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

Mario Buatta head shot photo by Scott Frances
Mario Buatta, photograph by Scott Frances

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.

A little tour of some of my favorite Mario rooms:

Mario Buatta blue living room back to back sofas

Mario Buatta Design Scott Frances Photo Tented Dining room

Mario Buatta Tented outdoor dining

Mario Buatta blue tented bedroom green blue

Mario Buatta colorful bedroom Scott Frances photography

 

Mario Buatta Patricia Altschul Bedroom chintz floral canopy

Mario Buatta Patricia Altschul blue chinoiserie bedroom

 

Mario Buatta Blue and White bedroom manuel canovas fabric
Humor is a must.

Mario Buatta design Gordon Beall Photography blue bedroom

Mario in his own words or from those who knew him:

 

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

 

Who do I think is a worthy successor to Mario?  I can think of no other but Miles Redd.

Miles Redd design Melance Acevedo photography
Miles Redd | Melance Acevedo photography
Miles Redd design Peter Murdock photography for House Beautiful
Miles Redd design | Peter Murdock photography for House Beautiful

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 Would you like my Favorite Tips for a Well-Decorated Home? Click here!

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

  1. Timeless, nurturing interiors . . as you say, “with soul”. I feel almost the same way about Bunny Williams’ approach.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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