HTX Comforts of Home 2012
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Downton Abbey's influence: Bill Stubbs on design's 'new traditionalism'

Downton Abbey's influence: Bill Stubbs on design's 'new traditionalism'

Think rich velvets, tassels on luxe pillows, gold-leaf finishes and stately mahogany furniture and you’ve entered the “new traditionalism” movement happening now in the interior design world.

Interior designer extraordinaire Bill Stubbs shared his excitement about the trend with a small audience gathered on in the apropos setting of Charlotte Nail Antiques showroom at the Houston Design Center.

“People have been much more disposable in the way they look at furniture in recent years,” Stubbs said during his “Creating the Classic Lifestyle” presentation. “But that is changing.”

In addition to the normal cycle of fashion and style, he said, other influences are empowering this return to dignified style including TV such as the popular PBS Masterpiece Classic anthology Downton Abbey, which depicts the lives (and living environs) of an aristocratic British family in the post-Edwardian era.

Stubbs offered as an example Saint James Paris, where he recently traveled to witness its recent metamorphosis by interior designer Bambi Sloan. “I didn’t want to like it at first, but I sincerely did,” he admitted.

“It’s another movement away from the lime green walls and shag carpets, from the popular grays, from the stark contemporary lines,” Stubbs said. “And it’s coming back with bright, white walls. It’s a very fresh look.” 

Red Victorian velvet, braid embellishments and “layers and layers” of exquisite details now greet guests. “And every piece of furniture in my room was different, so far away from the cookie-cutter look,” he said.

“It’s another movement away from the lime green walls and shag carpets, from the popular grays, from the stark contemporary lines,” Stubbs said. “And it’s coming back with bright, white walls. It’s a very fresh look.”

Stubbs also addressed the importance of “balance” when shopping for customers, offering high-end to low-end options.

He recalled showing a client custom carpet for $8,000, as well as a $130,000 antique Persian rug for the same space. The wife wanted the rug, and the husband agreed.

“The lesson for us as designers is to show options but to hold them loosely,” he said, “and then let the customer decide. You always want to make sure people are getting value."

Bill Stubbs, November 2012
Bill Stubbs and friends at the Houston Design Center