MDS- How would you define your style?
BB- I have always been fascinated by the totality of eighteenth-century design – by the idea of integrating architecture, decoration and landscape. And though I do have a predilection for all things classical, my inspiration, I’ll admit, comes from diverse sources, from past centuries to the present. That said, my rooms are restrained and modern – but not in a chrome-and-glass sort of way. My strength lies in combining beautiful objects and furniture, often from vastly different periods and cultures, in thoughtfully edited settings.
MDS- Where did you grow up and how do you think that influences your work?
BB- I’m a New Englander and grew up in a house my father designed with the help of a family friend, an architect from Philadelphia. The interior resembled a barn somewhat, with ceilings nearly twenty feet high and exposed beams that emphasized the vertical scale of the main rooms. The place was chockfull of objects: furniture from my father’s family and paintings from my mother’s; innumerable mementos from our travels; even some ancestral portraits. So, yes, my childhood house definitely influenced my aesthetic. That house and the memories formed there have made me understand – and appreciate – the emotional importance of continuity. Even though I now choose to live in more pared-down, more proscribed surroundings – and the interiors I create for clients are, well, more edited – it’s those small links to the past (the books, the photographs, the presents from our siblings) that bring resonance to a house and make it that much more meaningful.
MDS- If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
BB- I’d be a gardener! But I’m afraid I’d spend all my time designing gardens for my friends and neighbors, reading under the trees, or just staring up at the clouds!
MDS- Who or what is inspiring you right now?
BB- Jefferson’s Monticello inspires me still, as does Schinkel’s Charlottenhof. Currently, I am obsessed (like most everyone) with the work of Anish Kapoor. We’re now working on a house with a room fitted with 18th-century boiserie. I’m having the paneling stripped and limed and will place large clipped trees in planter boxes near the many pairs of French doors leading to the gardens. The sole piece of art in the room will be – what else? – a polished disc by Anish Kapoor.
MDS- What is the favorite room in your home?
BB- I recently purchased a weekend getaway – a country house that dates to 1830, sits high above a pond, and is located on a road leading to a charming river ferry that’s been operating since 1769. I’m turning what was once the dining room, part of a late 19th-century addition, into a sitting room. With windows on three sides, it has the most incredible light throughout the day.
MDS- Is there anything you obsessively collect?
BB- I don’t consider myself a collector but do find myself searching for, in addition to 20th-century pieces, neoclassical furniture – Louis XVI and Gustavian, Directoire, Regency. There’s something particularly modern about these styles, and I like mixing them with contemporary finds. I love drawings – Old Masters, for instance. One of my favorites, a 19th-century pencil drawing, is a small Boilly I found in Paris. I buy contemporary works, too – prints and drawings, mostly.
MDS- “I could never own too many ______.”
BB- Shirts- Remember when Jay Gatsby tosses his shirts in the air and Daisy begins to weep because they’re so beautiful? I can totally relate.
MDS- If you could decorate anyone’s house – whose would it be and why?
BB- If he were alive today, I’d be delighted to work with…Bill Blass. Bill Blass was the first to champion my design work. He saw my decorator show house room on opening night, telephoned me in the morning (I thought it was a crank call!), and followed up with a note inviting me to see his apartment in New York. I loved that apartment – everything about it: the drawings, the furniture, even the dressing room. I felt totally at home there. “What would you like to drink?” Bill asked when I arrived at One Sutton Place South. “Cranberry juice with a splash of vodka,” I replied. “I only keep cranberry juice in the country!” Bill bellowed. Boom! Bill Blass was as forthright as they come. You have to admire a man like that.
MDS- What do you want to be known for?
BB- For being a good friend and partner, son and brother.
MDS- What do you think is chic, stylish and glamorous?
BB- Glamour is hanging a singularly beautiful Braque in a room filled with dozens and dozens of old wicker baskets – and nothing more, as Bunny Mellon does in her Virginia garden folly.