Betty Duff

Reporter Steve Marsh talks to the interior designer about what she’s learned from the giants of the NBA.

Betty Duff

Betty Duff has been an interior designer for 25 years. In the first part of her career, most of her clients were normal-sized people. Then she met Kevin Garnett. Now her clientele consists of pro basketball players. “They all call me B.Duff,” she says in her slight East Texas accent. We met Duff (and her omnipresent assistant Christine Hoene) at Edina Country Club to talk about gigantic sectionals, 10-foot-by-10-foot beds, and how to bill an NBA player who’s on a losing streak.

How did you go from rich white lawyers in Edina to giant black guys in the NBA?

Do you remember Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis? The first year I started my company, I ended up doing Flyte Tyme studios when it was out in Edina on 78th Street. Jimmy always said, “You are the strongest white woman I know.”

How were you introduced to Kevin Garnett?

Jimmy called me one day and said, “There’s a friend of mine I’d like you to talk to. He has a designer, he’s working with the builder, but he doesn’t feel comfortable.”

Why wasn’t he comfortable with his initial designer?

I don’t know. I never asked him. But we ate popcorn and talked about our families in the South, and I said, “Do you have any questions about my design ability?” And he said, “No, you’re cool.” The other thing was: He was dating Brandi Padilla. Brandi was [Jimmy Jam’s] wife Lisa Padilla’s little sister. I had known Brandi since she was 14.

How did the rest of the NBA business fall into place for you?

Do you know who Tyronne Lue is?

Retired back-up point guard?

Yes. And he has a ton of friends. They call him “Lue Hefner.” We did his house in Vegas and everybody comes to his house. All the new players who get drafted play summer ball in Vegas. And on Aug. 1, guys who get serious come in and play the summer league guys. So everybody sees Ty’s house and they’re like, “How do we fit in your sectional?”

You make custom furniture for them. The problem the NBA guys have is right there [touches the underside of her thigh]. They never can fit on a chair and a couch. Their legs are too long.

What is a normal couch?

36 to 38. Overstuffed at Restoration Hardware is 42. I start at 48.

How big are their beds?

10 feet by 10 feet. We custom make their beds. We have a guy at Restwell Mattresses that makes the mattresses.

How much does that cost?

Five grand. But one of our clients, Paul Pierce with the Celtics, got it priced in Los Angeles. They wanted $22,000.

What do NBA players want?

Big oversized sectionals that everyone can fit on and that they can nap on. And host chairs—in a formal dining room, one chair that’s the king. Kevin’s was huge, beautiful, silk, gorgeous. The other must is the master bedroom bed, humongous bed, but on the bed? Sexy. Like Paul Pierce’s, I did chocolate lacquer walls, pure white bedding with just a little bit of brown silk. His drapes were brown silk with a silver metallic line to it. And thick, thick carpet. Tactile sexy tactile tactile. Comfortable and sexy. Everybody is in the bed in the morning. Dogs and kids.

Do you work with any Timberwolves?

No. They’re all young guys. They’re not putting down roots here. They’re putting down roots in their hometowns. Kevin Love will be in California. Where their mamas are. A lot of these guys hate being alone.

Why do you think that is?

Maybe because they travel so much. They need comfort. Which goes into the furnishings.

Do wins and losses affect you?

If I’m going to send you a bill I’m not going to send it to you before you walk on the court. And you never send them a bill when they’re on the road. That’s a no-no.

Do you like basketball?

I got to now!

Do you do anything for them that helps win basketball games?

The mattresses. Definitely think the beds make a difference.