A Man and His Mastery

Palm Beach Society April 2003

Written by Joanne Cutner

Photography by Ren Dittfield

Press Photo Press Photo Press Photo

Fitzgerald said there are no second acts; but were you to follow the life and times of William R. Eubanks, you’d note that, for him, life is a miniseries. He shuttles between his various formats of expression - classic interior design, gardening, nature and the environment, music and opera, travel, reading, and collecting priceless period antiques, with ease and equanimity and seems to pay homage to each and every dimension he explores. And thus, he is able to extract the essence of each subject and still be comfortable in terra incognitas - unknown territory. He has the gift of total attention.

Mr. Eubanks knew early in life that an artful arrangement and presentation of one’s surroundings has a major effect on one’s emotions. He received his bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Memphis and was designing first homes and apartments for his classmates upon graduation. He formally founded his interior design firm in 1976 (in Memphis) and was quickly recognized as a master of “graceful living.” Design assignments took him across the USA and the Continent, and furthered his appreciation for sumptuous fabrics of silk and damask, rich jewel-tone colors, gilt mirrors, Flemish tapestries, French ormulu, paintings by the Old Masters, fine porcelains, Aubussons and Oushaks. He learned that real elegance is simply the appropriate made supremely comfortable.

Looking the part of a Confederate general or a Shakespearian actor, the poised, well mannered designer lives in the style he creates, and the best example of his touch is his own home in Memphis. During the 1920s and 1930s, Bryant Fleming, head of architecture and landscape design at Cornell University, built a number of English country homes along the east coast; among them were dwellings for Andrew Carnegie and tea magnate Everett Macy, as well as Nashville’s imposing Cheekwood. Yet, of all Fleming’s works, Carrier Hall, tucked into several acres behind a weathered brick wall in Memphis, remained his favorite. Today, the 14 rooms, guesthouse and summer house, is where Mr. Eubanks lives and carries out his mission in life - to bring homes forward into the past and to press for more civility in whatever we, as human beings, do.

Along with longtime friend and partner, John M. Ferguson, who is Director of Antiques for the corporation, the works of the twosome have been heralded in publications like Southern Accents, Veranda, Classic American Homes, Avenue Magazine, 100 Designer’s Favorite Rooms, Showcase of Interior Design and Great Designers of the World. Currently, William R. Eubanks Inc.’s projects are underway in Palm Springs, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Miami, Tampa and Mobile, France and Peru.

The design of the firm’s new Palm Beach showroom was originally a deco-style space transformed into an 18th century Continental salon, filled with English and Continental antiques - a perfect example of the Eubanks’ signature style which marries elegance with comfort. In less than a year, the space has quadrupled to accommodate a growing client base.

“Travel has had an enormous influence on my work,” notes Mr. Eubanks. “The order and timeliness of the Old World holds great appeal for me, which I hope is reflected in my work. Collaborating with my clients is a great part of the business… I am drawn to people and love the interchange of ideas. My goal is to create a personal, exciting atmosphere that is easy to live with and is comfortable as well as elegant. In short, classic design not only lends itself to comfort and elegance, but also wears well over the years and can be added to over time.” His credo: “I believe good design is like good bone structure - the best foundation on which to build!”