Having sold her previous apartment rather more quickly than she thought, Cathy Triant Buxton had to find a place to live quickly—incredibly she turned her new apartment around in six weeks—although strictly speaking, it isn’t ‘new’ since she grew up in this Upper East Side townhouse. Her father is Theodore D. Triant (Ted), the well-known designer who worked for David Hicks and the space in which Cathy and her husband now live, along with their heart-meltingly adorable poodles, was once her father’s office and gallery space. Very sweetly, now that her parents are older, she is around to keep them company and care for them. Both Ted and Cathy’s mom (immaculately dressed and rushing off someplace) both dropped by during the interview and we have included shots of their apartment upstairs.
So you grew up next door, didn’t you?
I grew up here. I was living forever on 72nd between Park and Lex and we bought at the bottom of the market and one day I woke up and I said, “I can’t take it. I have to move right now.” It was a nice apartment, but really low ceilings … I had a genius real estate agent and we sold it like this. [snaps her fingers]. Then I was, like, “Where do we go now?” This happened three months ago!
What!? So you moved in here and re-did everything in three months?
Well I thought I could come in and just put new appliances in the kitchen … I didn’t realize there would so much other renovation. I did it all in six weeks!
That must be some kind of New York record! How did you do it?
It was crazy! Don’t forget I had no board approval. And I didn’t need permits although I got some just to be on the safe side. I didn’t use a contractor—I was like the old school decorators and did everything. And I had Earl, the project manager [who is in the room] – Hi Earl – and he was like the drill sergeant. And I knew I wanted herringbone floors and like the person who did the floors has known my father for 45 years—all contacts!
So you grew up the child of a designer [Ted Triant]—I thought at first we hadn’t interviewed that many designers’ kids but actually we have: Alexa Hampton, Ann Pyne, Jeff Lincoln and one or two others.
I think it’s not easy. If you’re a designer—and I’m not this way at all because I sort fell into it by accident—but he’s so meticulous. You have to be a little OCD [to design well]. But it can drive you crazy—everything has to be in place.
Was that just too hard to live with?
I think when you’re an adolescent it kind of puts a big pressure on you, a pressure that you internalize. But then there’s all the great stuff.
What was the great stuff?
Well, maybe if [my parents] had had a super athletic kid it would have been horrible for them but I loved going to museums. I remember the biggest thing we ever did was when we go to Sotheby’s after school. And I still love that—auctions houses and flea markets.
Did you try anything else before trying design? You worked at Clarence House, didn’t you?
I did, for a long time and I loved it. I went to Barnard and I studied art history and toyed with the idea of getting a graduate degrees in art history but when I was finished with college, I was finished with school. I took all these hideous classes like German specifically for art history so that you can read … you know … I took drafting classes but it wasn’t as if “Oh I want to be a decorator.”
What did your room at collage look like?
I think probably at the time it must have been sort of Laura Ashley, the English country thing.
What happened to that, I wonder?
It’s coming back! Prints are [coming back]—big time.
How would you characterize you style now, post-Laura Ashley?
You know, I think I like everything. My last apartment had a lot more color and was more traditional. But this one, because I was in a rush, I just painted everything white.
Do you look for your father’s approval?
I used to. I think I don’t anymore. I ask him now out of respect—he’s tough, I mean he’s all ego and tough, not in a bad way. He is always: “I know better” and architecturally, he does know better.
How does your style differ from his?
Not that much actually. The funny thing is, a lot of the things that he had in the 70s and 80s that I loathed—now I like it.
You’re very much under the radar. It’s very hard to find out anything about you.
I am. I’m really reluctant to be out and about. I think at the end of the day [designing an interior] is a really intimate and long-term project. I only like to work on one or two projects at a time.
What do you like to do besides decorating?
I love theater. I used to run a theater company.
Oh tell us about that then!
Right out of college one of my very dear friends and I started up The Miranda Theater Company. We ran it and we had a theater. It was on 30th Street between 7th and 8th. I was a producer, and decorating is like producing a show. All teamwork. I loved it. But it’s impossible to make money—talk about stressful! It was all funded by grants. Ticket prices cover like 20% of the operating costs. I worked there for about ten years. The way we started to manage financially was to rent it to other theater companies.
What plays do you like? What playwrights do you like?
Oh I don’t know … I feel like I haven’t seen anything. I’m a terrible person to ask—like I saw “Warhorse” and I liked it—you come home and you’re dying to get home to your pet! You’re like “Oh my animal!” It’s so emotional. I was a wreck. I went with my friend, [the decorator] Alex Papachristidis.
Now Alex really lives to decorate!
You are never going to get a more devoted person.
When we went to interview him, we came in with Starbucks coffee cups and he took them away and decanted the coffee into pretty china cups.
Oh I’m sure. I bet he was like, “Angel … please.” He is an unbelievably nice person—and we’re both Greek.
Do you speak Greek?
I do. Actually our families [Alex and Cathy’s] are friendly. I met him and we instantly clicked.
What do you like to watch on TV? Junky TV?
I watch HGTV … House Hunters …
Oh I watch it all night … I can’t turn it off!
Especially International House Hunters! [we’re all laughing]
That’s fabulous! I loved the one in Vanuatu! Where else would I see houses in Vanuatu?
Oh me too!—I’ve seen that one twice!