My Best Advice for Graduates: Never Give Up!

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I was honored to speak at the Art Institute of Houston graduation ceremony. My best piece of advice for the students, a spin on the classic Never Give Up.

I decided I was going to be in Architectural Digest. I couldn’t imagine how I was ever going to make that happen, at the time I was still selling vacuum cleaners door to door (a great lesson in rejection). I decided the best place to start was at the top. I was going to meet Paige Rense, then Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Digest. I wrote her letters and called her office asking for a meeting whenever I was in New York City. On my 14th phone call, the one I thought about not making, her secretary said why don’t you come over. Our conversation was short but memorable:

PR: “Did you bring something to show me?”

BS: “No I just wanted to meet you.”

PR: “Well bring something to show me next time.”

BS: “There’s going to be a next time?”

I never gave up and eventually found my way onto the AD 100

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Catch A Moment of Luxury: How to Create A Classic Christmas Table

We recently uncovered some ‘lost’ never before seen Moment of Luxury footage. I thought Christmas would be the perfect time to begin sharing these videos with you. In this particular video I offer some ideas on how to decorate your holiday table:

Helpful Hints:

1) Heighten the Drama

2) Commit to a color scheme

3) Shop for expensive-looking but wallet friendly buys throughout the year

For more tabletop decorating tips click here!

Wishing you a very Merry and Classic Christmas and a Happy New Year!

- Bill

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The Art of the Written Word Gets Trendy

There are so many ways to say things these days – email, Twitter, text, Facebook, Instagram. But at the end of the day there is nothing more meaningful than finding a handwritten note in your mailbox. It represents how thoughtful someone was to sit down and write a personal note to you. I have received handwritten notes from clients, friends, and even a President of the United States – and I save them all because they are so special. Thankfully in this digital age, stationary and paper products have never been more in style and there’s something for everyone’s taste – traditional to quirky. Here are some of my favorites including some decorating ideas using paper products!

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Mrs. John L. Strong has been a classic choice since 1929. Handcrafted perfection. I also often jot down notes on Crane & Co. stationary. There is nothing like receiving a handwritten note. Women still tend to write notes from time to time which is wonderful. But when I receive a note from a man it becomes really memorable because it happens so rarely. My friend, Jack Blanton, attends lots of events. He sits down the next day and writes handwritten notes to everyone. My British friends still write notes with fountain pens. How wonderfully old-fashioned! If you can, take the time to write a note personally.

TIP: I find it helpful to type out my notes in Microsoft Word first and then handwrite them to take full advantage of spell check.

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A handwritten note from President George Bush (41).

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A handwritten note from former First Lady Barbara Bush.

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My son Chad used an App called Ink Cards to send me a note for Father’s Day. The service allows you to use a personal photo, add a personal message, and it will mail it for you with a custom stamp. The picture and personal message added a sweet touch and of course I saved it!

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Finally, Paperless Post still has a sense of texture to it. The envelope with your name on it actually opens for you, revealing the invitation or note inside. If you’re low on time this is a good option.

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Fraser & Parsley offers stylish ways to incorporate paper products into your dinner parties. These special touches can make all the difference.

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My friend Melinda Jones’ company Read Between the Lines creates paper products that inject fun and flair into a room.

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Locally, Kuhl-Linscomb has a nice selection of chic, fun cards for any occasion – birthdays, engagements, or even just to say hello. Happy Writing!

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Bill On the Go

The past few weeks have flown by quite literally. I’ve spent a great deal of time up in the air, flying between job sites and exciting design events in New York, Los Angeles, and Houston. Last week alone was 6 cities in 6 days! (San Antonio, Houston, Newport Beach, Nice, Frankfort, and topped off by a quick trip to Moscow.) What an amazing time we live in where this is possible! Below enjoy some wonderful snapshots from my travels.

Sherle Wagner — Inbox

Celebrating with Mrs. Sherle Wagner in Los Angeles.

Chandelier

A dripping chandelier at ICFF.

Liz Smith and I at Sardi_s tonight — Inbox

Dining (and gossip) with Liz Smith in New York. Later we watched Tommy Tune perform some of his greatest hits on Broadway.

Decadent Russian breakfast — Inbox

Decadent Russian breakfast.

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Eye on Design: Bill in the News

The month of April was a good one to say the least – packed with magazine covers, speaking engagements, and awards. I have a gorgeous cover on this month’s Luxe Magazine. I was also the honored recipient of Decorative Center Houston’s Stars of Design Lifetime Achievement Award. Enjoy some pictures from April’s event as well as the best sound bites from our stellar panel discussion. All in all quite a month! – Bill

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This month’s Luxe Magazine cover, Houston addition.

Decorative Center Houston: Build Your Brand Panel Discussion

The panel was filled with Bigger than Bravo personalties, a textile king, and a wealth of success, talent, and experience. Mary McDonald, John Robshaw, and Charles Pavarini III joined me for a panel discussion on how to build your brand. The morning brought solid advice wrapped in humor for the audience of young and aspiring interior designers.

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Our panelists: John Robshaw, Charles Pavarini III, Mary McDonald, and myself.

On social media…

“With social media pick what you like to do. I like photography so I use Instagram.” – John Robshaw

“So many magazines have folded, it’s where media is going. I’ve been published way more on blogs.” - Charles Pavarini III

“Now you can publish things online, through social media first. If your photos are compelling enough, they catch on. If you’re not doing it, get over it. I just had to surrender.” – Bill Stubbs

On documenting your work…

“When you do a job, get it photographed right away before the PB&J is on the wall! – Mary McDonald

“I started archiving everything. It’s a great creative process, you understand you own story. It’s like a big therapy.” – John Robshaw

On getting published…

“The cardinal rule of PR. Don’t submit it to a publication you’ve never read. You really need to read the publications to understand where they’re going.” – Bill Stubbs

“Pitching, you’ll be surprised.” – John Robshaw

“You’ve got to submit, they’re not going to come and get you in the morning.” – Bill Stubbs

“Notice what works for you and what you keep getting noticed for. It kind of finds you, so listen.” – Mary McDonald

“It’s easier to get the less expensive jobs published. A lot of budget jobs are more photogenic.” – Bill Stubbs

Just plain funny…

Mary McDonald on her first cover, “I got the cover of House and Garden, accidentally.”

“I also went to art school, so I’m a hoarder.” – Mary McDonald

“It’s weird to speak about yourself in the 3rd person. Is this a John Robshaw product?” – John Robshaw

“What would John Robshaw do?” McDonald chimed in.

On rejection…

“I sold vacuum cleaners door to door. I can take rejection, it doesn’t exist to me. People telling me no just doesn’t register.” – Bill Stubbs

“I’ve had my feelings hurt a million times. Just get back up. Ask you mom if she’ll print it.” – Mary McDonald

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And finally here I am receiving my Stars of Design Lifetime Achievement Award from Charles Cohen.

*Photo courtesy of Luxe Magazine

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Bill’s Day in NYC

New York is one of the meccas of the interior design world. I am lucky to visit often, enjoying both the obvious and obscure charms of the city, favorite foodie stops, and of course making sure I absorb the wealth of resources and inspiration it offers. Here’s a snapshot of my schedule from last week’s visit, it truly is the city that never sleeps!

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9:30 A.M. Shopping for carpets with the entire Stark family (Steven, Chad, Ashley, and John Stark)! Such a treat!

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11:30 A.M. Quick stop for great cinnamon rolls at Tipsy Parsons.

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12:00 P.M. Interior design challenge of the day – carrying a canopy bed up 17 flights of stairs and then trying to change 3 light bulbs inside a glass bubble!

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2:00 P.M. Late lunch at Cipriani Downtown

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4:00 P.M. Stopping to enjoy the tulips on Park Avenue — the tell-tale sign that spring has hit the city.

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7:00 P.M. Opening night on Broadway – Bette Midler in I’ll Eat You Last A Chat with Sue Mengers. I was in star-studded company – Liza Minnelli, Graydon Carter, Debbie Reynolds, and Jeffrey Katzenberg were seated nearby.

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Bette on her way in to play legendary Hollywood agent Sue Mengers. A great way to end a day in New York!

Happy traveling! – Bill

* Cipriani photo from here.

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How to Go Antiquing Without Losing Your Mind: Round Top, TX

Antiquing is one of the many things that makes my job as an interior designer rewarding and a lot of fun. Whether I’m in the flea markets of Paris or the sprawling antique fair at Round Top, digging for hidden treasure from days long gone is a fascinating mix of history and vision as I find the perfect pieces for my clients. Here are three tips I use when antiquing and some pictures I snapped at Round Top this week:

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1) Plan ahead – part of the fun of antiquing is finding the unexpected but before arriving print off a map and mark your must-see dealers so you don’t miss a priority stop, it’s very tempting to get distracted!

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Texas Monthly and Martha Stewart Living both have great features on Round Top.

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2) Your cell phone is your new filing system – it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume offered at antique fairs. I take tons of pictures on my phone and email myself my favorites with little notes including the dealer’s name, contact info, and price.

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3) Take a break – Even for an antiquing pro, taking a breather allows you to think about potential purchases (do I really need another seltzer bottle?). Grabbing a beverage at The Coffee Bug, (a Volkswagen Beatle that has found a second life as a traveling coffee shop) can help clear your head and give you energy for the next round.

Finally, go with your gut! Don’t walk away from a must-have!

Happy antiquing! – Bill

*The Coffee Bug photo from here

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