Some books one comes back to time and again and, rather than be buried on bookshelves, are kept to hand for dipping into on weekend mornings when coffee and a good read are precursors to a much-anticipated easy day. My pile, small as it is, contains Mark Hampton on Decorating, two volumes of John Hatfield's The Saturday Book from the 1950s, A History of Rome also from the 1950s, and Esquire's Handbook for Hosts from 1949.
In With The Old, a book by good friend and neighbor, Jennifer Boles, will join my pile. The minute I unwrapped the review copy I read it cover to cover. The book is as classically elegant as one might expect from this author and filled with clearly expressed personal opinions about painted floors, trompe l'oeil, screens, skirted tables, singeries, rush matting, ballroom chairs, et al – all beautifully illustrated by photographs, drawings and paintings.
Weighty in more ways than one Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration – it weighs nearly seven pounds – is not a book (pun intended) to be taken lightly.
An almost entirely satisfactory book that suffers from a couple of minor flaws – color rendition in some photographs is poor (the lilac and blue bedroom created for the 1984 Kips Bay Show House, a timeless room if ever I saw one, is rendered grey and coarse); there isn't a book jacket, and the fact that a lectern to hold it would be useful. Poor color rendering or tonal unbalance is something I've noticed in a few books using images from twenty, thirty or forty years ago and I cannot believe it is an editorial decision to leave alone, especially when there are the same images in other books and magazines, that are truer to the original. Whether by design or not, the spine of my book has asymmetrically placed typography and rules and it irritates.
Carping aside, the book is worth every penny and I'm glad to have it. The room that still resonates after thirty-something years is the Dillon Room at Blair House – now as then, a breathtaking mix of color, texture and form. A delicious room that is emblematic of Mr Buatta's talent and, whether one likes the Country House style or not, or however one might wish for less layering and clutter, his ability to create rooms of great comfort, beauty, and instant social background.
In with the Old: Classic Decor from A to Z, by Jennifer Boles. Foreword by Alexa Hampton. Potter Style, October 2013.
Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration, by Mario Buatta, Emily Evans Eerdmans, Foreword by Paige Rense. Rizzoli, New York, October 2013.
Photograph of trompe l'oeil table by Erica George Dines.
P.S. I'm still on intermission. Back in November.