Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Mario Buatta!

Mario Buatta has been my BFF like forever. At least in my mind's eye. It's not that I haven't met him in person, talked to him, etc., because he and I are party people, and our paths crossed when I lived in New York City. He was the first professional decorator to form me (the non pros were my mother and my grandmother).
Known as the Prince of Chintz, he was certainly my Prince Charming. The way he used color and piled on so many beautiful things in a room captivated my over active imagination.
He taught me the word topiary, and God I made a ton of them for my business, and a ton of cash too! I fell in love with English dogs because of Mario, and have owned three, a Corgi and two Cavs. He made me smile with his witty needlepoint pillows, and I still have one that says TONIGHT on one side, and NOT TONIGHT on the other.
Mario was born in Staten Island, New York in 1935. I really don't what month or day, and could not find that tidbit of information anywhere. If any of you know, please tell me. I like to celebrate a birthday all year long, until the next one comes along, hence, Happy Birthday Mario Buatta!
He started collecting antiques at the ripe young age of eleven, his first acquisition being a little 18th century lap top writing desk. It took him twelve weeks to pay it off on the layaway plan, and he really didn't know what it was. When he brought it home, he father asked why in the world he wanted this old second hand piece of junk, and Mario told him he didn't know, he just thought it was pretty.
There is a wonderful interview on You Tube where he tells this story and many others. I don't like to put You Tube on my blog because I get those hideous gray boxes, and I also think it slows down opening up the page (along with all the other cool widget crap). So this is the link HERE
He went to London as a student in 1961, and it changed his life. He started Mario Buatta, Inc. in 1963. I went to England for the first time as a young person, and it changed my life too. I started Valorie Hart Designs, Inc. in 1984.
He has been influenced by his Aunt Mary, the home of Nancy Lancaster, and the decorator John Fowler. He and I went to the same schools: Pratt and Parsons. He also went to Cooper Union, whose entrance exam I flunked. He thought about becoming an architect, but found the math and drawing too hard (I also hated and struggled with my Architectural Drafting courses).
This is Mario at home. He is famous for saying "Dust is a protective coating for fine furniture." He also says that interiors evolve, they don't "simply appear overnight via a department store showroom."
There are many articles about Mario out there, but I give you the link to one HERE if you care to read more about him.
I would like to ask him a question: Mario when are you going to write a book about your great body of work? I can help.
I love that Mario says that there is nothing new.
Here is my Mario inspired living room in New York City. You can't see it, but there is a black wool rug with pink roses on it, in a very chintz looking pattern. I mixed it all up, dog paintings, flower paintings, fabrics, antiques and reproductions. Chinese export stuff, Victorian bird taxidermy, stripe-lattice-ivy wallpaper. It was just great!
I'm sitting with my friend Danny, who was such an Anglophile that he changed is name to Trevor Hadley. He took me for to visit Castle Howard in England where his friend was the art curator. It was during the height pf the PBS series Brideshead Revisited, filmed at Castle Howard, and we were kids in the eye candy shop.
I still love chintz. This is a curtain panel in my New Orleans kitchen now. Because of a somewhat open floor plan, I have the same wonderful fabric in my library, which is my office. They say chintz is making a come back. It's been said for at least three years now.
For many of us, it never went anywhere. I love this chair, don't you?
Modernists are checking it out too. The chair above is from Pottery Barn. It comes in leather, but they also offer this chintz for it. I'm glad younger ones are discovering chintz and English style. My young designer friend Mitchell says English Country is coming back. He says it's been out too long, and the price of English furniture is more affordable, and people will discover it again soon.
I think he's right. You can already see a smattering of it coming through the Last Century smoke machine fog. This room is from Home to House HERE, a terrific site from England, where of course chintz has never been on the outs.
Here's another nice example of chintz in a more contemporary way. The chair has rather clean lines, and the openness of the print makes it feel vibrant and not fussy. The black chair and black mirror really have pizazz on the chintz wallpaper.
Here's another nice image from the UK site House to Home, combining French toile and English chintz.
And I couldn't write about chintz and not mention the modernist Queen of Chintz, Ms. Dorothy Draper.
Darling of the present day Hollywood Regency trendsetters, she used traditional chintz in a modern and American way from the 1930's until her death in 1969 (you can read a nice little bio HERE).
Her show place and laboratory was the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. It has been around since 1778, and is distinctly American.
This is another great Draper living room. I don't have to tell you how current it still is, and how many decorating tricks we all do because of Dorothy Draper. All that needs to be updated is the floor, perhaps dark hardwoods, or bamboo (and maybe get rid of the skirted tables).
I leave you with one last image of the dining room at The Greenbrier. I have always wanted to take a little vacation there. It would be fun to organize a get-together with all of you there! A convention of decor bloggers woooohooo! I could do this for you all!
So long live the Prince (still with us), and the Queen (sadly passed on), and The Realm of Chintz (here forever)!!!!


Alkemie said...

What A Terrific Post! I LOVE Mario Buatta. I've saved lots of photos for inspiration. My favorites are his brown lacquered living room and that huge pink bedroom. To die for!


Visual Vamp said...

He is to die for isn't he?! And still going strong - he's over 70 now. But you know 70 is the new 40 :-)