10 Questions with Designer and Writer David Netto

Portrait of David Netto surrounded by books
P​​hoto by Rozette Rago

About David Netto

David grew up in New York surrounded by taste and people talking about it, which, for a young person, was both “a good and a bad thing”. David’s father owned the historic fabric house Cowtan & Tout, and from an early age, he became interested in architecture, furniture, cars, and the history of each.

Since dropping out of Harvard Architecture School and founding his studio in New York in 2000, David has specialized in residential decoration in no particular style. It might be said that David’s work is known for trying to bring to modernism a touch of warmth and personality, and to traditionalism young energy and a dash of the exotic. For a project to be successful, he believes in the importance of getting the architecture right, but that good decoration should also be a portrait of the person who lives there. David’s projects have been published in Vogue, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, House & Garden, Town & Country, and Veranda, as well as several books.

Living room
Photo by Simon Upton​​

As a writer on the history of architecture and design, from 2010-2012 he worked as contributing design editor to the Wall Street Journal. After 2012, he did so for T, the New York Times Style Magazine, and now writes the Case Studies column for Town & Country. He authored a monograph on the work of Francois Catroux, published by Rizzoli, and recently released his latest book Stephen Sills: A Vision for Design. We have admired both David’s design and writing work and look forward to welcoming him this weekend for Illumination Charleston. In the meantime we had the chance to chat with David and ask him some questions from how he got his start to his go-to holiday cocktail, check it out below. 

Small office space
Image via David Netto​​

1. Three words to describe your style.

Optimistic. Refined. Site-specific

2. How did you get your start in design?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think about it. But to answer your question specifically, there were two starts: 1) when I painted the sets for my class 4 play in 1979, and 2) when my friends started getting their first nice apartments after college and asked me to do them, 1997.

​​Image via David Netto

3. How does your writing compliment your design?

I think looking so much, which I have to do to write about things, has made me a better designer. Looking at things and thinking about how to make other people care about them.

4. What are you currently reading?

A biography of Henry Beston, the naturalist who wrote one of my favorite books (The Outermost House, 1928). It’s called Orion on the Dunes by Daniel Payne.

Book cover of
Background: Adonis Wallpaper Boarder by​​ Susie Atkinson

5. How do you tell a story through interiors?

Well, you might take an object and then find a fabric in the same color and put it nearby. That is one kind of story, when color or shape jumps from one category to another. Another way would be to take something the client loves–a chest their grandmother brought over from Sweden, say–and build a whole room around it, taking the idea of the object and turning it into a world.

6. Who are your design muses?

Andrea Mellone, Georges Geoffroy, Georgia O’Keefe, Thomas Jefferson, and Rose Tarlow.

7. Where do you find inspiration?

Number one: travel. Number two: get out of the office and go walking around to shops. You WILL find something. Number three: the young people who work with me and what they care about. The more you listen, the more you get inspired.

8. The holidays are upon us, what’s your go-to cocktail for entertaining?

I might change from a martini to a whiskey sour or Manhattan, just for right now though.

vintage photo of a bartender shaking up cocktails

9. Go-to design advice?

Forget Pinterest and all that. Ask yourself, what am I going to ADD to what’s in the record already?

Music Room
Amagansett House, music room, New York photo by Rishad Mistri​​

10. With 2022 wrapping up, what are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year?

Finishing my book for Vendome which is due out in September 2023!

Formal sitting room
Image via David Netto​​

The 2nd Annual Design Luminaries Book Signing

Join us for a holiday drop in featuring Celerie Kemble and Stephanie Hunt and their newest books - perfect for holiday gifting! We'll also have signed copies of David Netto's newest book, Stephen Sills. The perfect gift for the design lover in your life. 

Friday, December 2nd  |  4-6 pm

Stephen Sills Book Cover

Design in Mind Talk

And don't miss the Design in Mind talk at Illumination Charleston featuring David Netto. As a sought-after writer on the history of architecture and design, let David enthrall you with his design cues and inspiration.

Saturday, December 3rd  |  1-2 pm

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