Designer Spotlight: Bill Crowder Design

by Courtenay Palmer

Creating spaces that are both beautiful and functional has been Greensboro-based interior designer Bill Crowder’s mission for over 40 years. After studying art at Greensboro College, the North Carolina native did coursework at the International School of Interior design in Washington, D.C., and later studied at the New York School of Interior design. In addition to his thriving interior design business, Bill is also an artist who works predominately with water media, and uses acrylic paint, water color, and found objects in his artwork.

Bill relocated his business from New York to Greensboro in 1982, but he considers much of his early work in the city to be some of the most important. It was there that he worked in the famed Franciscan Fabrics Showroom, and then later with prominent interior designer Charles Dear, whom he says remains the designer most influential to his work. “Charles Dear worked exclusively in custom designs, which meant I learned a lot about construction, scale, and finishing,” Bill says. “He was excellent at using both antiques and modern furnishings to make rooms comfortable, but with a good current design edge.” And indeed, those very accolades are given to Bill Crowder’s design vision frequently today. Bill's vision aligns perfectly with Dalton Bain's goal of promoting antiques and vintage items for use in comfortable and modern settings.

Creating spaces that clients identify with as well as enjoy has become second nature to Bill, and he strives to blend present furnishings in their new spaces in creative ways. “One of the biggest compliments I receive is how beautiful and functional the space is,” Bill says of his business. “I do very well at designing spaces to work properly.” Whether designing a small apartment or a large house, he tries to create areas in all rooms which make a person want to spend time in them. “For instance, a dining room might have a good-looking chair and table in a window that supplies a quiet spot to read or work on a project.” While perhaps unexpected to have this extra nook in a room primarily used for eating, Bill maintains the purpose. “This works really well, especially in small homes, because by using all the rooms, you live bigger.” As far as his style goes, Bill takes a page from his mentor Charles Dear. “I have no problem mixing reproductions, antiques, and mid century pieces.” He especially stresses the importance of mixing old and new, no matter what the room. “Reproductions can be important for hard usage,” Bill admits. “However, you need antiques for their mellowness and patina. This includes mid century furniture, which at this point is acquiring these attributes that only comes with age.”

Rather than focus on one specific approach or method, Bill believes in blend and balance. “In a stark modern space, a beautiful antique becomes almost sculptural. In a more traditional space with antiques, a spare mid century piece adds personality and distinguishes the room.” Bill’s amalgamated design approach is showcased particularly well in his own home. “In my living room, I have an early 19th Century double library case on one wall, and antiques and reproduction antiques otherwise. But in the center of the room is a long, slender mid-century steel and marble coffee table.”

In addition to mixing the styles in a space, Bill also enjoys giving one piece multiple uses. “One of my favorite piece of furniture right now is my 10 foot by 5-foot dining table. I love having 12 to 14 people for dinner,” Bill says, adding, “But daily, one end of it is where I do my artwork, and the other end has stacks of design books and art books.” Another favorite is his kitchen center island. “It’s 7 ½ feet by 2 ½ feet. I designed it using two painted antique French doors I purchased from Caroline Faison Antiques, and it looks straight out of the old country.” This, he tells us, is where he composed this very interview, and where he stands and reads the paper in the morning, as well as where he cooks daily.

While Bill loves beautiful old furniture with history, he does not appreciate dark corners, and considers himself a stickler for ambient lighting to prevent this. “Indirect lighting, as well as lamps and chandeliers gets this done,” he says, then confesses, “However, my unpractical side has always had a candlelit chandelier in my dining room. For 50 years! Right now it is an Irish crystal chandelier with 10 arms for candles.”

While juggling his own home and many projects for clients, Bill says that the proof that he is succeeding comes exclusively from referrals and repeat clients. “Once I start working with someone, we generally stay together for a very long time. I have worked with one of my clients for 30 years. I am starting a third major project in Arkansas with another.” He worked with one longtime client, he says, transporting their living room, intact, from a beautiful historic house to a library space in another. “Including the window treatments,” Bill says of the relocation. Being able to take what works from a previous space and seamlessly transferring it to a new one is the one of the most satisfying aspects of his work.

In addition to his residential projects, Bill Crowder does some design for retail and commercial jobs, and is currently working with clients in Greensboro, Durham, and Fayetteville, Arkansas.

"This demilune cabinet was probably made in the 30's or 40's. I found it in a little shop on the Upper West side of New York in the 1970's and have used it as a bar ever since. It also makes the perfect entry way piece with its size and rounded corners."

"What I love about this small sitting space off of my kitchen is the ethereal feel of natural light reflecting off of the soft grays and milky white of Swedish paint. The table, made of an antique fragment, has a later top faux marbleized in Italian style by Tommy Mitchell."

"The country feel of this painted 18th century French armoire is nicely balanced by the scale and formality of the Parisian column and marble urn."

"Small corners are often overlooked yet offer a terrific opportunity to add character and depth to a home. This large polychrome Majolica vase complements the diminutive provincial Louis XV corner cabinet."

"I purchased the antique French wooden arrows from Caroline Faison to lend an aged feel to this otherwise modern bedroom."