Friday, March 11, 2011
A Dinner for a Legend
The dining room of the Metropolitan Club on Wednesday night.
Well, it's unofficially been Mario Buatta week here in New York City. Along with my video interview with the great decorator, there has been coverage of him here, here, here, and here, all based on his recognition this week by the New York School of Interior Design, who honored him on Wednesday night with a gala dinner at the Metropolitan Club and renamed its library the Mario Buatta Materials Atelier.
What a dinner it was. The evening started with the opening preview of the Avenue Antiques & Art at the Armory Show. After that, hundreds of friends, clients, decorators and editors streamed through the gates of the Metropolitan Club, on Fifth Avenue at 60th Street, which was built at the turn of the last century when J. P. Morgan was its first president. For the dinner honoring Mario, more than 30 designers each created a unique table top scheme. The total effect in the carefully-lit golden dining room was pretty spectacular.
As I checked in and got my table seating assignment I ran into decorator Bunny Williams. "Mario is the Prince of Chintz but he's no bed of roses!" she said to me. "He's one of my dearest friends. The whole design community turned out for this because they have such respect for him. He's a mentor of many people."
Michael Boodro, the editor-in-chief of Elle Decor, was arriving too. "Mario has been totally under-appreciated," he told me. "The breadth of his work is amazing, and he is a master colorist. He's so self-deprecating that people don't fully understand him." The new April issue of Elle Decor includes a feature on Mario.
In the dining room I admired this table designed by Amy Lau for 1stdibs, its white French tulips bowing gracefully in the candlelight.
I found my way to my table which was designed by decorator Ilene Wetson who centered scarlet ranunculuses on a table covering made of textured African mats which she had sewn together. About as far away as you can get from chintz, and very striking indeed.
Guests sat down to a dinner of filet mignon followed by some jolly entertainment including a poem about Mario by client/financier Wilbur Ross ("The sticker price was such a shock I had to sell a lot of stock"), and a witty song sang by Christopher Mason. Louis Frumkes, husband of my dinner partner Alana Frumkes, noted that Mario is "uniquely gifted in the art of living," and introduced the man of the hour. "I have a few notes here," deadpanned Mario as he took the microphone and unfurled a long scroll of paper that rolled down and off of the stage.
After a standing ovation, the dinner dispersed and guests lingered. Decorator Charlotte Moss, looking very chic in a black Yves Saint Laurent pant suit, said to me, "Mario is a force of nature, one-of-a-kind. He has a delivery that is totally unique, and he lives and breathes the decorating business. There is only one Mario, no last name required. He's like Madonna."