Meet Mario Buatta
One of America's most popular decorators -- Mario Buatta, the "king of chintz" -- shares his tips on how to "undecorate" your home, and much more.
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How do you explain your design philosophy of "the undecorated look"?
When putting fabrics together you really want it to look like it isn’t studied, that it was effortless. It is a composition as an artist paints a canvas, something that is very pleasing to the eye—not something that jumps right into your face.
A room shouldn’t look as if the decorator just left, that everything is perfect. There should be minor imperfections. Not big things, mind you. Perhaps a piece of furniture that is left over in the room.
Are there rules of decorating that you use, or break?
There are certain rules that we use, but there are rules that you should break at times, too. You want a little sense of surprise when you walk into a room, I feel very strongly about this.
If, let’s say, the sofa is hidden somewhat, the people who walk into the room experience a bit of surprise when they turn the corner. Also, in a bedroom you don’t necessarily want to see the bed right off. The bed should be perpendicular to the doorway, so that upon walking into the room you are not faced with the side of the bed.
I find one of the biggest mistakes that people make is in terms of scale. The consumer has to be careful about putting chairs that are too small next to a large sofas, or, say, a chair that is too big next to a smallish table, cocktail tables that are either too big or too small in front of the sofa.
You’ve said, "If you can't hide it, decorate it." Can you elaborate on that?
You can fix up a space to great advantage, perhaps even an apartment to which you cannot make structural changes. The cabinets, for example, are not to your liking. Placing a huge armoire in a little tiny room will make the room look bigger and distract the viewer from the cabinets they don't particularly like. So you hid things through distraction, too.
You can hide a multitude of things in a piece of furniture like that. Use drawers underneath the bed, hidden by the dust ruffle, for extra storage. If you have a window that is in the wrong place, consider putting a screen in front of it.
In fact, I feel that you should always have a screen coming into a living room for that element of surprise. If you have a long tedious wall with all the furniture lined up along it, a screen someplace will help to break up that up and give you another feeling of surprise as you pass by it to see what is on the other side.