Interior Styling ServiceExclusive to Semaine
‘You could call me a provider of beauty,’ says Venezuelan-born interior specialist Carlos Mota. ‘I don’t want to be limited by a title – I love beauty and I love to share it with people who are happy to pay for it,’ he continues with a gravelly laugh.
A Renaissance man, Carlos has worked in many fields since he arrived in New York City in the 80’s. From cutting his teeth with interior designer Perucho Valls of the firm Siskin Valls, he moved into window design for Madison Avenue’s swankiest stores before segueing into magazine styling – first in fashion and then landing in interiors.
A decade long stint at Elle Décor was followed by an International Style Editor position at Architectural Digest.
Alongside his editorial work, Carlos has brought his inimitable style to the homes of the rich and famous – many of whom have become close friends and guests at his infamous at-home soirées.
‘I’m very Latin, I’m very loud and colourful and I love layers,’ he explains. ‘I love to have an element of surprise with my styling – whether it’s an amazing flower arrangement or putting a sculpture on a pedestal to make it look like 10ft high. You know my famous hashtag is 'beige is not a colour.’ I really believe that as a philosophy.’
While bright, bold and life affirming, Carlos’ work, recently celebrated with a weighty Assouline coffee table tome entitled A Touch of Style, is elegant and never de trop. ‘I do think taste is something you are born with,’ he says, ‘I believe that people can be born really chic and elegant from really humble beginnings or they can come from a lot of money and have zero taste.’ Through the pages of the book you get an insight into his confidants' homes—including Pierre Bergé's Normandy home and Giambattista Valli’s Parisian apartment – as well as an idea of his peripatetic lifestyle, zigzagging the globe.
For Carlos, a consciousness of style was something that he experienced from an early age. ‘I can remember being really young—maybe 6 or 7—and being aware of my house, of colour, and of having things in the right place. For me it has always been instinctual and I have always, always been curious.’
Growing up minutes from the sea, his middle class childhood was characterised, he says, by ‘long days in the ocean. I was born in the late 60’s and most of my young life was spent outdoors in nature or on beautiful beaches.’ Carlos credits his mother with opening the doors to the creative world: ‘My mother painted and did ceramics in a casual way while I was growing up,’ he explains, ‘there were always art books around the house, so she really led me to my artistic side.’
When it comes to ambitions, Mota says it’s all about creative legacy. ‘I would love to write another book. I think the biggest compliment is when people remember you for something – because you were really talented or you wrote a book or did a great painting. With my books [he also authored Flowers Cheap and Chic in 2010] I know that in 20 years from now people may still be looking at my work, and to me that’s an accomplishment.’
Until then Carlos will continue to rack up the air miles while sharing his flair for beauty across the globe. ‘The best school for style is the school of travelling. Beauty is everywhere, you just have to look for it.’
Interior Styling ServiceExclusive to Semaine
A Touch of Style
Odalys floral wallpaper
Ellipse five-piece cutlery set - matte gold
Horn Candle Holders
In the Spirit of Beverly Hills
In the Spirit of Capri
In the Spirit of Monte Carlo
In the Spirit of Seville
Small Horn scultpure
Buddha Head beeswax candle
New York City Flower District
Futura bullseye vase
Dodi ikat pillow
Lace Ikat pillow
Ricard ikat pillow
Isabelle blockprint pillow
Cariboo shaggy rug - green
Painted Fish F oval plate
Blue Butterfly plate
abcDNA glo neon-piping napkins
Large Earthenware hen on nest
Drawing Room blue paint
Hanger Rose stacking cake pedistal
Oiseau salad plate - set of 4
Spongeware dinner plate
Malachite Green Geo vase
In the city
Home now for Carlos is his apartment in Chelsea, New York, and a beach house in the Dominican Republic, both flamboyant and rich in colour - much like the man himself.
‘New York is all about the energy. It’s the pace and the people. In any given moment you can see something really outrageous, really beautiful and really horrible. Somehow it can all happen at once in the city. My favourite room in my New York apartment is my bathroom as I’ve papered the walls in beautiful floral fabric. In every Carlos Mota apartment you’ll see the bathroom has patterned fabric – its very cosy, but very wild.'
'What I love about my homes is that they are very personal. I have a lot of things from my travels and pieces that friends have given me as gifts from all over the world. It's things that tell a story. I started buying furniture way before I built my house in the Dominican. If I was in Italy I’d buy plates, if I was in Spain I’d buy linen. When the house was ready I had already collected a lot of things. My Dominican house is a concrete box with a courtyard. It’s a modern take on Spanish Colonial with a dose of Carlos Mota in there – I call it 'Casamota'. From the outside it looks very big but inside the rooms are really small – my idea was to have an apartment feel on the beach. I love my terrace—sitting there with my husband Nicholas having lunches with the beautiful tiles. It’s just a beautiful spot. The Dominican reminds me of my childhood in Venezuela – plus I can guarantee a good night’s sleep!'
As for making a house a home, Carlos has always been an enthusiastic party host, inviting a mix of New York’s finest to his modest sized apartment. ‘I have always been very social since I was born. It’s the Latin in me. We are very social and very open – we love to go out, we love to have dinner with friends and have people in the house. It’s a little less now, but still I have a cocktail party every month – then in the winter season I’ll do a little more.’
"I have a lot of things from my travels and pieces that friends have given me as gifts from all over the world. It’s things that tell a story."
Standard deep buttoned sofa
New Leaf bronze sconce
Carlos' Picks from Christie's First Open LDN Auction
In collaboration with Christie's First Open LDN, Carlos has chosen his favourite pieces from the upcoming sale.
First Open/LDN is a Post-War and Contemporary Art auction at Christie’s of both established names and the best of cutting-edge or emerging art. Aimed at the first-time buyer, the established collector looking to add depth to their collection, and those looking to decorate their homes, First Open has something for every kind of art aficionado. A global platform taking place in London, New York, Hong Kong throughout the year and with estimates ranging from £800 to £150,000, it is the perfect platform to engage with and collect contemporary art.
Explore Carlos' chosen works in our exclusive online gallery.
digital painting on aluminium
48 x 64in. (122 x 162.5cm.)
found masonite, felt-tip pen, acrylic and screws
30 x 51in. (77.2 x 129.5cm.)
colour offset lithograph
34 x 27in. (86.8 x 69.9cm.)
oil on canvas
55 x 53 in (141 x 135.5cm.)
acrylic on canvas
62o x 95in. (158.2 x 241.3 cm.)
oil, fabric collage and paper collage on panel
23 x 11in. (58.5 x 28cm.)
oil on canvas
26 x 30.5in. (66 x 77.5cm.)
Around the world with Carlos
Carlos shares his top 10 travel destinations from his peripatetic, jet-set life. ‘The best school for style, is the school of travelling. Beauty is everywhere you just have to look for it.’
The Perfect Paella
Carlos shares his favourite go-to recipe and his advice on how to bring the party to your home.
Successful entertaining, Carlos says, ‘is all about mixing people and cramming them in. I did a dinner at home about seven years ago for Giambattista Valli during fashion week. It was one of those nights where I invited 20 people and 60 or 70 showed up. People kept coming and coming, and I will never forget the moment my friend came into the kitchen and said ‘Oh my god, I opened the door and Valentino just walked in.’ I almost died – it’s such a small apartment and I had all these major fashion people in there. But that’s what a party should be about - the people bring the glamour.’
Herb Preparation: Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 large garlic cloves (minced), 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 cup chopped parsley.
Combine water, chicken broth, and saffron in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer (make sure not to boil) and keep over low heat. Peel and devein the jumbo shrimp (keep tails intact) and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté chicken (about 2 minutes on each side) and remove from skillet. Add prosciutto (cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices) and chorizo, sauté for 2 minutes and remove from skillet. Add shrimp and sauté for 2 minutes then remove from skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and add chopped onions and bell peppers; stir occasionally and sauté for 15 minutes. Add paprika, tomatoes, and garlic cloves and cook for 5 minutes.
Add rice (cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly). Add herb blend, chicken, sausage, and broth. Bring all to a low boil, cook for about 10 minutes. Arrange shrimp in rice mixture (heads down) and cook for 5 minutes or until shrimp are cooked. Sprinkle with lemon juice and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes, and serve with lemon wedges (optional).
Carlos' Entertaining Playlist
Get the look
Carlos shares his top tips to create unique and exciting spaces and some of his favourite interiors of all time.
'My top tip for interiors is to edit, edit, edit. We tend to have a lot of extra things, so the first step is to get rid of everything that is unnecessary. Then it’s about the three cornerstones: Great lighting, a great carpet and one great antique piece of furniture – a mirror, a lamp or a table. It has to be amazing.
'The common denominator of my work is the use of colour. I feel that colour brings happiness. A lot of people like all white for calm and peace but for me colour adds happiness and makes you smile. I love having that affect on people.
'Style isn’t about money. If you have taste you can go to Ikea and find that perfect little towel that looks fantastic in your bathroom. It will cost you $3 amongst 5,000 options. Its about having a good eye and picking up the one beautiful thing.
'With my new book, I wanted to do the Carlos Mota greatest hits – like a pop chart. It’s the best projects I’ve done in the last 15-20 years. You can look at the book from front to back or back to front – it’s not chronological. Everything is linked through colour or attitude, it’s probably my biggest accomplishment to date.
'You never know where you’ll pick up your next gem. You can find great things for the home everywhere from a Paris flea market to 1stDibs – it’s about keeping your eyes open and not being too much of a snob. Style is style, it doesn’t have a price tag.
'My love of flowers came from growing up in a beautiful country. My mother always used to have cut flowers in the house. To me it’s like water – you just have to have flowers. It hardly costs any money to buy two peonies or put a little plant in your kitchen. Plants and flowers bring a home alive. My biggest tip for arrangement is to keep it simple – go for 12 stems of a single flower rather than mixing it all up if you don’t have experience.'
"To me it’s like water – you just have to have flowers."
"Style is style, it doesn’t have a price tag."
"It’s about the three cornerstones: Great lighting, a great carpet and one great antique piece of furniture."