Attention To Detail

Former Marine and ex-stock broker Bill Huff is an accidental designer

A plaque bearing a quote by Danish playwright Henrik Ibsen sits on Bill Huff’s desk. “Money may be the husk of many things, but not the kernel,” it reads. “It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintances, but not friends; servants, but not faithfulness; days of joy, but not peace and happiness.”

Those words sum up Huff’s attitude toward the true nature of wealth. “But don’t make me sound like a saint,” he cautions, only half joking.

The owner of William Huff Interiors in Columbus, Huff is an accidental interior designer. In fact, this Vietnam veteran who saw combat from 1966 to 1967 delights in telling people he’s probably the only captain from the Marine Corps to go into the decorating business. But even then, Huff sells himself short.

William Huff Interiors is a full service firm offering everything from architectural planning to interior design and decorating. “We’ll work with the architect as the planning goes along,” he says. “Interior design means making sure the scale of the furniture matches the size of the home. That the space is consistent with the needs of the client and that every detail, like electrical outlets where you expect a lamp to be, is in place.”

Once the home is planned and the rooms are mapped out, the firm moves to the next step: decorating. “We have custom upholsterers, we have a drapery workroom to design and build window treatments,” Huff says. “We’re completely self contained, right down to the installers who put it all in.”

So how does one go from Marine captain to design guru? “I was in the brokerage business, selling stocks,” says Huff, a Columbus native who earned a business degree at the University of Georgia. “I got a phone call from my friend Jack Collins saying he needed someone to help run his business. I said, ‘Jack, I don’t know the first thing about your business,’ but he taught me everything. Everything I know about this business, I owe to Jack Collins.”

Collins & Huff, a full service interior design company, remained a partnership for 38 years; they still have common business interests. “We never had a single major disagreement,” Huff says.

Huff brought more than just an “eye” to the business. “I’d always had a creative side,” he says. “But the design business is about 10 to 15 percent creativity and 85 to 90 percent business. There has to be an urgency about getting things done and an attention to detail. You’re only as good as your last job in this business. That’s reality.” His success is also reality and leads directly back to the Ibsen quote.

“It’s not always about making money,” says Huff, a member of the committee helping to build the new Kappa Alpha fraternity house at UGA.

He’s also quick to point out that this project isn’t a one-man show. “A project like this one takes a team effort,” he says. “No single person deserves the credit. Everyone from the contractors and architects to the fraternity and committee members played a part.”

In a nutshell, when the university needed the land where the original house was located, the fraternity opted to rebuild off campus, rather than signing a long-term land lease. They settled on a site at West Hancock Avenue and, though the decision was not universally welcomed, the fraternity has worked with its new neighbors to get off on the right foot. One concession: the builders shortened weekday work hours and don’t do any construction work on weekends.

The new house sleeps 35 and includes energy efficient features. “A great deal of thought went into it,” Huff says. “They’ll have a much larger kitchen and better dining facility. There’s lots of common space.”

The biggest challenge? “Durability,” Huff says. “We had to make it an aesthetically pleasing place but it had to be made from durable materials in order to hold up under a lot of stress.”

For Huff, the opportunity to play a part in building the KA house is a labor of love. He maintains many of the friendships forged as a member of Kappa Alpha during his university days. “My time is pro bono,” he says. “But 50 or 60 years ago someone made the decision to build that house I got to live in while at UGA. I see it as payback for those who went before.”

Categories: Influential Georgians