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 important do you feel about the historical "story" of a room?
It’s very important that a room looks as if it has been created over time. You can’t do twentieth-century design without being cognizant of what went on before in terms of nineteenth-, eighteenth- and seventeenth-century interiors. That’s why the furniture from Italy is so great, they understand the styles of the past. The French, the English all have that expertise in historical styles.
It isn’t all about matching; everything should not look like it all arrived yesterday. The whole idea is that a well-decorated room looks like it happened over a period of years of your lifetime. That’s the way rooms should look, filled with things you love, things you have collected. Undecorated is basically that all of it isn’t matchy-matchy, which is part of my whole thing with the use of many patterns.
Your room can be complete, but nothing is complete in life—a garden grows, your room grows. A good designer can create a space that looks like it has grown over the years. You want to create a background that the client can live their life against. It should look like something that relates to the client, not something that looks like it came out of a movie.
Do you have any money-saving tips for the readers?
You can change the entire look of a room with paint. I had a client that told me all of her fabrics were fading and tired looking. So I said, Ok, let’s paint the walls a dark green glaze. The whole room came back to life, the tired looking fabrics took on a fresh, new look. All from a simple can of paint.
Slipcovers made of sheets are also a great way to decorate, and a way to change the look of a room during the course of the year. Perhaps a quilt thrown over a sofa. If you have guests coming, you can use a king-size sheet draped and tucked around an old guest chair and in thirty minutes you can have a whole new look.
One of the things you accomplish in a space is a certain glow based on all of the fabric various combinations. How do you go about creating this glow to a room?
That’s from using interior design composition as in a painting. If you look at the way painters use color, you will get a good idea of painterly technique. It’s a matter of getting it to the point where you have something that doesn’t just pop out at you. What you want to pop out at you in a room is the client. It’s similar to a set for an actor, the set is there to make the actors stand out more.
Finally, I’d like to add one more thing, and that is, as [famous designer] Elizabeth Draper said, decorating is fun. You should always keep that spirit of fun in your interiors, never forget that!
Mark McCauley, ASID, has been an interior designer in the Chicago area for longer than he wishes to reveal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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