Wendy Goodman

Critic; Writer; Editor / United States / New York Magazine

Wendy Goodman’s Notable Books of 2013

1 book
Mario Buatta
With Emily Evans Eerdmans

Like a garden at its peak, Mario Buatta’s rooms are always in full bloom, bursting with color and life. They are never static or made just to be admired. They are, as he writes (with Emily Evans Eerdmans) in his book, Mario Buatta, Fifty Years of Decoration, “living backgrounds, a reflection of where we’ve been and where we are.” In this 432-page feast, a combined catalog raisonné and memoir, not only are we privy to Mario’s childhood on Staten Island as we track the seeds of his showmanship, first nurtured by his Aunt Mary, but we also get a play-by-play behind-the-scenes look at the man who willed himself into the collective consciousness of American design by virtue of his talent and astute understanding that self-branding is key to success. Many decades of loyalty to, and from design kingmaker Paige Rense, along with other top editors,  helped, but the book really illustrates that his client roster of newsmakers and celebrities including Malcolm Forbes, Barbara Walters, Mariah Carey, and Mitzi Newhouse relished rooms that felt as good as they looked.

Buatta was legendarily dubbed “The Prince of Chintz” by reporter Chauncey Howell, after Howell viewed his 1984 Kips Bay Show House room, and it might be tempting to think one knows Buatta’s work. Yet his floral kingdom is full of surprises as his genius to keep the show from ever getting stale by the many iterations of playing with pattern and color goes much further than you might have thought. Buatta is as famous for his offbeat sense of humor as he is for his reputation as the foremost interpreter of English country-house style, as commercialized by John Fowler and Nancy Lancaster, and nothing serves as a better illustration for his passion than the warmth and elegance of the decoration of his own apartment in a 1929 neo-Georgian townhouse. And never let it be said that Mario has ever resisted the charms and all encompassing luxury of designing a well-appointed canopy bed. That is just one of his myriad gifts that keep his clients coming back for more.

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