For Mark Cutler, beauty is only one aspect of design. The belief that every space should be a genuine reflection of his clients and should capture their spirit drives the designer to create homes that are as personal and authentic as they are beautiful. Cutler’s versatility is displayed in projects like this contemporary San Francisco condo and decadent Italian Villa, both drastically different but uniquely tailored to the clients’ sensibilities.
What is your favorite decorative object at home?
I have a pair of 1960s Italian white marble horse head table lamps that are about 42” high, so they are very dramatic. I bought them years ago and have been trying to use them as I go from house to house, and they have finally found the perfect spot in my living room.
When do you consider a completed project a success?
I regard interior design as a form of portraiture, so a project is a success for me when the client moves in and they instantly feel that this is the home they have been meant to live in their whole lives. A successful project is one that fits the family like a glove and they can’t imagine being anywhere else.
Share your biggest design secret.
Wow, I am not really much of a secret keeper, but I guess my biggest design secret is that good design goes with good design, whether it’s modem with vintage or new with antique or expensive with cheap; if it’s well-designed and built, throw it all together and your design will look great and more pulled together than if you just filled a room full of great French antiques.
What is the most common design mistake you see?
Scale seems to be the worst mistake that I see over and over again; things that are too big or too small. Scale can be a tricky thing to master, so measure and measure again. Before I came to trust myself, I would furnish whole rooms with cardboard boxes to really get a sense of how the furniture would sit in a space. You really have to see it in three dimensions; just taping it out on the floor is not going to do it.
How do you balance style, comfort, and functionality?
Well it all depends on where each of the pieces are being used. I have a whole row in my closet which I call my “theatre shoes” because they look great but are too uncomfortable to walk much in, so I wear them to the theatre because I know I will be sitting most of the night. It’s the same thing when decorating a room; if it’s being used a lot, it needs to be firstly functional and practical, and let the style grow from that. If it’s a room that is rarely used, then style is often the starting point.
Do you find that it’s easiest to use the vintage piece as a jumping-off point for the room, or vintage shop to fill specific holes in the space?
It really depends on the piece. Sometimes I will come across something that is so good that I want to build a whole room around it, but that is pretty rare. In most situations, it’s more about a big idea and then weighing each of the individual pieces against how well they add or detract from that idea.
How does someone who isn’t experienced at vintage buying educate their eye and develop their aesthetic/confidence?
First of all, trust your instincts and try not to get too obsessed with getting a deal. The market value of the piece is what it’s worth to you, so trust your gut. Also spend time online looking at what things are actually selling for—that will give you a better idea of its true price.
What do you think about Sotheby’s Home?
I love this site. For one, as a designer we are always faced with the problem of where do we sell showroom-quality pieces that our clients want to get rid of as they renew and refresh their homes. This alone makes the site unique because it offers the general public access to pieces at prices that represent incredible value. Also the resources of Sotheby’s Home for antiques and vintage pieces are amazing; there is a whole tier of antiques that are not at auction quality but are fantastic pieces that never had a home for people to buy, and this site solves that issue.
Can you tell us about the creative process behind the San Francisco condominium?
The San Francisco condominium was a really fun project to work on. The family for whom it was designed use it as a pied-à-terre, so it was sort of like designing a fantastic hotel suite.