My love affair with Jeffrey Bilhuber began when I was a much younger woman. And even now, my heart skips a beat and my pulse quickens when I hear his name mentioned. . . . Did you just say Jeffrey Bilhuber??? I’m sorry, what were you saying?? Could you say that again???
Because, the truth is that to this day, I want to hear anything Jeffrey has to say, I want to see anything he has done, and I want to know everything he wants to tell me. Did I get all Kathy Bates in Misery on you??? I know. I try to keep that tamped down.
But, but . . . the truth is that I am absolutely DY. Ing. that he is coming to Birmingham (!!!!!) to Antiques in the Gardens in two weeks (Oct 7)!!! I cannot imagine our good fortune and I am already a little antsy, thinking about what I will wear and wondering if sitting on the front row will be coming on too strong??? What questions should I ask??? Should I play it cool or just go with it and let my true emotions show????
So, let’s back it up. The year was 2003 and my husband and I had just bought our own home. I had engaged a decorator to help with the interior but longed to develop my own sense of style, to cultivate my own judgment, to express my own personality. But, I knew I needed guidance. Someone older, wiser, with a sure and steady hand. Some one more worldly and sophisticated. Someone who could teach me how to refine and edit, balance and scale. Someone who could show me beauty in the details and someone who could set my mind on fire with playful and amazingly gorgeous palettes of color and texture.
So, I asked for and received from my sister a copy of Jeffrey Bilhuber’s Design Basics for my birthday in 2003. And, that is when I fell head over heels in love with Jeffrey (I think I can call him Jeffrey). His style was American classic, but way cooler than any thing I had ever witnessed. While my childhood was drenched in Colonial Williamsburg, James River plantations, the Williamsburg Craft House catalog, old issues of Colonial Homes, Sister Parish, Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin, and a very literal adherence to Lisa Birnbach’s Preppy Handbook, I stood ready to cast this design fiber aside as dowdy, boring, and completely passé. In 2003, nothing in what I had known from my childhood seemed stylish. Nothing.
And, then came Jeffrey. I remember flipping through the pages of Design Basics and being mesmerized by the jaw-droppingly gorgeous interiors that took classic American design and made it chic and cool and sophisticated. Wow. Mind. Blown. As Anna Winter notes in the Forward of Design Basics, “Jeffrey has a way of taking one’s own taste and making it better.” Because we all have American classic ingrained within us. But, it took Jeffrey to make Billy Baldwin and Albert Hadley cool again.
And, then, once he wooed us with his mastery of American classic interiors done up in neutrals, he hit us hard with a series of three books, Defining Luxury, The Way Home, and Jeffrey Bilhuber American Master, single-handedly bringing color back to life again – a modern day Wizard of Oz. His play of colors literally sends my mind into the stratosphere. I stare and stare and stare and stare at the pages of his books trying to learn and to unlock the secret to his alchemy. His bebop and skat with antiques and modern, crude and refined, high and low, soft and rough, round and sharp is truly magic.
He is named to Architectural Digest’s AD100 and Elle Decor’s A-List every year and has been since each began listing the same. His work has graced the cover and been covered by every shelter magazine imaginable and his own home has been featured in Vogue (the penultimate coincidence of high style and design). He decorated Anna Wintour’s homes in New York and Long Island, not to mention an unending list of celebrities and jet-setters.
By now, my copy of Design Basics is kind of sad – the spine is broken; there’s a section of the pages that has come loose; some pages are dog-earred; some are water stained. It is
well-worn well-loved, to put it mildly. In the 13 years that have followed, I have turned to this book (and his other three) to start just about every project. The advice hidden within its pages is pure gold. From floor plans to paint colors, to the extraordinary interiors set forth, every detail of this book stands the test of time.
So . . . are you picking up what I am putting down? Jeffrey and a host of other amazing talents from the design world are coming to Antiques in the Gardens in two weeks (October 6- 9 – find the schedule of events here). If you haven’t already gotten your tickets for Jeffrey or for the amazing slate of Taste Makers in the Taste in Spades Series, including my (and everyone’s favorite) Mark Sikes (book signing for his new gorgeous book, Beautiful, to follow), Eddie Ross or others, seriously, you had better get on it now, girl. (Get tickets here). Time is a-wasting and you are going to be left out if you don’t jump on it! Also, the Gala is the best party of the year. There are always a ton of design and other celebs in from out of town. And, it’s fun. Word.
Below, a super sweet scroll of some of my favorite pics of Jeffrey’s work. But, the truth is that everything he does is equally brilliant, so it is hard to play favorites.
See you at the lecture!