Quite the designing duo

October 15, 2006|By Claire Whitcomb | Claire Whitcomb,Universal Press Syndicate

If you're impressed by the color and imagination of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta's work underfoot, you should be. These two master decorators create some of the most interesting floors around.

Flip through their new book, Diamond Baratta Design, written with Dan Shaw (Bulfinch, $55), and you'll see a white floor painted with black and cobalt Dalmatian spots, each applied with an eyedropper for an organic look.

You'll see a dining-room floor painted to resemble a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign and a periwinkle-blue floor stenciled with whales, lighthouses and mermaids.

And, of course, you'll see floors of shimmering ebony, turquoise and their favorite, pure white.

In all this, Benjamin Moore's porch and deck enamel is their friend.

"It holds up phenomenally," Diamond says. "It's great for children's rooms because if something spills, you just wipe it up."

But the real reason they love deck enamel is that it extends color to the distant corners of a room, lifting and lightening a decorating scheme.

"It makes a room light, happy, reflective," Baratta says. "There's a sheen to a painted floor, and we like the way light bounces off it."

Which is not to say that Diamond and Baratta eschew wood. They just aren't content to leave it alone. They like to stain wood floors so they resemble marquetry and create pattern.

As for rugs, "You name it, we've done it," Diamond says. He and Baratta commission rugs depicting motifs their clients love: dogs, firehouses, even old motel signs. The traditional American styles include hooking, braiding and needlepointing.

Their loyal braided-rug maker, a woman in New Hampshire, rented a school gymnasium when she was working on a 60-foot-long braided-rug commissioned for a hallway.

But floors are just part of Diamond and Baratta's genius. Here are some other ways they bring a fearless sense of color to a room:

Fabric to the rescue. Practically allergic to Sheetrock, they take away the newness of a room by covering the walls with everything from felt to velvet, linen to billiard cloth. "Fabric has a more intense color than paint, and it ages better," Baratta says.

Adds Diamond, "Fabric makes a room feel homey. Even if you're using solid colors, it creates a calming clothiness that's especially important in modern interiors."

The right white. Though they're known for bold and brilliant color, what makes their schemes work is a liberal dose of white - on the trim, the floor, the mantel.

"It's the backbone of what we do," Diamond says.

He and Baratta count on three whites from Pratt & Lambert: Seed Pearl for the whitest white, Silver Lining for all-purpose creamy white and Milk White for a darker, "old house" white that's still clean and fresh.

Quirky lamps. "We tease each other that if it doesn't move, we turn it into a lamp," Diamond says. An old leather fire bucket, a flower-bedecked teapot, a game wheel, a metal coffee grinder - all these show up as lamps in a single client's house.

Well-furnished beds. In one apartment, Diamond and Baratta literally sliced a crotch-mahogany Empire settee in half "as if it were a kaiser roll," and used one part for the headboard, the other for the footboard. In his own New York apartment, Baratta skipped the slicing idea and used a pair of leather-tufted Belter-style sofas at the head and foot of his king-sized bed, linking them with custom woodwork and custom upholstery.

Daring paint. "If something isn't beautifully colored, paint it," says Diamond. Even though a chair is mahogany, a library is wood-paneled and an indoor swimming pool has a dark-beamed ceiling, consider whether color might be a better choice than wood.

If you're the least bit hesitant about giving your woodwork the brush, you won't be after reading Diamond Baratta Design. Bursting with inspiration, it's a two-man treatise on how to make every corner of your life as fresh and colorful as possible.

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