By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub
City & Shore Magazine
When William Eubanks first decorated rooms for the American Red Cross Showhouse of Palm Beach, the designs looked more appropriate for a stately residence in England than a Florida home. He is the master of timeless traditional design featuring French and English antiques, Asian porcelains, silk, damask and jewel-tone colors.
But as his clients’ tastes have changed, so have his designs. Colors are softer, lines are cleaner, fabrics are less formal and draperies are simpler.
“When we meet with a new client, I say: ‘We like to look through your eyes.’ That is why my projects look so different.”
Eubanks’ work has been recognized internationally. He was one of a few designers to be interviewed for Frank Theodore Koe’s Fabric for the Designed Interior, and his work is on the textbook’s cover. Elements of Living named him one of the top 50 designers in the United States. He also received the “Star of Design” award from the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach.
We chatted with Eubanks about his philosophy and today’s interior design.
City & Shore: When did you decide you wanted to become a designer?
William Eubanks: I was a marketing major in college and became disenchanted. My French teacher and my Latin teacher told me I should be a designer, because they called on me for anything artistic. I switched and got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design at Memphis University. A couple saw my work and asked me to design their showroom. My career took off like wildfire, and I opened my firm in May 1976. I have offices now in Palm Beach, New York City and Memphis.
C&S: Did you ever regret your career choice?
WE: It has been a wonderful journey. I saw that I never have to work because I love design and I love people.
C&S: You are known as a stickler for quality in upholstery and window coverings. How do you do it?
WE: I have wonderful artisans in Memphis who hand stitch all my draperies in the Old School methods. Some of those who work on upholstery are third-generation.
C&S: What is your design mantra?
WE: If you have good bones in a home, you have everything you need for good design.
C&S: What are you sorry you didn’t buy for yourself?
WE: I learned very quickly if something touches your heartstrings, buy it, because you probably won’t see it again. I fell in love with a 17th-century full-length portrait in the school of Van Dyck. I called back a month later and it was gone. I found out who the buyer was and went to a strange little building in Manhattan in a neighborhood where it looked like I could get shot. But I managed to talk the person into selling it to me.
C&S: What is your best find for a
WE: I was working with Linda Bloodworth Thomason [creator of Designing Women and director of Bill Clinton’s campaign film, Man From Hope] and found a late-17th-century lacquered chest on a wood stand in New York. On a trip to England I found one owned by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon who said it was not for sale. Finally he sold it to me. It was beautiful – all black, jappaned [a finish based on lacquer that was a European imitation of Asian lacquer work] on a gilt-wood stand. It was made in England and shipped to the Orient and shipped back. To find the mate of a chest from 1690 was like finding a needle in a haystack. She was thrilled, and so was I.
William R. Eubanks Interior Design, 340 Worth Ave., Palm Beach,