Elements of Style

Blazer of Glory: A Sartorial Discussion with Bill Stubbs

The interior designer, whose furniture line debuts at Gallery Furniture this month, talks style, splurging, saving and why Casual Friday must be stopped.

Photography by Justin Calhoun By Sarah Rufca Nielsen May 31, 2015 Published in the June 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Bill Stubbs likes to say that growing up in El Campo, the only interior designer he knew worked at J.C. Penney. He took the first bus out of town at 18, attending the International Institute of Design in Washington, DC, after which he traded in his original plan of settling in New York or London and headed back to Texas to found his own design firm in Houston. In the 30 years since, he’s been named to Architecture Digest’s prestigious AD100 list, hosted the travel and design show Moment of Luxury on PBS and filled mansions from California to Kiev with his fresh take on traditional style.  

This month he’ll debut his first-ever furniture line, the William Stubbs Collection, exclusively at Gallery Furniture’s new Grand Parkway location—Mattress Mack is even building a model home inside the store to display Stubbs’s collection in style. “It’s all the things I love: fine tailoring, high-quality materials, American-made,” says Stubbs. “What you see in my work is things that have opulence and luxury, but it’s very tactile. Immediately you think, ‘This is very comfortable, I could live in this room.’” 

How do you define your style? 

I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to dressing. I do love clothes, though—clothes are an extension of what I do for a living: work with fabrics and textures and textiles. I’m a tactile guy, I love to touch and feel things. 

I don’t like to be someone you stare at across a room, in something crazy. I’ve had every version of a navy blue blazer that there could possibly be, and I’m in love with this new one I got in London from Peter Werth. It’s got these subtle nuances, different fabrics in the lapel, and the way the pockets fit. I wore it at High Point Market this year and they were talking about the blazer everywhere I went. 

How has your style changed over the years?

Right now I’m having a renaissance in the way I dress because I’ve lost 40 pounds. I’ve always wanted to lose a few pounds here and there, and a year and a half ago, I thought I’d give it one more shot, so I hired a trainer and a nutritionist. I was one of those people who would look at celebrities and think, “Yeah, I could look like that too if I had a trainer and a someone to cook me healthy food.” It turns out it’s true! If you have them, you can do it! Because of that, it’s given me new interest in being a little more stylish. I’m wearing things I wasn’t wearing before, like skinny jeans with blazers and things like that.

What do you like to splurge on? Save on? 

I splurge on shoes. I really do think nice shoes are important, so I have a lot of Gucci. I also splurge on Hermès belts and ties. Accessories are important. So for saving, I’ve got jeans from Costco that I wear with my fabulous Peter Werth jacket. I don’t mind a bargain.

Name something that you would never be caught dead wearing. 

Sweatpants and a T-shirt.

Is there anything that you once thought you’d never wear but now you do?

I wore a toga on my trip to Greece in April. I said I’d never do that and I think I was right. It wasn’t good.

How do fashion and interior design connect?

They are related to each other. I find the color palettes that I am drawn to in clothes are similar to color palettes I’m drawn to in rooms. You ask most men what their favorite color is and most will always say blue, so I cannot have enough blue shirts in different patterns and color. That probably goes back to compliments, because I have blue eyes, so when someone says that blue brings out my eyes, that’s not lost on a guy. It is a very flattering color. I do that in my design, too. Blue and white china is my staple. No matter how masculine the room is, I always feel like blue and white is the natural accent.

What’s your favorite fashion advice?

I think people usually have a uniform, and I have a uniform: the blue blazer, the Gucci shoes. I’m not all over the map. I think for people who develop a personal style it’s a lot easier. The greatest difficulty in America is Casual Friday—it has wrecked work because no one knows what that is. It’s nice to have a uniform where you’re dressed for anything. I never liked the idea of wearing something casual to the office, and then you get a call for a big meeting and you’re not dressed. When I was young I read this advice, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and I’ve always done that.

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