I began corresponding with the extraordinarily talented and sophisticated Madeline Stuart in the fall of 2009. It wasn’t until April of this year, however, that we finally met in person when I had the privilege of spending a few days with her in the magical city of Venice. Armed with a quick smile and infectious charm, it is difficult not to like Madeline right away. In addition to exuding great charisma, she is also smart and wonderfully opinionated. Not opinionated in a way that is off putting, but rather in a manner that is refreshing and comes from a wealth of knowledge and a passion for her craft.
Once you know Madeline and view her work, it is obvious that she values the fundamental marriage of integrity and beauty above all else. What I like most about her work is that it rarely reflects the latest trends, offering her clients truly timeless design.
Over the past 15 years, Madeline’s work has been featured in numerous publications, including Elle Décor, House & Garden, House Beautiful, Town & Country, AD, Western Interiors and Veranda. In June of 2010, Elle Décor’s A-List included Madeline as one of the top 25 designers in the country.
A Fun Fact About Madeline
Always a lover of books and literature, it comes as no surprise that we have Madeline to thank for the classic 1971 version of the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie, starring Gene Wilder. According to her father, director Mel Stuart, his 10-year-old daughter inspired him to pursue a Willy Wonka movie based on Roald Dahl's classic book. “I would have never read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but Madeline liked it and asked me to make it into a picture,” he recalls. “Otherwise it would have never been made.”
How would you describe your personal style?
While I wouldn’t describe myself as a chameleon, my style is constantly evolving. I don’t necessarily mean changing—the emphasis would be on striving towards an expanded vision. Without question I feel my work becomes better, more refined and more confident as I gain knowledge and experience.
Fundamentally I would describe my personal—as well as my design—style as more tailored, less contrived. My work tends to be understated and timeless as opposed to hip and trendy. Good furniture, good lighting, good clothes—all are expensive and should be treated as an investment rather than something that can be abandoned after a single season. And I have a reverence and appreciation of the past which is evident even in my contemporary work.
What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
What a difficult question!!! It would be a real toss up between chocolate, music and having a dog. (Don’t tell my husband I said that!)
Who are your style icons?
Yves St. Laurent, Frances Elkins, Jacques Grange, Betty Catroux, Millicent Rogers.
What is your most prized possession?
Aside from the obvious answer, my beloved Beatrice (my Jack Russell terrier)?
It would probably be my childhood copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I so loved this book as a little girl that I asked my father if he would make a movie out of it. And he did. (The original Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder.) It’s signed by the author, who wrote “To Madeline, who started the whole thing. With love, Roald Dahl’. Almost everyone I’ve ever met has seen the film and it’s a legacy I’m very proud of.
What inspires your creativity and designs?
I’m inspired by everything. Nature, architecture, art, history. A typeface. A colour. And my books. Inspiration can be found anywhere...everywhere.
Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
No longer living? Armand Albert Rateau or David Adler. Living? Jacques Grange
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Being at home with my husband and Beatrice.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
Ian McEwan, Jeffrey Steingarten, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Harold McGee.
What is your favorite luxury in life?
Good food and wine.
Profile by Ronda Carman