A Designer’s Guide to Decorating With Color
Anthony Baratta shares his joyful approach to color-drenched decorating in his new book
Anthony Baratta has a wonderful laugh. That’s the first thing you notice when you talk to him, and it comes as no surprise, since he’s famous for making people happy. Now it’s our turn: In Baratta’s new book, Decorate Happy: Bold, Colorful Interiors, he shares a brilliant rainbow of homes designed to bring a smile.
Often called the king of East Coast chic, Baratta has been making a splash with his exuberant American style for 39 years. The recipient of Benjamin Moore’s Hue Award recognizing lifetime achievement, Baratta has partnered with Lee Joffa, Stark Carpet, Thomasville, Capel Rugs and Weekend Max Mara on his way to becoming one of Traditional Home’s “20 Design Icons.” He’s also Colonial Williamsburg’s very first “Designer in Residence,” living part-time in the circa 1755 Palmer House.
This new book is Baratta’s third, capturing a dozen houses from the past 10 years. “I like the way a room looks when furniture is happy together,” he says. “The relationship between color and furnishings brings me happiness in my own life, so I want people to feel that when I design for them.” His recipe’s main ingredient is fearlessness. “A lot of times people design with this sense that people are going to judge them on color; they want to live in these completely beige and gray environments,” Baratta says. “I simply don’t care what other people think of what I choose for a home, nor should the person who’s creating a home for themselves—a good house and a good room really celebrates the person that’s living there.”
The interiors of the ski lodge he calls Mountain Magic, in Deer Valley, Utah, were inspired by rustic Adirondack camps, American folk art and European alpine chalets. “There are so many different styles of furniture in that house, though it all looks like it’s from the same mama—which is kind of interesting, because I guess I’m the mama,” Baratta says. “I like to mix family heirlooms and high and low furniture; I just think that’s part of being fearless.”
He layers and manipulates color, pattern and scale with symphonic precision—mixing houndstooth, gingham, argyle, checkerboard, stripes and florals for a look that’s classic and familiar, yet also completely new. The result is more timeless than trendy. “I like to crawl into my head about something like American design,” Baratta admits. “To me, it’s always a high taste level, and always in style,” he says with a laugh. “I like to think that I’m designing for the long run.”
TIPS TO DECORATING HAPPY
How do you know what will make you happy in the design of a room? Anthony Baratta suggests some questions you should ask before you begin.
COLOR “You should definitely ask yourself about color—that’s super-important and a super-personal thing. The whole ‘copy a room’ or ‘copy a color’ thing is never a good place to start. It never comes out the right way.” COMFORT “I think a really important part is what you’re going to be comfortable in: How does a room work for you, and what is it that you’re trying to do in the room, and how does your family live?” FORMALITY “How formal or how informal is your lifestyle? So many people think that life is so much more uptight than it really is. It gets more and more infrequent to sit down for dinner in a dining room. Maybe we have to rethink what we’re doing with different spaces.” PERSONALITY “I like to have people ask: ‘What is the signature that will say, this is my collection, or I love this color, or we’re wine drinkers so we want to show that off?’ I’ve done so many different thematic rooms. That’s the kind of thing that really shows what a person is all about.”