Peg Carmack Short - Photography by Doug VandeZande
yourself with what you love." That's the decorating
advice of Bob Timberlake, painter and home furnishings
designer, and it's apparent that Bob takes his
own advice when you visit his Lexington, North
Carolina studio. Every nook and cranny is filled
with treasures that Bob has been collecting since
boyhood. Antique drums, quilts, and enamelware
are just a few of the collectibles with which
he surrounds himself, along with cherished pieces
of antique furniture. These old objects of beauty
are often the inspirations for Bob's accessory
and furniture designs.
more of a collector than a designer," Bob says.
Though those who have seen and loved his work,
know that Bob is an artist and designer of rare
talent. Like the man himself, Bob's pieces are
enduring, warm, and comfortable. They are reminiscent
of a time when quality, function and built-to-last
were important components of every piece.
respects and cherishes the heritage of the past,
and he recommends, "If you have Great Aunt Martha's
highboy and you love it, use it, even if it's
not perfect." Bob's furniture collection was designed
to be used with what you love. "I never wanted
to design suites," he says. The delightful blending
of old and new is the Bob Timberlake look. An
armoire or table and chairs can be added to go
with what you have, and you can continue adding
to your Timberlake collection over the years because
of the timelessness of the pieces. Often described
as the antiques of tomorrow, the Timberlake collection
was based on the eclectic look Bob created in
The early Timberlake furniture was made from cherry
and walnut. "And all the collections are built,"
Bob says, "with the consumer in mind." Always
a conservationist, Bob's newest furniture collection
is called "Keep America Beautiful," named after
the organization he ha been part of since 1975.
Many of these new pieces are built from white
fir, a sound ecological choice that Bob and the
Lexington Furniture executives hope will catch
on as a new industry trend. Besides being an environmentally
sound choice, the new fir pieces are beautiful
and richly grained. "Using fir offers better control
of knots and grain, and it also takes the stain
better," Bob explains. And this is an important
criteria since the pieces are created using water-based
stains. To continue the concept of being ecologically
correct, hardware made from recycled metals is
used as well.
and seeing beauty in everything around him are
strong elements throughout Bob's decorating themes.
Bob's current studio is a rebuilt 1809 Barn. Designed
with the help of his friend, builder Rene Swing,
t was built to be a place of inspiration. "I wanted
it to be the kind of place you couldn't wait to
get to, and once you were there, you wouldn't
want to leave," Bob said. To create this cozy
atmosphere, Bob designed many places to display
his collections. His prized enamelware, which
inspired a line of pottery, can be found in several
places throughout his studio. The largest part
of his collection graces the tops of kitchen cabinets,
and is highlighted by track-type fluorescent lighting.
His old bottle and glass collection is displayed
on window ledges and sills, or placed on beams
high above the front door where the sunlight glows
gloriously through it setting the colors aflame.
Pieces of pottery, antique dishes, and other collectibles
are also displayed prominently as accents throughout
lover and collector of folk art, Bob proudly displays
the work of other favorite artist in every room
of his studio. One of his large collections includes
more than 125 heirloom quilts. Numerous quilts
are displayed folded in the antique armoire, which
was the inspiration for an entertainment center
of his favorite quilts, a patter called Whigs
Defeat, was made by his grandmother's sisters
more than 130 years ago. This quilt is folded
to display its medallion pattern and hangs from
a loft banister. A closer look at several of Bob's
creations reveal the medallion pattern has been
picked up and re-created as a design element for
several pieces in "The World of Bob Timberlake"
collection. It can be found in upholstered pieces
such as a sofa and wingback chairs, and again
in a complementary lamp in his collection.
Still more quilts decorate bedrooms, and the loft
sitting room where Bob has made clever use of
one of his antique drums as a coffee table. The
drum design was then used to create a large ottoman,
which is another piece from the Timberlake collection.
use of his collectibles as decorations is often
whimsical and surprising. A group of tiny old
children's shoes are lined up like marching feet
on mantels, ledges, and windowsills. In a guest
bedroom, they match well when paired with antique
toddler's dresses that are hung in the bedroom
as a wall treatment.
is an honest strength that comes through in a
Bob Timberlake room, but they also shine with
his gift for creating warm, simple, comfortable
environments. Bob arranges everything himself
and clearly has an eye for creating the homespun
feel. Perhaps the secret to Bob's world can be
found in another "Timberlake saying, "Imagination
is more important than knowledge." And Bob's imagination,
he says, has always taken him anywhere he wants
to go. To emulate his decorating style, one needs
only to imagine. ."
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