podcast | Jun 12, 2023 |
Bunny Williams and Elizabeth Lawrence on a partnership two decades in the making

For 22 years, Bunny Williams worked at the legendary New York design firm Parish-Hadley, where she spearheaded extraordinary projects for Manhattan’s upper echelon. During her last five years at the firm, there were conversations about Williams being made a partner, but nothing ever came of it. “I was doing half the business in the firm, and I realized that if you believe in somebody, and if you have a business, then it’s not just about me, it’s about a concept,” Williams tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. When she established her firm in 1988, she was determined not to make the same mistake Parish-Hadley made with her own employees.

Now Williams is making good on that promise. In 2017, she made longtime employee Elizabeth Lawrence a partner, and just this May put her name on the door—what was once Bunny Williams Interior Design is now Williams Lawrence. Like Williams at Parish-Hadley, Lawrence has put in the time. In 2003, she joined the company as an intern and began working her way up. “Elizabeth had my values, and I could see the talent,” says Williams. “Not only did she become a partner but she took on a lot of the role of running the business, and she jumped right in—that was just phenomenal.” Aside from that, Lawrence—who studied at the New York School of Interior Design and obsessed over books on Sister Parish and Nancy Lancaster before starting at the firm—shares Williams’s reverence for the history of design. “I always tell new interns and assistants, ‘You have to know where you’re coming from in order to know where you’re going,’” says Lawrence. “Because [that history] trickles down to Bunny, and then that trickles down to them, so it’s important.”

In an age of (seemingly) overnight success powered by social media virality, both Williams and Lawrence are hopeful that the name change will show the next generation of designers that paying your dues can reap rewards. “So many people work for a designer and then go out on their own because they think, ‘Oh, I'm five years in, so I’ll start my own business,’” says Williams. “What Elizabeth has done is exactly what I did. I stayed and learned and learned because you’re always learning, and I never assumed that I knew everything.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, Williams and Lawrence discuss why AI isn’t as inventive as their firm and the future of home furnishings brand Bunny Williams Home.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Loloi Rugs and Room & Board.

The Thursday Show

Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, Scully and BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus dissect the latest news in the design industry, including home insurers pulling out of California, the acquisition of cookware brand Great Jones and RH’s British invasion. Later, the managing director of Chelsea Harbor, Claire German, discusses the new showhouse in London’s design center.

Listen below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Crypton.

Homepage image: Bunny Williams and Elizabeth Lawrence | Courtesy of Williams Lawrence

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