I had an interesting conversation with Mario Buatta, who recently published a book on his lifetime of designing interiors for clients who could afford the best and looked to a person who understood what that meant. We reminisced about the skills today’s clients require from their interior designer, and what was offered by those of a prior generation. Unfortunately, we will never see those individuals who understood the job requirements of teaching a client what they were going to purchase and how its value was measured in what is was and how it added aesthetic qualities to enhance a living space.
Mario Buatta is a living relic (sorry Mario for being so crude), who extrudes skills that his pictorial of work can only scratches the surface. He knows that the Louis XV style is no substitute for Louis XVI. He knows his periods and styles, and doesn’t just rely on Mid-20th Century modern + color as the only scope of decorating. Unfortunately, today’s decorator also has a different type of client that cares little about what it is that they are buying through an interior decorator, but is more apt to use that individual as a stylist for the their home. Like preparing for a photo shoot, a store window, or a TV set, the interior is meant to portray an elite sense of minimalism, and not a sophisticated knowledge of times and places.
With an abundance of technology and limited time, the world as we know it does not require or even want to take the opportunity to learn, touch, and appreciate what can be an intimate part of our lives. The interiors shown in many publications reveal a simplicity bordering on being airless, dry, and without a soul. Oddly, when these shelter magazines do show an interior chock full of personality and eclectic period pieces the casual contemporary reader is left speechless from the visual overload. Too bad there so few designers to explain what is going on.
When I started out in this business, I was blessed with the opportunity to grasp a job that would offer a lifetime of learning. As a young “shlepper”, I moved, waxed, cleaned, and wrapped items in the store, but I relished the opportunity to walk around with a respected interior designer, as he explained what each item was and why it was important for the client to purchase it for their home. I cut my teeth in this industry by learning from professionals who knew what they were buying and how it was to be properly used in the decorative scheme of an interior. There was no cookie cutter Mid-Century Modern formula.
The transformation of the client/decorator relationship has been irreparably changed to one of expedience to get the job done and cheaply, ASAP. The attention to detail is substituted by either the view from the windows or the trophy art on the (few) walls. With educational institutions giving lip service and a fleeting acknowledgement to antique periods and style, less of today’s designers are prepared to teach their clients anything short of the prestige and cache of having done the job and getting it published. A client deserves more but demand less.