Designer/Author Bryan Huffman discusses his newest collaboration

He says working on "Bunny Mellon Style" was a labor of love and admiration

Designer/Author Bryan Huffman discusses his newest collaboration

Bunny Mellon Style, © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS). New York/ ADAGP, Paris. Used with permission of Isabelle Rey.

“We had a very improbable friendship but one that was very real,” explains Charlotte-based interior designer Bryan Huffman, whose relationship with style influencer Bunny Mellon started serendipitously after visiting a church she had designed. Huffman was so taken with the detail of Trinity Episcopal in Upperville, Virginia, that he wrote to Mellon, who promptly responded with an invitation to lunch.

Bryan Huffman with Bunny Mellon on a horse over the mantel behind him

Their ten-plus-year friendship consisted of frequent letter writing and nightly conversations. “She called me her ‘kissin’ cousin’ as in we think so alike that we are bound to be related!” says Huffman who cherished knowing Bunny the real person and not the “frozen beacon of perfection” he finds often portrayed in books. “To be able to share the genius of a friend who was so very unassuming and never asked for the limelight is the ultimate dream.”

Bunny Mellon Style, published by Gibbs Smith, is a 300-page intimate look at Mellon’s upbringing, her involvement in designing all of her homes inside and out, as well as collaborations in fashion and jewelry. The 400 images used to illustrate the story include photos of friends, family, and her homes, as well as delightful watercolor renderings by Isabelle Rey. The book is $60.

It was such a personal project and one that was truly approached with love and admiration for the subject.” – Bryan Huffman

Co-authors at work in the Oak Spring Garden Library (back to front): Huffman,
Thomas Lloyd and Linda Jane Holden. Photo: Nancy Collins

The three authors – Mellon’s grandson Thomas Lloyd, garden historian and author Linda Jane Holden, and Huffman – heralded their endeavor in 2019 with a meeting at the Oak Spring Garden Library, which Mellon had designed to house her collection of horticultural books. They sorted through a mass of journals and photos – many that had never been made public. Huffman believes these rarer photos contribute to the book’s personal, first-hand nature.

While COVID disrupted plans to convene in person and to interview Mellon’s European cohorts, the book progressed. Huffman says Holden was the point person for information gathering and assembling, and key in writing about Mellon’s early years and influences. He and Lloyd swapped stories about Mellon and supplied descriptions for the many homes featured. The authors birthed it together, Huffman says, adding, “I must take credit for the cover.”

“After many photos had been submitted by the publisher, I went back to this one [an Isabelle Rey watercolor of Bunny’s Paris flat] because it shows so many Bunny details and staples – painted floors, antique French chairs, that spare feel – coupled with the amazing pop from the Rothko painting. It felt so fresh and modern that I knew it would be the best image for today’s young tastemakers.”

Jane Dagmi is Editor in Chief of Designers Today.