January 1, 2012
Mad Men’s Bryan Batt Goes “Martha” with His Latest Style Book
Move over Martha, with style like this, this triple threat author/actor/designer will soon have his own “Batt-Pack” of admirers
By Nancy Staab
Mad Men’s favorite Italian, Bryan Batt (aka Sal Romano), breezed into B.D. Jeffries this December to sign his fashionable new home décor book: Big, Easy Style: Creating Rooms You Love to Live In (Clarkson Potter). LuxeCrush sat down with the charming actor, who dished on style, entertaining, Broadway and the swanky elements of the Mad Men set that he positively covets.
Your books and décor seem filled with a fearless joie de vivre (why not strew Mardi Gras garlands on your formal dining room chandelier, or paint a hallway lavender and decorate it with a whimsical bird nest sculpture?). Is this a lesson you learned from your upbringing in New Orleans or where does this come from?
I think it stems from being an actor. You really have to be fearless and be able to take chances and risk failure in that profession.
Speaking of failure, have you ever failed in a big way in terms of your home décor?
Oh yes. I was in love with this particular chartreuse green color. I still love it.
But never paint a room a color that doesn’t look good on you. It was a powder room. I went in and looked in the mirror and I resembled something from a bad, B-level horror film! Now I limit chartreuse to accessories.
So, chartreuse was a no-go, but do you have any favorite color combinations you like to use in home décor?
Well, I always recommend doing a color swatch test! I love Italian tomato red with natural linen colors and chocolate brown. I am also crazy for teal, ochre and mustards mixed with teals and greens. I like lavender with chocolate brown. Chocolate brown goes with almost anything. Most colors can go together if done correctly. For example, in my book there’s a living room painted an enamel teal blue and the living room curtains incorporate every single color in the house, but it totally works.
What thing should every well-designed home have?
Every room should have a point of departure or a focal point to ground it. Not a theme, but maybe it’s an eye-catching color, or wonderful velvet fabric or great work of art. In terms of the whole home, I think it needs to have a “feel.” It can be anything but it needs to have a certain feeling, and a wow factor. It should feel homey and also make you laugh. I have this tray of humorous cocktail napkins at the bar in my house and I love to hear people laugh when they see it.
Do you have any thing that you obsessively collect?
Yes, I love art. I collect both landscapes and abstract expressionist paintings. I also paint some myself. I made all those small, boxy paintings that are pictured in the book [also pictured in photo at top of this article]. I like homes that are decorated with personal or unusual things, but nothing too kitschy. You should design your house not to impress or get into a magazine, but to feed yours soul. I recently went to a house in New Orleans and it was like they pavéd the entire home in nutcrackers for the holidays, there were so many of them! But if that’s what makes them happy, great. You should feather your nest and be cocooned in happiness.
What is your favorite unnecessary extravagance for the home?
Oh there are so many. Well I will say that I was in a house recently that took one of those gorgeous antique altar candlesticks and used it as toilet paper roll holder! That may be sacrilegious, but it was clever. And I like to take special things and use them in everyday life. I have these gorgeous crystal decanters that I use for my mouthwash and lots of pieces from my mother and my grandmother that I take out and use regularly.
Did your sense of style come from your mother Gayle, who you famously wrote about in your “momoir” She’s Not Heavy, She’s My Mother, or from where?
I am not sure where it comes from. My style is partially from my mom Gayle and maybe my grandfather on my father’s side, who was very theatrical. I also had an aunt, Meryl, who was very artistic and took me under her wing. She was very can-do and fun. She acted and we painted together and she had a kiln in her house.
Did you ever covet anything from Mad Men’s impeccable Mid-Century Modern sets?
Oh yes, there was a pair of abstract expressionist paintings in the meeting room that I coveted. There was also a great coffee table in Roger Sterling’s office with slanted glass and slots to place the magazines.
And there was a nice pair of chairs in John Hamm’s office too. My character Sal got “fired” on the show in one of them. I should have taken that chair with me when I left!
Does your artistic impulse carry over to fashion?
I am way into fashion but some things I can’t pull off at my age. I have vintage in my closet and I have my eye on a Tom Ford jacket at Neiman Marcus. In the spring/summer I like to wear wild-patterned jackets and pants. I am actually good friends with the costume designer for Mad Men, Janie Bryant, and she always says, “go ahead and wear whatever you like” but I don’t want people to say, “Who does he think he is?” I am also good friends with Christina Hendricks who plays Joan Holloway. We support each other a lot.
Speaking of Mad Men, what hints can you give me about its future and will you be back after Sal’s firing last season?
Well I can tell you that the producers say that Sal is not dead…The show should return in March or April.
What else do you have in the pipe-line?
I am doing a workshop for a Broadway musical but I can’t say what it is right now. And possibly another TV show that I can’t talk about yet either. I am also going to pitch another book. As for my home boutique in New Orleans, Hazelnut, it’s bursting at the seams. We are going to have to expand.
Will your new book be about your entertaining skills?
Well, the publishers tell me that entertaining books don’t sell well…however, I am getting ready to host a New Year’s Eve dinner party at my house. It’s too cold to go out and too hard to hail a cab home on that night, so our tradition is to host a dinner party at home. January Jones came one year when she was doing a movie in town. We typically host about a dozen people. My partner Tom does all the cooking. He’s going to make a wonderful osso busco. I make these really flamboyant party hats for each of the guests to wear out of old New York Times papers, ribbons, floral sprays that did not sell at my shop. It’s gotten competitive with guests showing up early to pick out the best hat!
Signed copies of Bryan Batt's latest home decor book, Big, Eady Style: Creating Rooms You Love To Live In [Clarkson Potter], is available at B.D. Jeffries, 3736 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, 404.231.3004 or www.bdjeffries.com. Batt's home decor shop Hazelnut is located on Magazine Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, www.hazelnutneworleans.com