There is a design giant alive today who seems to get overlooked and sometimes even dissed by young designers and design enthusiasts. Many disregard his work as being too 1980s, too traditional, too English country looking, and too frou frou. And it's really a shame because this designer is truly quite talented. He has a remarkable sense of color and a keen understanding of what makes a room comfortable. His look is one that has changed little through the years- he honed his style as a young man and has stuck to it, perhaps with some tweaking over the years. Bottom line- his rooms are unabashedly pretty, and in my mind pretty is not a dirty word.
Who am I talking about? None other than Mario Buatta (a.k.a. Mario Buattachalotti-Sister Parish's pet name for him- and most famously "The Prince of Chintz"). The man has an impeccable design pedigree. He studied at Cooper Union and later at Parsons, studying under legendary teacher Stanley Barrows. He considered John Fowler a friend and mentor (one can see Fowler's influence in a Buatta room), and he also worked for Keith Irvine for a short time.
So why the disrespect? Perhaps his rooms are a bit conservative for some. Perhaps others don't like the amount of "stuff" in a Buatta room- at times, his rooms can be a bit over the top. And maybe some people can't stand Buatta's use of chintz (although maybe he is having the last laugh- after all, chintz's popularity is once again on the rise). But don't you agree that even if Buatta's look does not suit you, his rooms are incredibly inviting? Don't you just want enter one of his rooms and sit in comfortable chair and while away the hours reading a good book? Or what about relaxing in one of his nighttime rooms with a stiff drink and good friends?
I think what I am trying to say is that even if Buatta's traditional and at times maximalist look may not be hot or trendy right now, there are elements to his rooms that are timeless and stylish. But if you keep an open mind and look past the fabrics or furniture that may not be up your alley, you might just learn some important design lessons.
(I also would like to say I can't understand why no one has written a book on Buatta and his work. So many other designers have books devoted to their work, why not Buatta?)
How gorgeous are these Prussian-blue glazed walls? Alright, so the bow from which the painting is hanging may be a bit precious, but see how great that peach color looks against that shade of blue? I think this Buatta room is a lesson in rich color.
Buatta loves to design both daytime and nighttime rooms, of which this room is the latter. Nobody does a lacquered room better than Buatta. See how the gold frame looks so rich against the glossy walls? If you're a modernist at heart, just think how about a modern picture in a plain gold frame would look against the aubergine walls. Or what about a modern cream colored sofa in place of the traditional one above?
I know, I know- those of you who don't like florals might be apoplectic right now. However, look how effective the repetition of the floral print is. Think about whatever your favorite print is and then imagine it on walls, pillows, and chair and ottoman. I think that in this case, more is more!
Buatta decorated this bedroom in 1971. It's slightly dated, but look at that pink, that yellow, and the acid green. This color combination is bold and gutsy. No grooviness for Buatta; even back in the early 70s he was striving for sweet and pretty.
This shot of a Buatta room is one of my favorites. Take away the traditional pictures and pillows and insert some modern paintings and graphic pillows and I think you just might have a rather Miles Redd-esque room.