In Conversation with Emily Evans Eerdmans

FLOWER magazine's founder and editor-in-chief, Margot Shaw, talks with author, design expert, gallerist, and antiquarian Emily Evans Eerdmans about her latest book, MARIO BUATTA: ANATOMY OF A DECORATOR as well as Buatta's inspiration, style, and lasting influence on American design.

In Mario Buatta: Anatomy of a Decorator, Buatta’s friend and protégé Emily Evans Eerdmans has written a fascinating look into the life, style, and inspiration of one of America’s most famous interior decorators. Through archival material including presentation boards, scrapbooks, and correspondence with clients and fellow designers, she explores and formalizes Buatta’s design vocabulary, process, and shares how-tos. In this casual conversation, Margot Shaw talks with Emily about the book, Buatta, and design.

From Mario Buatta: Anatomy of a Decorator

Mario Buatta in the living room of his 117 East Sixty-second street home.
Mario Buatta posed in his 117 East Sixty-second Street living room, which he described as a “real [John Fowler] copycat room,” circa 1970. The wall color was copied from an Avery Row paint chip given to him by Fowler, and Colefax & Fowler’s Shadow Medallion carpet covers the floor. Image © Estate of Mario Buatta.
Sketch of a living room with fabric and color swatches.
Mario explained how he would use clippings of fabric pieces to harmonize a room’s color scheme: “If you’re using a flowered chintz, you want it equally balanced around the room so all the colors bleed together. It doesn’t work if used only at one end of the room.” Image © Estate of Mario Buatta.

Master Class

A section of the book is set apart as a “Master Class.” It closely examines three projects presented in chronological order that Buatta completed in the last decade of his life. The Master Class looks at Toad Hall in Aiken, South Carolina; Issac Jenkins Mikell House in Charleston, South Carolina; and River House in New York, New York. Emily notes, “The interiors display the hallmarks of Mario’s style: gorgeous color, an expert mixing of pattern, dressmaker curtains, and a cohesive arrangement that allows a room to function as beautifully as it looks. Each space reveals a master at his zenith.”

The following three images are from Toad Hall.

Blue painted library at Toad Hall in Aiken, South Carolina
Down a hallway at Toad Hall in Aiken, South Carolina is the small, cozy library where owner and dogs can curl up. It is the most densely layered of all the house’s rooms. Image © Scott Frances / OTTO
Living room at Toad Hall in Aiken, South Carolina. Designed by Mario Buatta
Throughout the main floor, Mario employed a pastel palette, which he believed was the most suitable for a warmer climate. In the living room, he designed several seating areas so that groups of two or twenty can comfortably convene. Image © Scott Frances / OTTO
Mario Buatta designed bedroom at Toad Hall
All the trademarks of a romantic Mario Buatta bedchamber are here. The color palette, designed to flatter its blonde occupant, is taken from the tulip chintz and applied to every surface so that the room conjures English botanical pearlware. Image © Scott Frances / OTTO

By Margot Shaw

Buy the Book

Cover of book, Mario Buatta: Anatomy of a Decorator by Emily Evans EerdmansMario Buatta: Anatomy of a Decorator

By Emily Evans Eerdmans (Rizzoli, 2023)

Available on Amazon

Emily Evans Eerdmans is a design historian and founder of Eerdmans, a fine decorative arts gallery and consultancy in New York City. She is the author of several other books including monographs on Madeleine Castaing and Henri Samuel. A close friend of Buatta, Eerdmans oversaw the dispersal of his estate, including the blockbuster auction at Sotheby’s. Eerdmans has a Masters degree in Fine and Decorative Arts from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, and has taught design history at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the New York School of Interior Design.

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