William Eubanks

Elements of Living 2005

Written by Janine Nichols
Press Photo Press Photo

With his dashing, daguerreotype good looks and mastery of the details of 400 years of English and Continental antiques, William R. Eubanks carries himself with the assured demeanor of another era. His unabashed residential designs are replete with eye-popping ormolu and Aubusson, tapestries, statuary, porcelain, the occasional taxidermy, lavish draperies, French doors opening onto English gardens. Each interior, in its way, is an ecstatic, near-apotheosis of splendid southern living.

Born in Memphis, Eubanks was often taken out of school by his parents to go visiting, traveling hundreds of miles by road and rail for weeks on end to call on relatives and friends. Southerners tend to align themselves with English design traditions, Eubanks points out, and in his estimation, every home visited informed his understanding of interior design as an expression of ideals of comfort and achievement.

Eubanks and Elvis had big plans for Graceland before the singer died in 1977, a year after Eubanks founded his firm. What did he tell Presley when asked how he liked what the King had done with the place so far? Eubanks, a born diplomat and genuinely kind, recalls, “I told him I’d never seen anything like it before in my life.” If you’re like most Americans, you’d likely say the same in one of Eubanks’s Palm Beach dining rooms. Let’s hope you get the chance.

“Antiques are my passion,” Bill Eubanks confesses. And with e-mail and online shopping, every day “I feel like an eighteenth-century gentleman on the Grand Tour.” He finds the romance of the panoramic wallpapers by Zuber especially enchanting. Each scenic design is hand-printed using hundreds of centuries-old wood blocks, then hand-painted. “The palette is so rich,” he says. “Zuber papers add extraordinary dimension to a space because you look into them.”