Todd Alexander Romano founded his interior design firm and his eponymous shop in June of 1999, after training at esteemed New York firms Ingrao Inc., Saunders & Walsh and Mario Buatta. Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Todd studied architecture at the University of Texas in Austin and still finds inspiration in the architecture and the decorative arts he sees both at home and abroad. Todd brings traditional, high-end principles and an understanding of contemporary lifestyle to his work with his keen sense of color, beautiful wall finishes, great art, and touches of whimsy to reflect the clients’ personality. The comfortable elegance of the living spaces Todd designs illustrates his philosophy of living well and with style. His work has been been included on numerous lists of the Top 100 Decorators in America, and his work has been featured in all the major design magazines. Today, I am honored to feature Todd today for a Q&A! Welcome, Todd!
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in interior design?
A: Really, everything in my early life/childhood led towards me becoming a decorator. My parents loved architecture, houses, antiques, gardening, etc. so I was raised in a great environment where these aesthetic interests, past times, or “hobbies”, were part of everyday life. And I grew up in a home that was constantly being changed, added to, etc. As my parents’ interests and collections evolved, so did our house.
At first, I thought I wanted to be an architect, as I come from a long line of Italian engineers and builders. The only problem with that was that I didn’t really care how a building would stand up, I only cared about how it looked! Needless to say, that combined with a lackluster enthusiasm for studying/school etc. led to no degree in architecture! But I ended up exactly where I was meant to be, a decorator with a great sense and knowledge of the history of architecture, as well as decorative objects, art, and furniture.
Q: How do your multi-generational Texas roots influence you today?
A: I think they’ve always influenced my work and my way of life as they stem from a history of pioneers- Texans are tough, but they like to have fun too! Then there is the heavy influence of the south in Texas as well and the desire to live and entertain in a gracious way. When and where I grew up as a kid, people didn’t go to restaurants all the time like they do today. Everyone I knew entertained family and friends at home; anything from a barbeque to a seated dinner was primarily done at someone’s home with simple and delicious food. So hospitality and housekeeping went hand in hand and most people kept home quite well; waxed floors, polished silver, ironed linens, etc. All these little details which make living in a house so nice. All of that type of lifestyle, which perhaps, is not as relevant today, informed my need to make sure that my clients are comfortable in their homes. It’s ultimately about function and comfort, but let’s make sure it looks good too!
Q: What were the biggest lessons you learned while working for Mario Buatta? Do you have a fun story you can share?
A: Attention to every detail and quality-and not just quality in the product or item itself, but also the quality and substance of paint jobs, the fabrics, the upholstery, and curtain work too…Everything! The details in trimming and upholstery were enough to boggle the mind. Not one inch of anything wasn’t considered in designing a room by Mario. I learned so very much from my time with him and I think he was, in his own way, quite proud of me and my success. One funny story that comes to mind was when we were headed to Connecticut one day to see a client he wanted to stop off at John Rosselli on East 72nd Street (this was John’s old/great/first shop at 72nd and 3rd Avenue) and we were already late (Mario could be paralyzingly late when it came to meeting with clients!) and he wasn’t paying any attention at all and opened his door just in time to catch the fender of a Yellow Cab which promptly ripped the door right off of his side of the car-needless to say we didn’t make it to that meeting that day-He was furious, but it was also absolutely ridiculous and funny at the same time.
Q: When did you know it was time to open your own firm?
A: By 1997/1998 I was senior designer at Ingrao, Inc. working for the wonderful Tony Ingrao (who by the way was by far the most kind and generous of all of my bosses) and we were working on some great stuff, but I just knew it was time. And then, almost immediately I found this impossibly small, but charming ground floor space to let on East 71st Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenue. I’d always loved retail, loved antique shops, etc. and I decided the best way to launch me was to open a decorating shop at the same time, and I did just that in May/June of 1999. The rest as, they say, is history! I loved that little shop so much and then later, of course the larger space at 73rd street and Lexington Avenue, and I don’t think I’d ever had so much fun in my life!
Q: How would you describe your style, and how has it evolved over the years?
A: My style is highly personal and highly eclectic as I love a great many genres and styles in furniture, decorative objects, antiques, and art. I hate to use that over-used cliché of a word, “eclectic”, but in my case it’s hard to find another word which so aptly describes my schizophrenic taste! I love to mix all of the things I love together in the same room, which isn’t always the easiest, but it works for me. My style has evolved as everyone’s does, but only slightly in the sense that I’ve always loved to mix things up.
Q: Are there any signature “Todd Romano” ingredients you particularly enjoy incorporating into your interiors?
A: I always look at the architecture of a room first to make sure that the room is pleasing, balanced, and functional to start with. I like to fix the backgrounds first before even contemplating the decoration. So good architectural “bones” is a signature element. Another is a well thought out seating plan that addresses the needs of and function of the room, so I think most of my rooms “really work well” in terms of function and seating. From a decorating standpoint; I’m known for my great color sense usually employed in lacquered or decorative paint finishes. I think you’ll always find the following items in my rooms: French furniture, especially chairs, painted furniture, the best upholstery and curtains your money can buy, wonderful and unusual fabrics and trim, wicker, great art, and hopefully lots of personality and whimsy.
Q: How do you determine the perfect positioning of furniture with just the right scale?
A: I always start with the floor plans-and sketch out quickly 1, 2, or possibly 3 different ways to arrange the furniture, etc. Usually the first one is best. Mario could sketch out rooms well, as did Albert Hadley and I learned a lot about furniture placement and scale from them. One trick I like to employ at times is to lower the scale of furniture, upholstery, etc when I want my ceilings to look taller than they are.
Q: Is there anything new or different your clients are asking for these days?
A: I think most people I know today and all of my clients want comfort and a certain amount of livability to each of their homes. They want to really use their spaces and enjoy them, so perhaps less formality to a degree. By and by though most everyone wants a pretty home that reflects their style and interests.
Q: What are five classic pieces of furniture every home needs?
A: 1. The best custom upholstery you can afford. A great classic-style sofa or a pair of club chairs will last forever. I have upholstery that was made for my grandparents 75 years ago!
2. A pair of French Bergeres or Fauteuils. I love all periods/styles Francaise, but especially Louis XVI for its clean neo-classical lines.
3. A great chest or commode that can work in almost any room of the house from the entrance hall to the dining room to a bedroom-a beautiful device for storage!
4. A great low table (coffee table) in lacquer or metal and glass- a classic style table can go with almost any interior and is, after a sofa, the most needed piece in any room.
5. Any style of mirror. To me mirrors (and chandeliers) are like the jewelry in a room- they add sparkle, light, etc to any room and besides how could we leave our house without one?!
Q: How do you make a home feel truly special and unique?
A: To my mind what really makes a home special is being surrounded by the people and things you love first and foremost. Things that I love to be surrounded with are books, photographs, art, special little objects, post cards/notes from friends, fresh flowers, orchids, needlepoint pillows, a favorite chair, seashells, views of my garden and pool, friends laughing and playing cards, wonderful baskets holding plants or magazines, and my wonderful dog, George(!) just to name a few……
Thank you, Todd, for joining us today… what a delight! To learn more, please visit www.toddalexanderromano.com and follow @toddaraomano on Instagram. Todd also has his own signature line of furniture, sold exclusively through F. Schumacher Showrooms throughout the United States.