Design for life: Why you need to combine kitsch with good taste

Hatmaker Anthony Peto on the design philosophy that runs through his life

Dublin resident Anthony Peto is a British born designer of Hungarian ancestry who initially studied law, was editor of The Art Magazine in the 1980s in London for several years before leaving for Paris and becoming a chapelier or hatmaker. He has lived in the French capital since 1987 where his thriving business centres on his boutique and workshop near Les Halles.

Over the years he has collaborated with some of the fashion industry's leading names such as Hermes, Givenchy, Kenzo, Galliano, Gaultier and Balmain. A regular visitor to Dublin, he opened a boutique in South Anne Street last year which has quickly become a destination for hat lovers and which he now has plans to expand. He loves the city and recently set up home with his partner in a Victorian house in Sandymount.

Describe your interiors style?

The house I live in now is a hybrid of the style of the previous owners and our own taste. My particular approach is very eclectic

– ideally I like to throw things together that don’t necessarily belong together. You can do that either through intuition or by trial and error and you create something that is personal. You need to combine kitsch with good taste as well – for example, I like copies of things – Victorian copies of French furniture, for example, because you don’t feel precious about it.


Which room do you most enjoy and why?

This room has multi functions that you use for different reasons so it is a kitchen, a dining room, a sitting room and a study so you can live in different moods and different activities throughout the day. It opens into the garden and its really high ceiling creates a feeling of space and a bit of grandeur. I don’t like TV rooms or dining rooms.

What items do you love most and why?

The dog, a sculpture by

Robert Bradford

from the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London, is one of my favourite items. It is composed of bits of plastic clothes pegs and a toy gun and I like it because it brings the room to life and makes you smile and has that slightly tacky quality that you would find in

Jeff Koons

, for example. I also love a floor rug made from sari silk from ABC Carpets and Home in New York. It’s the sort of carpet that you buy and then have to find a house to fit it! There’s also a little lamp like an Indian rope trick made from ropes that is slightly unserious but functional. It helps me work and puts me in a certain mood.

Who is your favourite designer?

Julian Schnabel

[the American painter and filmmaker] is the person I most admire. He designed the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, a palazzo in New York and a house in Montauk. He is inspired by the use of Renaissance colours and his approach to design comes from his knowledge of art. Gramercy Park combines French style furniture, dark wood, exposed brickwork and great art for a sumptuous effect but one that doesn’t make you feel you have to walk around on tiptoe.

Which artists do you most admire?

I like art with a bit of edge to it, so I prefer Flemish to Italian painters because they always have something weird going on –


and Brueghel’s

Fall of Icarus

. I also love the Spanish masters Goya and Zurbaran. In terms of contemporary art, I like

Peter Doig

because there are also unexpected things in his work and obviously

Francis Bacon

. But the first time that I have been completely taken by a contemporary abstract work is a painting of

Richard Gorman

, which I have, that makes a massive statement, is deceptively strong and massively hard to hang. It is also quite sensual and that element drew me in. I also love Etienne Assenat’s

Man in a Hat

because it has a presence that reassures me. He is interested in questions of identity, but some of his paintings are quite malevolent and spooky.

Biggest interior turn off?

I don’t like going into a person’s house and feeling everything is designed to impress visitors and doesn’t really reflect their own taste – something that expresses their opulence or knowledge of art. I don’t feel at ease in such houses. I don’t like a house with a lot of rooms that aren’t used. A house has life to it if every bit of it is used and it flows through the use of colour that leads into each part and not having too many doors.

Which travel destination stands out?

We have been going to Deia in Majorca for the past three or four years. It has a fantastic mountain landscape and is like a super Tuscany with views of the sea. It also has a special artistic feel to it, maybe because of

Robert Graves

, and is incredibly friendly and relaxed.

If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the home, what would you buy?

A Francis Bacon print from

Bruno Sabatier

in Paris though I couldn’t imagine spending that amount of money ever.