It was a childhood trip to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia that started it all for designer Anthony Baratta. Inspired by the history, architecture and beauty of this 18th century living museum, Baratta developed his passion for history and design. Known for his bold, colorful, pattern-loving take on American style, it was not surprising that Williamsburg chose him to become their first Designer in Residence, inviting Baratta to live in the historic Palmer House and reimagine the circa 1750 residence as his own. Susanna and I were honored to visit Tony in his Williamsburg home to capture this wonderful design initiative celebrating the best of past and present.
As one of Colonial Williamsburg’s eighty-eight original 18th century buildings, Palmer House sits proudly on the Duke of Gloucester Street in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. The house as we know it today was owned by John Palmer, a local lawyer and bursar at the College of William and Mary, who constructed the house in 1754 after the previous dwelling on the site (built in 1707) was destroyed in a fire. While subsequent tenants had expanded the house, it was brought back to its Palmer era appearance in the 1950s by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and it is this incarnation, in keeping with the 18th century timeframe of the restoration, when Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia, that exists today.
Bringing new life to this historic property, Baratta incorporated his signature use of bold color and pattern for a fresh and personal take on American design.
Mixing periods, he brought in many antique, vintage and contemporary pieces from his own collections, including many of his favorite design elements such as quilts, rag rugs, Victorian furniture, and colorful upholstery. The result is exuberant, modern, fun and quintessential Tony.
Celebrating the historic design influence of Colonial Williamsburg, the Designer in Residence program was established by WILLIAMSBURG, the product licensing arm of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Their access to the vast museum collections housing 70,000 fabrics, furniture, ceramics, rare books and more, have allowed them to develop a wide range of home interior and gift products with over 30 prestigious licensees representing the best of American craftsmanship and style.
Along with his own furnishings, Baratta has incorporated select items from the collections, such as the dramatic Spicher floor cloth in the entry, above, and the elegant Mottahedeh Imperial Blue dinnerware in his dining room below.
And a big thank you to video sponsor Benjamin Moore, another of WILLIAMSBURG’s prestigious partners. To bring Palmer House into the present, Tony looked to the past, using The Williamsburg® Paint Color Collection by Benjamin Moore®. When Benjamin Moore’s chemists and color experts and preservationists from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation jointly examined 18th century wallpaper, original paint samples and historical documents in the archives, they discovered that these historic hues were actually bright and richer than once believed. Their paint collection collaboration recreates those accurate colors found in early American design but combined with modern technology for living today.
Eschewing the wall to wall beige he inherited at Palmer House, Baratta looked to this collection to revamp and revive the house to reflect his signature punchier palette. Choosing from its over 144 offered colors, Baratta picked those he felt would express his aesthetic vision and help to emphasize the relevance of historic buildings and design. His bold primary palette for the entry above and below. Note his use of rick rack trim on the window valance, a design signature which made an appearance on his wildly popular Nantucket capsule fashion collection for Max Mara last spring.
And throughout the house, Tony has brought history forward, with authenticity, enthusiasm and great design spirit. So who better to inaugurate this the Williamsburg Designer in Residence initiative! As Tony explains, “I want the next generation to appreciate the great bones of American architecture and design, and what better ‘classroom’ than Colonial Williamsburg, the birthplace of American style?” Thank you to Colonial Williamsburg for hosting us and Tony for welcoming us into your historic home and ! We love what you’ve done to the place! 😉
all photos by Stacey Bewkes for Quintessence