Honoring Mario Buatta – A Legend, A Life and Livable Spaces

If you’re a fan of interior decorating, and unless you live under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard of the passing of design legend Mario Buatta at 82. Joni, Megan and I had the distinct honor of interviewing Mario on our final Skirted Roundtable podcast back in 2013 on the release of his one and only book Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration. While I might normally refer to someone of his generation and legend in a more formal  manner, Mario was so genial, so friendly, that it’s hard not to feel comfortable referring to him by his first name. His “American English Country Look” influenced a generation of decorating, as he was influenced by those who came before him, most notably John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler. He is one of the designers listed in the new book Inspired Design: The 100 Most Important Interior Designs of the Past 100 Years by Jennifer Boles.

One big, notable thing about Mario was that he primarily worked alone. In our interview, he shared that he had no staff and did all his own ordering and was even doing design via email with far flung clients. He felt it was quicker to just order things himself rather than instruct an assistant. It’s hard to imagine, but he himself said he was married to his work.

Some of my takeaways, in no particular order,  from the work of Mario Buatta:

  • He had favorite fabrics (Colefax and Fowler, Lee Jofa) and carpets (Stark) that were his “go-to” brands and specific patterns that he worked with regularly. In other words, he kept things “simple”.
  • Carefully prepared lacquered walls provided a classic yet always modern backdrop to his interiors.
  • Antiques and collected items are a must. Interiors that lacked these have no soul.
  • Dust is a protective coating. In other words, Mr. Buatta did not see his designs as being “precious”.
  • Mario Buatta was not about fast design. Rooms develop over time. He said that he worked like a painter did – adding dabs here and pieces there to create a perfect whole.
  • There’s always room for one more chair. Conversation areas were key.
  • There’s always room for a humorous moment, bon mot or quip. Mario was very funny – or “punny” as it were.

Mario in his own words or from those who knew him on my podcast, The Skirted Roundtable.

Stylish Shopping with Susanna Salk and Mario Buatta on Quintessance

Mitchell Owens wrote a beautiful tribute to Mario at Architectural Digest.

The New York Times Obituary

Buy the book

Mario Buatta book cover

I’d love to know your thoughts or memories of Mario Buatta and if you have a favorite designer who seems a worthy successor?

xoxo Linda

13 thoughts on “Honoring Mario Buatta – A Legend, A Life and Livable Spaces”

  1. Thank you for this lovely tribute, Linda. I had the pleasure of meeting Mario Buatta briefly at a lecture he held at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show just a few years ago. He was funny, delightful and charming. He is one of my all time favorite decorators. The world is a little less pretty with his passing.

  2. I was working from home for a British mural restoration company in 1990 when Mario Buatta called! At first I thought it was a prank! He was inquiring about restoration of murals for one of his projects. Reading that he does his own ordering and research, I now understand. Buatta was a true master, down to earth and real. There is none like him.

  3. I must have been living under a rock as I had not heard that he had passed. A long time fan of “The Prince of Chintz”, I had the privilege of hearing him speak in NYC many years ago. He began the lecture speaking in broken Italian…very funny, Mario. Two weeks later, on a flight to California, he ended up sitting next to me on plane! It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life (I felt like a rockstar groupie) We chatted throughout the flight. I adored his rooms at the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club Decorator Showhouse. Lovely man. He was a master and will be missed.

    • Hi Diane – that’s amazing that you sat with him! He was such a kind and generous person. And his talent will most definitely be missed! Thanks for sharing you Mario-moment and Happy New Year!

  4. I did reach a saturation point with his work as an inspiration for my own. But without my opinion he is a divinity that has no peer. Still. It’s like opera. It’s just not done right anymore. He knew when to leave some space and where to cluster. Bravo maestro!


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