style of mixing several different chintz
patterns in a single room. Born and
raised on Staten Island, N.Y., he's too
robust to look British, but he dresses
the part (navy doublebreasted blazer,
gray slacks, loafers) and affects an
upper crust pseudo-British accent.
What makes Buatta charming and
likeable instead of overbearing and
insufferable are his lively sense of
humor and his penchant for poking
fun at himself.
"My mother abhorred dust," he
says. "I think of it as protective coating
for fine furniture."
"Nowadays, antiques can be chip-
ped, cracked, broken and mended.
The project lasted almost
four years, during which
Blair House was closed. The
reopened complex is now
back in use, and garnering
Above: In a bedroom, an
antique canopy bed is ruffled and
curtained in fabric that matches the
chair upholstery. Buatta picks up
the same colors in the Oriental rug.
Opposite page: A new two-story
addition was added to Blair House.
The first floor contains a reception
room; above it is a seven-room
apartment used by visiting foreign
dignitaries. Buatta chose a soft
peach color scheme for this
It doesn't matter, because what you're
buying is charm," he says.
"I like to use portraits of dogs (in
his decorating work). They remind
me of some of my relatives," he says.
His office is in his home, a Federal-
style townhouse in Manhattan filled
to bursting with English country
chintz, overstuffed furniture, Oriental
screens, dog portraits and his collec-
tions (of boxes, of blue and white pot-
tery). Prospective clients are greeted
in his sitting room. After some chit
chat, he leaves, obstensibly to fetch
coffee or drinks.
"Then I tiptoe behind a screen (in
the corner of the room) and eaves-
drop. Ninety-nine times out of 100, the
husband turns to the wife and says,
`Why are we here? This looks like my
grandmother's house. I don't want
this. I want to simplify my life. Look
at everything. It's cracked, broken,
chipped. Look at the dust balls.' "
When Buatta returns, the couples
compliment him on his work, then
depart. That's usually the last he sees
of them. "Maybe I should have my
secretary ask before they come, 'Do
you like dust? Clutter? Old things?' "
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