The Magic of Mario Buatta
On this day October 20, 1935, the history of Interior Design would be changed forever.
I was first introduced to Mario in New York in 1988 to discuss the development of his first signature furniture collection for John Widdicomb, in Grand Rapids. My colleague Diane Granda and I stood nervously at the entrance to his townhouse on E.80th St. We rang the buzzer and garbled speaker blared who is it? Who! Don’t let anybody in it sounded again. The door latch snapped open. Mario’s office was overflowing, working with one assistant across the desk from him we looked at each other for a place to sit down. There wasn’t! That was the start of a wonderful collection of English 18th and 19c. furniture in Marios’s casual English country house style that would run for 10 years.
The apartment was amazing with the living room dressed in signature Buatta yellow with a swirl of coral and floral chintz. The famous Red Lacquer Secretaire with its pigeonholes stuffed with glazed cabbage ornaments. Black lacquer export furniture spread throughout. Culminating with the magnificent English Regency lacquer four poster bed with its twin in the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Many years later I would study its history while I was working in England. The kitchen was big enough to make a cup of tea.
The first furniture collection in 1989 in High Point was an immediate success. With Mario working with Diane on both the showroom design and new furniture pieces. Mario who I consider to have one of the worlds greatest sense of color captivated the throng of press and John Widdicombs clients. His extraordinary talent for interior design second only to his irreverent sense of humor on full display.
Mario and I would continue to meet when I was in New York. We would frequent Park Avenue sweet shops, client homes, bookstores, antique shops, fairs, and showhouses. I learned so much from him about furniture, fakes, and friendship.
Mario loves to tease me about my Russian Furniture Collection that I designed for John Widdicomb, “Chad that Russian Furniture is just rushing down the river”. I really don’t think I would have designed my British India Collection for John Widdicomb if I was not steeped in his influence of English furniture and interior decoration.
When I moved to England in 1998 to work for Arthur Brett as Director of Design we would meet up in London and visit Fairs and Antiques Shop. I remember one time going thru a fair with him and being enthralled with a piece of furniture and he whispers it’s a fake. What an education! We visited Stephens Long’s Antique Shop on Fulham road which was a haunt I believe for John Fowler. It was quintessential Mario, decorative rabbits, cabbage plates and quirky small pieces of painted furniture.
Most notably we visited the famous and now I think renovated Colefax & Fowler premises on Brook Street. The famous “Yellow Room” with the interior designed by John Fowler which has been a huge influence on Mario’s work and his signature color. What a treasure it is to have visited it with you!
I just want to wish you the very best of Birthdays.
I will call first before I visit. So you can be out of town.
Great video about Mario’s work from 1981