Classic Cool

“Blue was her favorite color. She always told me ‘Bryan, I even dream in blue.’ All of her stationery was painted blue. Her room was blue toile. She had blue floors.” Bryan Huffman, speaking about his late friend and heiress Bunny Mellon, could write a book filled with fascinating anecdotes like this. An interior designer based out of Monroe, Huffman has spent more than 25 years traveling the East Coast, designing spaces ranging from sprawling estates to small city apartments. Along the way, he’s had the rare opportunity to learn from iconic trendsetters including decorating darling Mellon and fashion icon Deeda Blair. He’s also acquired generations of clients, who become more like family than customers. That’s probably because everything about Huffman is distinctly Southern and timeless—from his elegant drawl to his charming interiors.

 

How did your love of interior design begin?

My grandmother was very involved with houses, was constantly redoing them and she had a decorator. I would just kind of follow them around. While most kids were rolling around balls, I was watching people move furniture.

What is it about your work that keeps you passionate?

I love making houses. All it takes is redoing a few things. A fresh coat of paint, move some things around and ‘Voila!’ you’ve put the pieces together. I always considered design to be like working some kind of puzzle. You just have to assemble the pieces and make it work.

You’ve designed NYC apartments to sprawling estates. what projects do you most enjoy?

For me, every project brings its own interest. I love the people I meet. I know of no job where you become more intricately involved and know all of the aspects of the family: their needs, how they live. Some people live a very clean, modern kind of lifestyle and others live a more formal existence. You have to figure out what sorts of needs that particular family has at that particular time.

Where do you go to find inspiration?

My whole library is full of older magazines, like Architectural Digest and Veranda, where everything that was old is now new again. And I gather inspiration from people I know who are great trendsetters. I have a dear friend who is in her 90s and lives in Washington, D.C. She was actually the one who introduced Jackie and John Kennedy, Martha Bartlett. She is fresh and young at 91, constantly out shopping and scouring and she has great American pieces. She’s a big collector of American furniture.

What’s the most important design takeaway you learned from your time spent with Bunny Mellon?

I think it is to not try to make something appear serious, stiff, or pretentious. Some rooms you look at and think, ‘That’s just a little much.’ She loved light. She did a room in Upperville, Va. that was probably one of my favorites. It had a quality that is so hard to get because in the winter—with the fire going, flowers, etc.—the room was so warm. And yet in the summer, it was the freshest, most comfortable, light, airy room. It just functioned so beautifully. Her rooms did not feel stuffy.