With a riot of plaids and pretty quilts, Anthony Baratta infuses classic American decorating with a new sense of whimsy and wonder.
ONCE, IN THE 1980S, IN THE HAMPTONS, there was an all-American weekend house filled with heart and comfort and quilts. Designed by a young Anthony Baratta, it made a lasting impression on a New York couple. And after their visit, for some 30-odd years—in fact, long after they’d left New York, long after they had found Baratta and put their Los Angeles home into his hands, and long after their three kids were grown and gone—it lingered in their minds. So when they recently began a search for a ski lodge with views, that house remained a sentimental ghost in their hearts.
The couple, who are avid skiers, finally found their dream home in Utah. Surrounded by mountains, it had plenty of space to accommodate their kids, who are now in their 20s, the husband’s 93-year-old father, and umpteen guests. Baratta got the long-awaited text and flew to Utah. “Today there’s not a room here I don’t love,” the husband says. “But my favorite is the living room. For the views, of course, but also because it feels so inviting, with the big sofas and that replace. And those views!”
Have we mentioned the views? Or the wing chairs wearing lumberjack shirts? Or the tiny mantel tiles inlaid with reindeer and bears? “The fabrics are my own take on L.L.Bean catalog classics,” Baratta says with a grin. And while the old-timey hanging lanterns may be custom, he says he swallowed hard when they were uncrated. “I suddenly saw that they were taller than I am, and for a moment, even after 35 years of doing this, I panicked.” They were the perfect size for the space, of course. But then, well, practice makes…
And yet Baratta knows it’s easy to become stale, so he works at challenging himself. You can’t just go out and buy the dining room’s birch-bark wainscoting, for instance, nor the hickory-stick, birch-bark, and bottle-glass cabinet that disguises the wine safe. But where do you find such things in Utah? Um, you don’t. You head straight for the Adirondacks, where the craftsmen who’ve created such things for years are, miraculously, still at work.
Baratta is well known for his incomparable tongue-in-cheek approach. Or in this case, tongue-in-groove: Note the beadboard ceilings in the entry hall and the dining room, where the quintessential ski-lodge spandrels framing the window are quite unlike the walls, with their handsome 10-point bucks. Note the pizza oven in the kitchen, too, and the “rustic” painted oor with the wood intentionally showing through. But the master bedroom’s ceiling has to be his tour de force. “I copied the plaid from a vintage annel shirt,” Baratta says, “and pulled out all the stops.”
He even managed a witty powder room. “I turned an antique washstand into a…washstand,” he jokes. If the quilt hanging above it seems made for that spot, it was. In fact, there seem to be quilts everywhere in this home (except on the beds). Even the rugs look quilt-like. Throughout this lighthearted lodge, there are endless winks and smiles. “I decorate,” Baratta says, “to delight.” And that he does: his admirers, his clients, and, not least, himself.
This story originally appeared in the November-December 2016 issue of VERANDA.