Q&A: Madeline Stuart

Q&A: Madeline Stuart
(The designer (above left) and the dining room of "El Sueno" a sprawling Spanish Revival-style private residence in Santa Monica. Photos by Greg Zabilski and Janice Barta)
Name: Madeline Stuart
Occupation: Interior designer, furniture and lighting designer, and founder of Madeline Stuart & Associates 
Resides in: Los Angeles
Best known for: Understated, eclectic interiors that pair a classically formal sensibility with an "undecorated" twist or two. Her mover-shaker client roster includes Larry David, art collectors David and Susan Gersh, movie producer John Goldwyn, and hotelier Jeff Klein.

1. Antique or modern?
Both.  I have great respect and appreciation for the past and the present.


2. Which colors do you use most? 
I'm not known for an incredibly exuberant palette—I leave that to Jamie Drake and Miles Redd! And yet I'm not a beige person, either. I tend to use colors that have a more subdued intensity—even my purples are somewhat neutralized.


3. Favorite materials or textures?
I love silk velvets, linen velvets, mohair velvets, leather and suede, wool sateen, and linen. And Fortuny—always a bit of Fortuny.


4. What is your favorite interior design-related word?
Divine. Because it sounds like something Elsie de Wolfe would have said.

Q&A: Madeline Stuart(A light-filled Pacific Palisades living room designed with a monumental iron chandelier, a vintage Moroccan rug, and an 18th century Spanish console. Photo by Janice Barta)
5. Does your current home look like the one you grew up in?
It does and doesn't.  My mother has impeccable taste and is also a designer—in the house I grew up in she effortlessly mixed contemporary art with antiques and modern lighting. Both of our homes share a timelessness that I strive for in my work. She's probably a bit more of a modernist than I am, and I'm a tad more formal. I like window treatments!


6. Does a room need a view?
Ideally, yes. Who wants to look at a brick wall?


7. Favorite designer or architect? 
Jacques Grange, hands down, for designer. There's no one who's more versatile or courageous. He's the David Bowie of design—and that's huge praise coming from me. As for an architect, I'm enormously devoted to the work of Maurice Fatio, who practiced in Palm Beach in the 1920s through 1940s.

8. Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without? 
I can't imagine a single designer working today responding with any answer other than 1stdibs.

Q&A: Madeline Stuart(The dramatic entryway to El Sueno features a Madeline Stuart-designed marble floor, an 18th century Italian chest, and an abstract painting by John Virtue. Photo by Janice Barta)9. What qualities do you most admire in a room?
I tend to respond to rooms that are calm and timeless, with well-proportioned and unique furniture. I loathe trends, I don't care for huge, overscaled furnishings, and I think a room needs a few antique or vintage pieces to give it real style.

10. Design rule you love to break and why?
I gather there are rules, but I'm not sure what they are—are they written down somewhere?  Perhaps I'm breaking rules all the time without knowing it. Or maybe I'm not breaking enough!


11. What is your favorite room in the house? 
I love my dressing room. It's a stunning shade of muted pink with taupe trim and the shades are green and white Fortuny. The walls have been hand-painted with a pattern I developed based on the work of Dagobert Peche. I designed my mahogany dressing table, and have a quirky antique Italian chair with a seat covered in tiger velvet. On the floor is a purple-y brown shearling rug, and on the rug you're likely to find Mr. Peabody and Beatrice, my beloved Parson Russell Terriers. 

12. What is your most treasured possession?
Probably my bronze fly, and my copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was inscribed to me by Roald Dahl:  "To Madeline, who started the whole thing."


Q&A: Madeline Stuart(The dining room in a Montana ranch house, which features vintage Lightolier fixtures suspended above a custom Claro walnut and bronze table paired with vintage Hans Wegner chairs. Photo by Janice Barta)13. What do you wish you could do without?
My makeup and my blow dryer. I imagine that would be very liberating, but it's absolutely inconceivable that I could exist without either. 


14. How does West Coast design differ from East Coast design? Does it?
I think it absolutely does. The houses here can be vast, and the lifestyle is so much more casual—sometimes to extremes—in a yoga pants and Uggs kind of way. The light in Los Angeles is quite distinctive, which has a profound effect on color.

15. On what movie set would you like to live and why?
I'd love to reside in a 1930s streamline moderne interior designed by Austin Cedric Gibbons, the brilliant set decorator behind all the MGM films from the 1920s through the 1960s. His work in the 1930s set the tone for modern design in this country and it's a period I have a particular affinity for.

16. To which city or country would you move for the design? 
I honestly don't know!  Of course Paris is the most beautiful city architecturally, and I love French design from the 1930s and 1940s, but I also adore Scandinavian furniture and Spanish furniture and Moorish architecture and Italian fascist design.  

17. If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be and why?
Brancusi's Bird in Space. For obvious reasons.
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