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The Prince of Chintz: A Love Affair with Floral Fabrics

CEO Khai Intela
Photo by George Lange Introduction Step into the world of Mario Buatta, the renowned interior decorator affectionately known as the "Prince of Chintz." With his unwavering love for floral fabrics and a keen eye for...

Mario Buatta, Prince of Chintz Photo by George Lange

Introduction

Step into the world of Mario Buatta, the renowned interior decorator affectionately known as the "Prince of Chintz." With his unwavering love for floral fabrics and a keen eye for design, Buatta has left an indelible mark on the world of interior decoration. In this interview, Buatta takes us on a whimsical journey, sharing anecdotes, insights, and his undying passion for chintz.

Q&A

Flower: Given that you’ve been crowned the “Prince of Chintz,” we can’t think of anyone we’d rather have wax poetically on the subject. Who first bestowed you with the title?

Mario Buatta: It all started in 1984 when I decorated a room at the Kips Bay Showhouse. Adorned in a blue-and-white chintz called Verrieres by Brunschwig & Fils, the room caught the attention of a television reporter named Chauncey Howell. Curious about my love for flowered fabric, he playfully rhymed chintz with various words until he stumbled upon "Prince of Chintz." From that moment on, the nickname stuck, adding a touch of silliness and publicity to my career. Chintz became my signature, and I couldn't be happier.

How did you develop such a strong affinity for chintz?

My distaste for my parents' 1930s modern house led me to seek solace in my Aunt Mary's elegant abode. Her Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and chinoiserie furnishings, adorned with seasonal chintz slipcovers, captured my imagination. Since then, I have cherished the timeless appeal of chintz and incorporated it into my designs.

Mario Buatta’s book includes 50 years of his chintz-filled rooms Photo © Gordon Beall/Architectural Digest © Conde Nast Publications

What does chintz do for a room?

Transport yourself to the grand country houses of England, where floral fabrics were used strategically to create an inviting ambiance. In the wintertime, brocades and damasks filled the spaces, exuding an air of opulence. Come summer, floral-covered chintz provided a refreshing touch, bringing down the grandness and protecting the furniture from perspiration, which could be damaging. Although our needs have evolved, chintz still holds its allure as it adds beauty and character to any room.

Floral Bouquet by Lee Jofa epitomizes the beauty and cheerful nature of chintz.

Asking if you have a favorite chintz is probably a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. But we want to know.

Ah, that's a delightful question! Among all the charming chintz patterns I have encountered, Lee Jofa's Floral Bouquet holds a special place in my heart. It accompanied me on my journey from my first apartment in New York in 1961 to seven subsequent homes. Even now, I cherish its presence on my sofa, chair, and curtains.

You’ve seen and been in so many beautiful rooms, and created more than a few of your own. Which one sticks out most in your memory?

While it's difficult to choose just one, Nancy Lancaster's butter yellow room by Colefax and Fowler is unforgettable. The genius of John Fowler's work struck me instantly. The room's chicness lies in its minimal use of chintz—only a few chairs adorned with this floral fabric were needed to create an enduring elegance.

Everyone is abuzz about your book, Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration (Rizzoli, 2013). What took you so long?

Unlike many other designers, I was hesitant to venture into the world of books. I had this notion that it might signal the end of my career. But with time, I realized that storytelling is an integral part of what I do. The book allowed me to reminisce about the past 50 years of my illustrious journey, reconnect with clients, and relive the joy of each project. As I embark on a book tour this fall, I couldn't be more excited to share my experiences and inspire others.

A living room decorated by Mario Buatta, known as “The Prince of Chintz.” Photo by Harry Benson

Conclusion

Mario Buatta's story is one of passion, creativity, and an unwavering dedication to his craft. As the Prince of Chintz, he has left an indelible mark on the world of interior decoration, reminding us of the timeless beauty and charm that chintz brings to any space. With his book and his legacy, Buatta continues to enchant and inspire, showcasing the magic that can be achieved through a love affair with floral fabrics.

By Karen M. Carroll

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