THE 2014 LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL





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Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or plagued with another bout of tonsillitis!), you will know that the London Design Festival started last week and is now in full swing. Everyone remotely interested in design has caught the bug and the city is abuzz with creativity and excitement from Chelsea to Brompton, Kensington and Notting Hill to Mayfair and Shoreditch, and so many other pockets within the capital as far as Syon Park where Decorex returns after so many years.  
Come and see us at the Redloh House Fabrics Stand 23!

A-Gent of Style will be showing you soon some of his highlights after scouring the myriads of fairs, exhibitions, events, talks and parties (of course). Stay tuned!

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A-GENT OF STYLE’S WEEK WITH ‘THE PRINCE OF CHINTZ’ MARIO BUATTA





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At Core One, The Gasworks, London

At Core One, The Gasworks, London



The last few weeks have been utterly enthralling for A-Gent of Style. As the party season of the London design calendar comes to a close, A-Gent of Style took stock over the weekend of all the incredible events and celebrations he has been privileged and honoured to be part of, now partly documented on this blog (there is much more on his Instagram), ranging from the exclusive interviews with
Christine Van der Hurd as well as David Collins Studio for the launch of ABCDCS, meeting Jacques Grange, collaborating on various features with Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler as well as Christie’s who have also featured him in their magazine available imminently (let’s not forget their phenomenal Art Ball with Tatler), to The Spring Clean charity event, getting a sneak preview of Ham Yard Hotel and also the Masterpiece antiques fair, returning as a guest lecturer at KLC School of Design and of course the design lunch A-Gent of Style hosted at Redloh House Fabrics last week with editors, stylists and designers. 

But one encounter particularly stuck out: A-Gent of Style‘s chance meeting with Mario Buatta two weeks ago and the four consecutive occasions during which
 A-Gent of style spent time with the illustrious decorator during his stay in London that week.

 

Mario Buatta against a backdrop of his favourite chintz, Floral Bouquet by Lee Jofa

Mario Buatta against a backdrop of his favourite chintz, Floral Bouquet by Lee Jofa



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Mario Buatta is an icon and living legend of American decoration with a career that spans five decades who is acclaimed around the world for his unmistakable
(self-proclaimed) “Undecorated Look” and the distinctive English Country House style he brought States side in the second half of the 20th century. With his singular eye and distinctive flair at layering and ‘filling’ sumptuous rooms with fine antiques, china (blue and white ceramics), drapery (“confectionary curtains”), trimmings and art (he has a penchant for 19th century portraits of dogs), Mario Buatta excels at creating an atmosphere of lived-in opulence. He is known as ‘The Prince of Chintz’, albeit too reductive considering chintz has always been one small part of the his career, for his devotion to glossy, over-the-top floral prints and interiors blooming with exuberant colour and fine antiques (or “clutter”. “Dust is great for clutter. It protects fine antiques”). The refinement, comfort and beauty of his designs earned him over the decades to have his name and style firmly anchored in the history of design thanks to an impressive roster of clients from the worlds of entertainment, business, fashion and high society such as Jacqueline Onassis, Henry Kissinger, Henry Ford II, Malcolm Forbes, Barbara Walters, Nelson Doubleday,
Mr. and Mrs. S.I. Newhouse, Charlotte Ford, Elaine Stritch, Mariah Carey, Billy Joel, as well as overseeing the interior of the Blair House, Washington DC. His designs have also been featured in the Kips Bay Show House in New York.  


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After studying architecture at Cooper Union in New York and attending Parsons School of Design in Europe, Mister Buatta began an apprenticeship in the decorating department of B. Altman and Company, a famous New York City department store. He went on to work with several decorating firms, including Elizabeth Draper, Inc., and started his own firm in 1963. He cites none others than Billy Baldwin,
Nancy Lancaster, Sister Parish, Rose Cumming and George Stacey as his favourite decorators (he has written a foreword to the newly published book about the latter) and claims to owe a lot to John Fowler whom he first met in London in 1964 and admired for his sense of colour and arrangement (“When I first saw a room by Colefax and Fowler, I went berserk”).



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Whilst he must admit he finds at times the ornamented, genteel, ‘old school’ interiors of The Prince of Chintz’s too overwhelming for his affinity with the simple serenity of Art Deco and mid-century design, A-Gent of Style has always admired Mario Buatta’s joyous and daring style and found it at times a great antidote to the bland 21st century minimalism and the soulless beige palette (“They’re afraid of their own taste. They’re afraid of their imagination!”). Thanks mainly to the educational features of Jennifer Boles who unearths historical interior decoration from the 20th century (mostly from 1970) to the present on her fascinating blog The Peak of Chic (you must subscribe now. “Lovely girl. Lovely book too”), A-Gent of Style has been able to discover, study and appreciate the time-honoured decorator for his mesmerisingly seductive and somehow nostalgic approach to decoration.

 

Olympia International Art & Antiques fair, London

Olympia International Art & Antiques fair, London

 

Mario Buatta was in London three weeks ago for the publication of his eagerly anticipated first monograph, Mario Buatta, Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration (more about it at the end of this feature) and was consequently celebrated at various functions. A-Gent of Style‘s first encounter with Signor Buatta (his parents were Italian, he was born on Staten Island, NY. “Of course I’m fluent in Italian! Buongiorno, Si, Tagliatelle, Arrabiata, Chianti, Risotto…”) started with the lunch talk the Olympia International Art & Antiques fair had organised for him. The decorator entertained us over an hour not only with stories and anecdotes of his illustrious career but also with oodles of jokes, tricks and theatrical shenanigans, living up to his reputation as a notorious prankster (he is known for carrying a stringy toupee in his pockets and reading from bundles of pieces of paper, in various colours, all taped together and covered in notes, doodles and scribbling) which had the audience in fits of laughter but also equally kept them on their toes (“Yes, you, the lady in the pink hat, what did I just say?”). After the talk,
A-Gent of Style went to meet the famed decorator and exchanged a few discussions with him about his experiences in interior decoration and antiques sourcing in London (“I don’t recognise most of the shops. Where are all the dealers? Most have gone; some have died”). Star-struck, A-Gent of Style had to leave soon after knowing he would see the Prince of Chintz again the following evening. 

 

Olympia International Art & Antiques fair, London

Olympia International Art & Antiques fair, London

 

Olympia International Art & Antiques fair, London

Olympia International Art & Antiques fair, London

 

On the Wednesday evening, Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler had invited Mario Buatta to give a private talk at the Design Club of the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Before his speech, A-Gent of Style introduced him to a couple of his friends, also admirers of the Prince of Chintz (“You can call me Mario now, stalker”) who was once again very generous with his time and interest. He then took to the stage and delighted us with stories of his prestigious lifework and even more pranks and anecdotes (time with Mario Buatta never gets dull).

 

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Design Club, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, London

Design Club, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, London



As for the third encounter, serendipity herself reunited A-Gent of Style with Mario within twenty-four hours. The following evening, as he was walking gaily down Mount Street to attend the launch of the new home collection at Oscar de la Renta, now under the aegis of the fabulous Carolina Irving, a stranger tapped on
A-Gent of Style‘s shoulder with their walking stick declaring “Quite a nice Chevrolet, don’t you think, stalker?”. As he turned around, A-Gent of Style was face to face with Mario (now on first name basis, you see) who was pointing at the fancy car parked outside the store. As luck would have it, Mister Buatta had recognised A-Gent of Style in the street as he was walking back to his hotel, and, once again, the two besties started chit-chatting there and then (Now if that’s not fate, what is!).
Five minutes later, A-Gent of Style had invited Mario to come with him to the Oscar de la Renta party round the corner and surprised Carolina with his guest. As the event drew to a close that evening, A-Gent of Style and Mario agreed to meet up one last time before the end of his trip to go around the antique shops as A-Gent of Style wanted to introduce Mario to dealers he didn’t know.

 

Oscar de la Renta, Mount Street, London

With Carolina Irving at Oscar de la Renta, Mount Street, London



Forward to the Saturday morning and A-Gent of Style made his way to pick up Mario at his hotel in central London (Mario was patiently waiting in the lobby) and the pair hailed a cab that took them to various antiques dealers around the
New King’s Road, the Fulham Road and finally to Core One in the GasWorks.
There was a much-needed late lunch break involved and some retail therapy too at Ralph Lauren but that’s another chapter for A-gent of Style‘s memoirs. Suffice to say, it was an incredible experience and also an invaluable education to observe the master at work and to learn from him as he scoured the shops in search, mainly, for a Versailles-like chandelier for his penultimate project, a house in Palm Beach (“my last project?! Retiring!”). Six hours later (“I’m so grumpy and you’re still here! You’re weird!”), abound with fantastic pinch-me-I-am-dreaming memories and indelible images from this incredible, coincidental encounters, it was time sadly for A-Gent of Style to part with Mario who kindly invited to come and see him next time he was in New York, an offer that did not fall on deaf ears.

 

Guinevere, king's Road, London

Guinevere, king’s Road, London

 

Matthew Upham, King's Road, London

Matthew Upham, King’s Road, London

 

For all the grandeur of his interiors, Mario Buatta was nothing but gracious, charming, unpretentious, histrionic and magnetic. A-Gent of Style is immensely grateful to il Signor Buatta for letting him spend time with him and for the unforgettable, fun experiences.


 If you want to delve into Mr Buatta’s world, you shouldn’t hesitate to get hold of his glorious, hefty book (all 432 pages of it). Written by Emily Evans Eerdmans (whom A-Gent of Style almost met after his sourcing expedition on the Saturday with Mario; our timings clashed), a leading authority on antique furniture and interior design (she has authored the brilliant The World of Madeleine Castaing), and with a forward by Paige Rense, who championed his work during her longtime career as editor in chief of Architectural Digest (“It seems impossible to imagine being depressed in a Mario Buatta interior”), this lavishly illustrated survey -filled with images taken for the foremost magazines as well as many unpublished photographs from the designer’s own archive – closely follows Mario Buatta’s highly documented career from his professional start in the 1950s working for department store B. Altman & Co. and Elisabeth Draper, Inc. to his most recent projects, which include some of the country’s finest residences. Mario Buatta shares in this monograph exclusive insights into his process, his own rules for decorating, and personal stories of his adventures along the way.


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LONDON MASTERPIECE 2014





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Summer in London means Masterpiece, one of the landmark events in London’s collecting calendar, which opens today. As a huge devotee of antiques and art fairs, A-Gent of Style was eager to witness this year’s edition, now in its 5th year, and attended the preview yesterday, his enthusiasm hugely enhanced in the last few weeks by the daily build-up on Instagram. Rating Masterpiece as one of the highlights of the London art fair circuit, A-Gent of Style was wowed this year once again by the sheer brilliance and diversity of the elegantly curated vignettes showcasing objets of the highest calibre.

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Masterpiece London brings together 150 leading exhibitors, old friends and newcomers (A-Gent of Style made some great discoveries), from around the world to showcase a superb selection of museum-quality art, antiques, jewellery, furniture and design. The fair attracts keen collectors, connoisseurs and enthusiasts across a wide range of collecting categories and has established itself as notable highlight of the annual art fair calendar. Set in the magnificent South Grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea Masterpiece takes place during London Art Week until 2 July.


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As in previous years, the range of disciplines is vast, providing something of interest for every visitor. Each item is selected and individually vetted by a committee of independent experts and specialists before the fair begins, which guarantees quality and authenticity is of the highest order alongside fabulous bars and dining such as Scott’s, The Ivy and Le Caprice.


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A-Gent of Style
 presents today snapshots he took yesterday of the works which dazzled him, offered for sale at the 2014 fair. Visitors will no doubt relish the chance to acquire such rare pieces or simply enjoy temptation on a grand scale.

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“Masterpiece is just that – a masterpiece. Its success is a testament to the vibrant international art scene, the passion of collectors, exhibitors and curators, and the dedication of those who devote their time and energy to making this show a reality.



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– Imagery by A-Gent of Style – 






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