The Christmas parties are legendary. It might not be the best reason to work with Bill Doughten, but when seventy people braved the worst storm of the year to gather at Bill’s north side home last December, they weren’t disappointed.
Bill’s house is like one of those charity home tours where each room has a different theme. His Holiday party offers a chance to mingle with folks who have at least one thing in common—their interior decorator. Bill flits from room to room, being sure that glasses are filled and the conversation reflects the Season.
A woman dripping in diamonds might mention something about Bill’s wonderful sense of color to a cowboy who would agree, "Yep, I like that there froofy thing Bill put on my window."
Some designers seek the in crowd; Bill just relishes a challenge. He’s redone auto garages and boudoirs, worked for surgeons and sanitation workers. He calls himself a "decorator" and a "wallpaper person", not an interior designer. In Montana, people are more impressed with capabilities than credentials. When asked what he does, he replies modestly, "Pretty much anything in a house."
The first thing Bill does when he walks into a new project is to see what the people who live there already have. Doughten claims that even if someone wants a drastic change, there are signs of an evolution of personal style that indicate how far and in what direction a client wants to go.
Clients know what they want, even if they don’t realize it. You might have to probe a little bit, but keen observations and a few good questions usually start the job off right.
Some clients just want people to say "Wow!" when they walk in.
Marie Stewart of Great Falls has worked with Bill off and on for thirteen years. Her style is eclectic, as if every corner in her house is having a party. "Bill has a great sense of color and a very good eye," Marie laughs, as if Bill is brave to work with what she calls "organized clutter". "Have it, use it, or get rid of it," Marie says flat out. "I use my sterling service as often as my stainless flatware, and Bill is a big help to make it all look good."
Marie and her husband left town for ten days, leaving Bill a key and several rooms to paint. "It’s pretty wonderful to have someone you can trust with your home—even when you are away."
Bill’s first decorating job was in Chinook. He painted his boyhood bedroom Chinese red with a life size white Ford Mustang on one wall. His parents were OK with the idea until his father had to repaint the wall.
Bill has always been into cars, which is natural, since his family owned a Ford dealership. Bill and his brother co-owned a mechanic and auto body shop before he moved to Great Falls nearly twenty years ago. Back then, designer Leslie May and her husband Jack took the young decorator in, giving him a basement studio apartment in their home in exchange for some work on the house.
One referral led to another, and Bill has been busy ever since.
Unlike some designers who prefer free reign, Bill accepts the challenge of working within a budget, and enjoys working with his clients, who often become friends. If, during a project, the conversation lags, or the customer isn’t smiling, it’s because the customer doesn’t understand what Bill’s doing or he’s just not pleased. Bill will change direction if necessary, with no hard feelings. This decorator gets along well with people and easily establishes a rapport and understanding of their style.
He also knows you can’t push a Montanan around. "Even the ladies," Bill pauses..."Especially the ladies."
Another Great Falls resident, Tim Reffner, isn’t up for fru-fru; he and his wife had admired nicely appointed homes, but they didn’t have the knack. "Bill’s got the knack," according to Reffner. "I listen to Bill, and Bill listens back." Reffner admits in his incongruously gruff voice that Bill can even make it fun.
This is the second home Bill’s worked on with Mr. Reffner. Reffner’s new house is a good sized manufactured home, which will knock your socks off, according to its proud owner. The funds they saved in construction have gone into significant upgrades, with Bill Doughten’s help.
What aspect of his work does Bill like best? He’s the fastest wallpaper hanger in the West, and he’s thrilled to see the re-papering of America, a trend that started on the East coast. It’s working its way to Montana, Bill claims.
If you want to be ahead of the curve, Bill Doughten’s your man.
For more information: 406-899-0987