed our resolution for the new year, which is to do a better job of telling the stories behind Bunny’s eponymous design firm and the pieces that comprise the Bunny Williams Home collection. To coincide with its debut in Architectural Digest, we’re starting today by taking a closer look at Bunny and John’s New York apartment.
Greeted by an electric blue, we were immediately energized upon crossing the threshold into the apartment. Bunny points out that the entryway has no windows, but that the bold blue reinforces it as the center of the apartment, surrounded by rooms with more subtle color palettes.
One of the final additions to the apartment was this large-scale photograph of a swamp. Though a passionate gardener, Bunny has long been intrigued by the mystery and natural beauty of the overgrown wetlands. Since a majority of her art collection is comprised of paintings or drawings, she searched specifically for a photograph for this wall and discovered this shot by artist Nelson Hancock.
The bright blue frames a view into the living room, where gold and bronze hues reign supreme. On either side of the fireplace, recessed bookcases display spines interspersed with Bunny and John’s collection of bronze animals.
“Bookcases are a great place to display objects because you see them more. Our bronzes reflect our passions—lots of whippets and rabbits.”
A contemporary painting by young Brooklyn artist Robert Szot is flanked by 19th-century pine figures that could have been part of a paneled room. Below the painting, a French metal mid-century bench upholstered in an antique tapestry remnant holds more stacks of books.
“I don’t want to design a period room.”
The living room is a masterclass in mixing pieces from different eras. A 19th-century English regency sofa sits alongside 18th-century French Louis XV open armchairs with painted frames and tiger velvet upholstery. A contemporary, acrylic-top table holds fresh flowers, a hurricane lamp and a gold gourd sculpted by Christopher Spitzmiller.
Two of our checkered Carel drinks tables sit low to the ground, and we rest our glasses as Bunny admires the mirror that serves as the backdrop from this angle.
“The mirror was hand-casted by Stephen Cavallo and has a watery quality to it. I love the way it reflects light—it's not a mirror for looking at yourself in.”
The hand-forged iron curtain rod crowning the windows is from Malmaison, a since-closed antique shop in New York. Bunny points out its whimsical detailing—a spiderweb with an entrapped metal bug—that we might not have otherwise noticed.
The gilded mirror over the fireplace, a piece Bunny has had for years, speaks to her love for faux-bois and anything that reminds her of gardening.
Its carved, twiggy top evokes the same style as the gilded base on our Albero drinks table, seen here next to a chair upholstered in a dandelion velvet. The colors in the rug create harmony between rooms, Bunny notes, hinting at the mossy green palate in the library next door.
“The extra stools and drinks tables are what make a room comfortable and inviting.”
In the library, strong graphic patterns are at play. Animal print pillows mingle with our John Sofa and a chair with its original tapestry upholstery. A bright blue again serves to center the seating area, this time in the form of damask upholstery on a bench which doubles as a coffee table and a place to rest your feet.
Many of us curiously cocked our heads to one side to read the spines stacked on the shelves in the library. "Are Men Necessary?" by Maureen Dowd was a favorite find, along with, "Naughty Miss Bunny," by Clara Mulholland, a children's book with a namesake throw in our Bunny Williams Home collection.
The dining room also functions as Bunny’s office. The circular table can expand to seat twelve, but Bunny uses it more regularly as a desk. A printer and laptop are stored out of sight in the drawers and cabinets to the right. Paintings and drawings that span three centuries and various mediums are grouped together on the wall, salon-style.
On the opposite side of the room, light pours in to a seating area where Bunny reads the morning newspaper. Bunny added two pilasters to the longer, window-less wall to break up the space and create distinct sections where she could hang two groupings of artwork. The pilasters were marbleized by Artgroove, a long-time painting partner.
Off the dining area, a small room leads to a powder room. What it lacks in architectural grandeur, Bunny made up for by commissioning artist Bob Christian to hand-paint an exuberant mural. Reminiscent of an early Flemish tapestry, the scene overflows onto the ceiling. Wooden cabinets, painted to resemble a birdcage, cleverly disguise the electrical board.
The crown jewel of Bunny’s bedroom is Serge Roche bed, which John spotted at a Sotheby’s auction dismantled on the floor in a side room. The chance discovery, Bunny notes, is a testament to the importance of knowing your design history and the exhilaration of hunting for antiques. In a past life, the mirrored bed belonged to Dorothy Hart Hirshon, a glamorous fixture of New York’s social scene in the 1920s-40s.
To one side of Bunny’s bed is a 19th-century English dressing table with hand-painted floral garland decorating its drawers. In the 19th-century, she explains, women were often commissioned to paint furniture. This piece was painted by Swiss artist Angelica Kauffman. Above the table, botanical drawings are grouped for their medium—all are rendered in pencil—and hung together for bigger impact.
Bob Christian’s deft strokes also cover the walls of the master bathroom. Exotic greenery, buildings and tents are depicted, this time in a monochrome style known as grisaille. The mirror is also a medicine cabinet, dressed in a custom metal frilled frame.
A metal frame also surrounds John’s bed, made by Weylandts from Bunny’s own design. A small footstool next to the bed allows the couple’s dogs to climb up and get comfortable.
John has passionately collected Orientalist paintings for many years. One of his early acquisitions, purchased in his 20s at a store near his hometown, hangs above his headboard.
The Orientalist oeuvres extend into a wood-paneled bathroom, and Bunny begins to explain their historical significance as both souvenirs and status symbols.
“In the 19th-century, before cameras existed, it became fashionable for wealthy Europeans to travel to exotic places in the Far East with an entourage of artists who would record what they’d seen.”
A mid-century dresser, flanked by metal chairs that Bunny surmises might have been made for a boat, is home to some of John’s beloved objects. Among them, we can’t help but smile at the sight of two magnifying glasses with hand-carved handles, a reminder that it's always worth taking a closer look at the details.
Owens, Mitchell. "Inside The New Manhattan Apartment of Decorating Legend Bunny Williams." Architectural Digest (January 2020)
Meagher, Jennifer. “Orientalism in Nineteenth-Century Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/euor/hd_euor.htm (October 2004)
All photography by Reid Rolls.