Tending to lean toward detached understatement when speaking of his work – he founded his own practice in 1978 – Billy W. Francis endorsed and took pride in his reputation as "Houston's society designer." When he branched out to expand operations from a second office in New York, the sobriquet well might be amended to exchange the lead-off word with "international." For his domestic interiors extended beyond Texas houses and Park Avenue apartments to residences in California, Florida, Mexico and London.
While eclectic installations combining traditional and contemporary furnishings were no longer news per se, Francis's work stood out for extraordinary skills in blending the best of many periods and styles. A former student of art who added specialized training at the New York School of Interior Design, he developed professional expertise in evaluating unusual components for interior environments, a proficiency enhanced by sensitivity to composition of balanced scale. In his projects, antiques from the Biedermeier, Regen and Empire periods frequently co-existed with paintings of the abstract, Renaissance or Impressionist genre. Accessories and objets d'art were of the day or of the past. Comfortable seating, serviceable casegoods and color-cued carpets invariably were custom-made. Detailing was exacting and deluxe. Thus "classical comfort," the designer's own label for the sum-total look, was decidedly apt.
Before going into independent business, Francis was affiliated with Lord & Taylor in New York, then returned to Texas to work in his father's construction business.