07 December 2018

DIORISSIMO! Dior & His Decorators

We like nothing better than looking at the past through new eyes. It's like seeing the thing we have seen, a thing we are seemingly familiar with—anew.
We take a New Look.

Maureen Footer's second book Dior and his Decorators opens our eyes to the world of the great Christian Dior in a way we haven't considered—through his decorators. Tracing the paths of Georges Geffroy and Victor Grandpierre, Footer threads the finest skeins of silk through Postwar Europe's beau monde for her readers, unearthing the rooms of these two decorators and their influence on Christian Dior. The decoration of Dior's first couture house was Grandpierre's vision. The antisceptic chic established in the fifties still defines the house today—in appearance and in branding—testimony to his unerring eye. Of course, Dior's chic was his inspiration, there's nothing quite like Dior, as Dior and his Decorators affirms.

Victor Grandpierre—A Study in Elegance and Understatement.
As witnessed here in one of his clients' chateau, Grandpierre, Christian Dior's decorator, was consistent in his personal design aesthetic, swanning from room to room reiterating elegance and understatement with impeccable French furniture, couture details, and subtle color. This 'Blue' Room even hints of that gray— Dior Gray. Both decorators were asked to decorate Dior's Paris townhouse and the results reflected the soigne of Dior's New Look.

Rene Gruau's evocative illustration for perfumes Miss Dior and Diorama, 1955.

Dior's perfume counter at 30, ave. Montaigne, 
—the first year of the House of DIOR was in residence.

In Christian Dior's Georges Geffroy decorated Drawing Room, all of Grandpierre's rules applied. There is an undisputable Elegance, coupled with discipline. Nothing more—Nothing less.
Both decorators were asked to decorate Dior's Paris townhouse.

In Dior's Winter Garden room, a ball gown from his 1953 collection dominates.

It is difficult to fathom the impact that Christian Dior made on couture during his brief tenure at the helm of Dior. The New Look debuted in 1947, and in just ten years Dior would be dead. His decorators continued their work as seen in the rooms Footer presents in the book and their rooms are the greater for having encountered Dior.

Dior offered this on Elegance in his book Le Petit Dictionnaire de la Mode, "This is a word that would need a book to give it its right definition!... "
For us, fortunately, we have Dior and his Decorators, undeniably elegant.

16 November 2018

Cabana Curated

If for nothing else than the singular covers each CABANA issue wears, the magazine itself is a design voyeur's dream.
Am I a voyeur?
Yes—a design voyeur and my dream would be to curate an issue of CABANA—or even a few pages.

The latest covers of CABANA are fabrics from my favorite fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Past covers are from the Dedar, Kravet, Pierre Frey & the F. Schumacher fabric libraries, and Gucci and Ralph Lauren's fashion house fabric collections.

INSIDE? Classic interiors, Classicism,  Chintz, French Lampas, Baroque, Americana,  Nomadic tents, Monticello. It's the way editor Martina Mondadori Sartogo lays them out—the pages of Cabana blur all the lines of design. The sacred becomes profane and then turns back on itself.

images above in no particular order, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema -Townshend House 1885, Louis Comfort Tiffany-Near Eastern Interior, Portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu detail, paper cutting of flower urn from the American Folk Art Museum, Mantua from the Victoria & Albert Museum, Portrait of Dorothy Quincy by John Singleton Copley,18th c. Traditional Dress of Holland, Anthony Van Dyck self-portrait, Leonard Campbell Taylor-The Sampler, Dinka Mans beaded Corset- Southern Sudan, Ladies Album-signatures of textile cut-outs, Eileen Agar-Woman reading,cut-out 1936, Quilted Petticoat 18th c., Patchwork Caraco 17th c., Ellsworth Kelly, Ghirlandaio detail from the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, French Textile Sample book 1825, Armenian bride, 19th c. Marble Paper, Portrait of Polish nobleman Kazimierz OssoliƄski1720s, Gheeraerts Detail from a Portrait of Anne of Denmark,1614.

26 October 2018

the State of Design -Fall Design Books

from American Originals by William Abranowicz

Fall and Spring bring a spate of design books to my attention, and this season there are some well worthy of your attention!


If you missed the first inaugural issues of this stylish biannual—Cabana Anthology will get you caught up. Founder Martina Mondadori Sartogo has compiled the best and most beautiful from the magazine's first five years. Evocative— every Cabana issue is an orgasmic design journey. Pick up the 488-page book that celebrates a monumental achievement in bespoke publishing, and you'll see what I mean.


A compendium of interior designers of the past 100 years, Inspired Design includes designers that were happy to be known as "decorators" for decades. Everyone is here under one big roof for the first time. I couldn't for the life of me think who was missing save one or two.
It's a keeper thanks to the editing skills of Jennifer Boles and Stephen Drucker!


One of the freshest, most original book out this season is—American Originals. The photographs of William Abranowicz takes a look at many never before seen (leastwise by me) interiors. John Derian writes the foreword, and it's beautifully written. At the end of the foreword, he reminds us of To Kill a Mockingbird's Scout compassion for the recluse Boo Radley—and finds Abranowicz's photographic eye to be "honest—offering "intimate portraits of the human soul."
Largely true, rooms like Darien's, Valerie von Sobel's, Sean Scherer's or Daniel & Thanos Kamiliotis are a breath of fresh air—life-giving & joyous. Peering into their rooms, thanks to Abranowicz, I find myself to stay for a weekend.

all books are published by Vendome, available now.
all photographs are courtesy of Vendome.

18 October 2018

(1st published the Summer 2011) MARIO BUATTA- a 1 in a Million $ Decorator


"Good night sweet Prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!" ~Shakespeare
Requiescat in pace Mario Buatta October 17, 2018
image from House and Garden

"A house should grow in the same way that an artist's painting grows. A few dabs today, a few more tomorrow and the rest when the spirit moves you. When the painting is completed (as no room ever should be), it never reflects the artist's original conception. A room should come together through this process, as the people living in it grow, and where their needs and paths take them, in order to achieve the ultimate timeless undecorated look." Mario Buatta

cover of The Best in Decoration, House and Garden, 1987.

Buatta's client said 'Make it English'-of her New York pied-a-terre
from New York Apartments Private Views, by Jamee Gregory

So here is an important part of the education I received this is the invaluable part. 
Yes, I do believe in the idea of a higher education-but I would never have turned down an offer to work for someone the likes of Mr. Buatta in 1980 versus Drafting 101, 1980.
The Philosophy of Mario Buatta, you might say--is what I cut my design teeth on and it still rules today.

This photograph of Mario Buatta is etched in my memory as I was graduating college and moving into a career-Mario Buatta is what one might now be called-Hot. I don't think he would say so-nor would he want to think anyone else had said it-Anyway-apologies to Mr. Buatta!


For readers of my blog-one knows I live a bit in the past— with most of the design features coming from rooms created years ago-or centuries ago. I like it that way. I prefer these rooms, the decor, the elegance, the timelessness, the quality of a good sofa and pair of chairs. How many times have I used such words and phrases to make a client understand where they should be going in a project?

a Buatta bath

This spring the New York School of Interior Design renamed its materials library after Mr. Buatta pronouncing it the Mario Buatta Atelier. Being titled, that lofty phrase will please Mr. Buatta. Known in circles of practical royals themselves as The Prince of Chintz, Mario Buatta has been in the business for about 50 years.

"Chintz is coming back in fashion. "Mario Buatta

This set of rooms for a home in New York is one of Mr. Buatta's most wildly successful. From these images, I fell in love with the idea of head to toe use of a single chintz.

from House and Garden Best in Decoration, above & below

another view of the room

This year Mario Buatta has been celebrated, but where does he fit into today's ModPodge of decorating. Thank God he doesn't.


a Buatta designed Chintz

Today's mantle seems to be more about Millions-something I don't think Mario Buatta would like to be dubbed-but for the sake of this little title- that's what I'm going with.  A list of his clients-Henry Ford II, Malcolm Forbes, Barbara Walters, Nelson Doubleday, Mr. and Mrs. S.I. Newhouse, Charlotte Ford, Mariah Carey , nd Billy Joel- proves his worth- though he is known to 'repurpose" curtains from redecoration to redecoration. His public commissions have been equally high profile: From 1985 to 1988, Mr. Buatta and the late Mark Hampton collaborated on the restoration of Blair House, the 1824 White House guest house on Pennsylvania Avenue, an $ 8.6 million project involving more than 100 rooms.(NYTIMES)

The Lee Dining Room at Blair House

images from Blair House here


One of his decorating devices I admire most is his use of the banquette in rooms to create always important additional seating.


 a glass-enclosed sitting area looks out to the formal garden
 from AD
Houston, 2007.

image from House Beautiful

 These little jewel like spaces are perfect for tete a tetes- glamourous women with legs crossed seated side by side- teenagers courting- a  bedtime story- You get the picture.

"Decorating today is dysfunctional. A chair here, a lamp here and a sofa over there—how do you read? How do you have a conversation? Rooms are set up for a camera, not for living. There's nothing personal, no relationship to the past." Mario Buatta

photograph from AD here

“I like all the chairs to talk to one another and to the sofas and not those parlor-car arrangements that create two Siberias.” Mario Buatta



Designers that equally admire and are in many ways adhering to the Buatta dictates of using the sofa banquette in their spaces are Miles Redd, Charlotte Moss, Todd Romano and Alessandra Branca.






a leather & nail-head front door opens up to a silver-papered elevator entrance

above and below, the  Rooms of Hillary Geary by Mario Buatta

all photographs from the NYSD, by Jeffrey Hirsch

Allusions to the rooms created by Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler are alive and well & front & center in most of Buatta's work.

Lancaster's Rooms

"My style icons are [decorators] John Fowler and Nancy Lancaster. 
Nancy was a great woman, a real character. They don't make them like that anymore. 
 They're all blondes. They all look alike, dress alike, nobody has any personality." Mario Buatta

Derry Moore photograph of Nancy Lancaster

 The  Salon at Hambleden by John Fowler


"Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll." Lord Byron

Some of Mario Buatta's most beautiful rooms are heavy-handed in BLUE.
Could it be his favourite color?
Evidence from a House Beautiful Favorites Things point to it-Excerpted below---

STATIONERY: Dark blue from Smythson
EVERYDAY DISHES: Blue and white anything
COLOR YELLOW- So there goes that color theory-
but still, there is a lot of incriminating evidence here.
ALL-PURPOSE GLASS: Royal Blue glasses from Ralph Lauren
TOWEL: Porthault's blue-and-white seashell
SCENTED CANDLE OR ROOM FRAGRANCE: Rigaud "Blue"SHEETS: Blue-and-white checks like Ralph Lauren's gingham
WORKHORSE FABRIC: Sunbrella indoor/outdoor, especially navy


WELL -On second thought-in another House Beautiful piece the Prince said:

 I'm blue, I'm blue! I'm a happy guy but I have always loved blue, in all its shapes and sizes. For libraries and dining rooms, I like this deep Mediterranean blue. I'd use it glazed and shiny, and bring in reds and greens and pinks. Every color looks fresh against blue. Put lemon yellow with it and it will look like a Matisse painting." -Mario Buatta: BENJAMIN MOORE BAINBRIDGE BLUE 749 -here at HB

Anemones and Woman, Harmony in Blue by Henri Matisse

image from WSJ.com, linked in footnotes

The essence of Buatta, 2005, with drop-dead elegance & blue walls

Cool blues in a bedroom using a Manuel Canovas print, from the pages of AD

One of the most memorable and beautiful rooms I can remember is Buatta's 1984 Kips Bay Showhouse bedroom. In a post about the fabric used in the room I wrote: Buatta lavished the room in the B&F Verrieres and the results were stunning. I think this is Buatta's best-published room hands down. It captures a mood, a spirit, an energy that makes a room timeless- of course Verrieres helps out loads. The Brunschwig motto " GOOD DESIGN IS FOREVER" echoes in this beautiful room. The August 1984 issue of House Beautiful is filled with pages of the Buatta room & an interview with Buatta. Mario Buatta started with Verrieres-it is the room's inspiration. "This is a timeless room. There's no date on it because nothing is faddish. It's a forever kind of decorating.

“I must have visited this room 1,000 times before painting it,” artist Jeremiah says of his 1980 rendering of the Buatta room. “It was done from mental notes.”

another blue bedroom with Mr. Buatta's suggestion that yellow makes it like a Matisse.
(image from HB)


deepest aubergine lacquer walls in the Geary rooms, AD 2005.

the Geary Residence in AD 2005, with another Buatta Banquette,
the eggplant shade on the walls resembles porphyry.

 images above & below from: AD, Nov. '89 Inside New York 

a room designed at the request of Barbara Walters for a Charity Event, 1990.

these are the things that make him the authentic Million Dollar Decorator.

take a crash course-from the Prince, you'll be brilliant!

Some things should change, Some things should never change. ~Buatta

the Wall Street Journal 60 Seconds with Mario Buatta here

& a slide show at the WSJ here

The NYTimes story here

Tory Burch here

1st dibs here

NY magazine here



Related Posts with Thumbnails