David Netto has always balanced a love of tradition with a pinch of iconoclasm. He grew up on the Upper East Side and went to the venerable boys’ private school Buckley—but hated it (they wanted him to be a jock, he wasn’t). Later he went to Harvard for a master’s in architecture—then dropped out. Now he’s a respected interior designer working out of Los Angeles—but he spends half his time writing (books, and a column for Town & Country).
In this week’s episode of the Business of Home podcast (sponsored by Chairish and Google), Netto speaks with host Dennis Scully—another Buckley graduate—in front of a live audience at the New York School of Interior Design. They cover a wide range of topics, from the effect of the AIDS on the design community to the wit of Dorothy Draper.
Below, listen to the episode and check out a few takeaways. If you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast (free of charge!) and a new episode will be delivered to you every week.
Surprise: Media is in trouble. But there are silver linings, according to Netto. For one, the rise of digital media has made certain print mediums—books, specifically—more desirable. Magazines occupy a dangerous middle ground, and Netto says it’s time for something new. “The time when you’re on your ass, and there’s no end in sight, no backstop to the adversity—that’s not the time to try and be a people-pleaser; I think that’s the time to lead, because you actually have nothing to lose,” he says. “I think terrible mistakes are being made at certain magazines that I love, because the leadership is not really invested in anything but trying to keep it alive. It’s the time for bold new points of view. Maybe none of it will work, but if you don’t stand for quality, I really don’t see that you’re doing anything but looking at your watch and trying to pay your kids’ college tuition before it all goes away in a couple of years.”
Watch for happy accidents
What does a 1936 Bugatti coupe have to do with great design? Everything, says Netto. “When they made the prototype of the car, they were using a lightweight aluminum that couldn’t be welded ... so they riveted the prototype together in two pieces. When they used the actual car, they didn’t need to use the riveted spine, but by then everyone had realized that this detail was the whole soul of the car.” It’s a lesson in keeping your eyes open and embracing “mistakes,” he says.
Tell a Story
In addition to his design projects all over the U.S., Netto writes a regular column for Town & Country, and has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal in addition to authoring several books. He finds that there’s a lot in common between both halves of his career: “A good decorator is a storyteller. I’ve met great decorators that couldn’t write or draw anything, but they tell a story.”
Homepage photo by Marc Hom