The Style Files: David Netto

David Netto Portrait by Jeff Vespa

 

{Interior Designer, David Netto in his Library | Photography by Jeff Vespa}

Anytime I am asked which designers I personally find most inspiring, David Netto’s name always comes to mind. Netto is a marvelous editor, creating interiors that are ultra-chic and refined, yet maintain an effortless quality. The spaces he designs seamlessly bring together the modern with the traditional; the minimal with the extraordinary, and he manages to tell a story in each room. Netto’s work is quite moving in its masterful beauty. I feel as if he must view things through the lens of a cinematographer. Just as Wes Anderson is an expert at creating singular environments in which to tell his stories in his films, Netto manages to do the same in the perfectly layered spaces he designs. Through our conversation, I came away with the feeling that Netto is serious about design, but he doesn’t take himself or the process too seriously. Items should have provenance and importance, but it is all about how they relate to one another to tell the story of the people who live in the space.

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence and Columbia University with a Masters in Architectural History, Netto, as he puts it, dropped out of Harvard Architectural School in 2000 and subsequently worked for Bunny Williams and later, Nasser Nakib. Soon after, Netto opened his eponymous design studio in New York. Shortly thereafter, his own apartment was featured in ELLE DECOR, and since then, his work has appeared in Vogue, House Beautiful, House & Garden, and Veranda, as well as in several books. By the way, if you haven’t read the new issue of Town & Country yet, it features a very chic New York apartment designed by Netto, which I loved. Aside from being a brilliant interior designer, Netto is also a contributing editor for T, the New York Times Style Magazine.

In addition, he has also designed NettoCollection, a chic line of children’s furniture inspired by the iconic pieces of the 1930s and 1950s. Originally introduced in 2002, the collection was created when Netto found it impossible to find stylish furniture for his young daughter. In the years since, the Netto family has migrated west to Los Angeles where they live in a stunning Richard Neutra house in the Silverlake neighborhood. The house is so chic in fact, that Vogue recently shot a fashion editorial on location there. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview a designer whose work I personally find so inspiring and who has such an incredible breadth of knowledge when it comes to all things stylish, yet maintains a cool edge and a sense of humor. Enjoy!

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Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

David Netto: Lately I’ve found myself thinking my style is all about real life. That may not sound very exciting at first, but when you’re decorating it means two things: responding eloquently to architecture, and making a portrait of the client who’s going to live there. So it changes from project to project, but usually involves not posing, but trying to tell a story that hasn’t happened yet. And it also usually involves furniture from the 1930’s, mirrored walls, and an African stool.

David Netto's Home

PC: What does your home say about you?

DN: MY home! Once you have a family it’s no longer your home, it’s theirs. What it does say about me is I can’t stop buying books, I love small sculpture, I don’t believe in dining rooms, and that for me, luxury is about the unexpected—taking risks, putting like a French 18th century desk in a modern house in Silver Lake

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{The Netto Family’s Iconic Richard Neutra-Designed House in L.A.’s Silverlake | Photgraphy by Nicole LaMotte for One Kings Lane}

PC: How has living in Los Angeles influenced the way you decorate?

DN: When I bought my Richard Neutra house I learned about the discipline of editing. It never looks better than when it’s empty, so what are you, as a decorator whose voice is not naturally minimalist, able to contribute? That was tricky, and I made lots of mistakes. In other ways Los Angeles is also about excess, which I love too. Henri Samuel did his last and one of his most extravagant projects here, and it’s great. I love that the city is sort of all about no apologies when it comes to design style, as it is with clothes: fancy or crunchy, they’ll love it if it’s good. After growing up in New York this is very refreshing.

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{The Living Room of Netto’s Neutra Home: The design was a collaboration between David Netto and his friend, Paul Fortune, who also designed the ultra-chic Sunset Tower Hotel.  | Photography by Nicole LaMotte for One Kings Lane}

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

DN: Travel is essential. Trying to avoid what is fashionable is essential, although I do learn things from Ace Hotels. Not looking at things like Pinterest is for me essential, because when you are overwhelmed with images you don’t always know what you think anymore– and a decorator’s job is to KNOW. Books give you a chance to make up your own mind.

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PC: Who are your personal style icons?

DN: I’m going to give you three you may not know: Peter Cushing, the movie Mississippi Mermaid, and Woolf Barnato. And three you know: Bryan Ferry, Pharrell, Eileen Gray.

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{The Beautiful Catherine Deneuve and Jean-Paul Belmondo in the 1969 Film, Mississippi Mermaid}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

DN: Buying neoclassical antiques for myself and putting them in storage for an apartment I may never have. Got Bill Blass’s obelisks in there, and I just bought a suite of ten plaques with portraits of Swedish kings…

Frist residence, Nashville, Tn. Gil Shafer architect

PC: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

DN: “Take 6th Street to the site meeting in Bel Air.”

LowerFifthAveAptBed

PC: Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?

DN: Billy Baldwin. The clubs in London designed by Mark Birley. The work of Albert Hadley, Lee Mindel, and Serge Becker. The writing of S.N. Behrman.

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PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

DN: Getting to move from LA to an 18th century townhouse in Edinburgh when my daughter graduates from high school.

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PC: What can we look forward to next from you?

DN: I’m decorating houses all the time, but I am also writing a book about Francois Catroux for Rizzoli which is coming out in late 2016. It’s both been terrifying and a great pleasure, and it’s one of the things I have felt most invested in because it grew out of an article I wrote on him in 2011 and my total belief in Catroux’s importance. Plus he has had a fifty year career and no book, and how many careers in design can you say that about?

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Go-To Outfit: J. Crew jeans, t-shirt, Moncler puffer

Style Mantra: Dress up when you take a plane

Scent: None of that

Piece of Jewelry: Panerai

Current Obsession: A Land Rover D110 for sale at Copley Motorcars in Boston

Color I Never Tire Of: Preppy dark green

Flower: Light green hydrangea

Indispensable Design Element: Mali stool

Era for Design: 1930-1942

Dream Project: A house in Carmel I didn’t get hired for

Fabric/Textile: Le Manach

Hostess Gift: Kikoi from Steven Alan? Rope doorstop from Nathan Turner? Hard to pick one answer here so here are two.

Meal: Anything at La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills

Drink: Balvenie whisky

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: Watch a movie with Ray Harryhausen animation with my daughter

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3 Things I Love About My City: LA is nice to you even if you don’t have a lot of money; LA is open-minded about design; LA is a great place to be a parent (suburban but not boring)

Weekend Destination: New Orleans

Hotel: Claridge’s

City: Stockholm

Museum: Scottish National Gallery

Artist: David Hockney

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: “Electric Avenue’ by Eddie Grant

Actor/Actress: Burt Lancaster

Prized Possession: My watercolor of a shell from one of Captain Cook’s voyages

Risk Worth Taking: Upending the children’s furniture industry

Go-To Color Palette: Bleached oak, caramel leather

Rule to Break: Curse relentlessly in elegant company, a real aristocrat loves that

Movie Set Design: Moonrise Kingdom

3 Dream Dinner Party Guests: Kate McKinnon, Isak Dinesen, Gene Hackman

Paloma-Signature

{Images Courtesy of David Netto Unless Otherwise Noted}

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