Carlos Mota Live Chat | Home Front

Carlos Mota
Jul 02, 2015

Carlos Mota is what’s known in the design biz as a stylist. His eye is responsible for the glamorous design details in many cover shots and photo spreads in magazines such as Architectural Digest, Elle Décor and Vanity Fair and for catalogs for companies such as Bloomingdale’s, Estee Lauder and Pottery Barn. In his new book "A Touch of Style"(Assouline; $75) he shares some of his best work that shows how to add color, elegant flowers, accessories and fabrics to create beautiful rooms. Currently Carlos is an independent stylist and Architectural Digest’s international style editor.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

Excited to have Carlos Mota on the chat today. Carlos is a noted designer and stylist and has styled many of the amazing photos you have seen in magazines such as Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Vanity Fair and more. He is a master of color and accessorizing and flower design. His new book is a joy to sit down and study - I got some great ideas from all the beautiful photos. I'll be giving the book today as a prize - It's called A Touch of Style (Assouline; $85) You can win it by posting the best idea for accessorizing a coffee table. What are the ingredients for a great vignette set up on this important table in your living room? Send me your idea and at the end of the chat I'll pick one and we will mail you the book. If you win, send me your mailing address at Let's chat with Carlos.

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good morning everyone, mi name is carlos mota, i am from venezuela and i am so excited to be here to discuus my new book A TOUCH OF STYLE, publish by Assouline.  i welcome all questions about styling, decor and how beige is not a color.

I have a living room that is really blah. What tips can you give me for giving it some personality?

paint one wall in a fun color, bring interesting accesories like a collection of ceramics, interesting pillows in vintage fabrics, lots of books and always flowers or a great plant,orchid etc.

One wall of our kitchen has four large windows side by side. The previous owners used mim-blinds for privacy and to help with the morning sun, and I hate them. It lo9ks like a wall of mini-blinds. I am stuck on what to do instead, though. We need the privacy. Would bamboo shades be better? I also like the idea of lettinng some light in, but is there a way to do cafe curtains tastefully? Help!

looove bamboo shades, also love wood shutters.

What was your most challenging but favorite design project you worked on?

most celebrities shoots are challlenging but at the end they are the most rewarding because sometimes you create a beautiful room/image that wasnt there before.

Why do you hate beige?

i dont hate beige i just think beige is BORING! thats all.

What is a good paint color for a living room and for a bedroom?

that depends on your taste. most people like subdue colors for the bedroom, like light blues etc. i light lavanders or greens. in the living room neutrals with a hint of color like gray, blue,mostard etc 

My home is pretty style-y (a la Domino, Dwell, etc), if I do say so myself. I recently had some caricatures done of my family (at a party-- very fun and silly)... and now I want to frame them and hang all three together. Question is: are gold bamboo frames cool (Dorothy Draper style) or dated? The room has grey walls, fuschia armchairs, and other art in various gold frames. I'm just unsure of the bamboo look.

go with the gold bamboo frames. just make sure they look a bit older and not to shiny.

met local decorator from DC design house who said she couldn't work with me for less than $10K, is that pretty common? She's working with someone else.

sadly yes. not sure how big is your project. try to find an assistant or design student that could do all the work and follow your instructions for less money.

Sometimes, even if I back up into the doorway, a room is too tiny for me to be able to photograph it well (I'm using an iPhone as my camera by the way). What are your tips for photographing small spaces? Are there any apps or gadgets that could make it easier? Thank you for taking my question :).

photograph them from the corner or stand in small stool and take photo.

Carlos, what were some of your most memorable celebrity shoots?

oh well. elton john, patrick dempsey was a dream, ellen de generes was nice story, valentino super chic.

I want to do something interesting and chic in my guest room. What would be two colors that would be great together but unexpected.

chocolate brown and lavander or turquoise.

I have a newly painted den, in medium grey-I painted the windows a bright white and have medium wood floors. I would love to use a beige sofa with bright orange/turquoise pillows and accents and a white curtains thoughts?

dont do beige. do chic dior gray for the sofa with turquoise and purple pillows. drapes can be light gray or blue with nice pipping.

What is your advice for a fireplace mantle? And would you also accessorize the tiled (or brick) area directly in front of the fireplace?

mantels are great to display a PAIR of small lamps, candelsticks etc. or collection of vases etc. i dont like brick inside the house.

I just moved in to a new condo, and while I love the space and the community, I am completely overwhelmed. I need a dining room table, coffee table and some shelving, but I am overwhelmed with the options out there. I've been in my place almost 6 months and still don't have anything on the walls (aside for fresh paint)! There's just so much clutter and indecision right now. How can I get it together so it looks like a home?! Thanks!

get a second opinion. editing is very important. just keep whats interesting or meaningful to you. also go to 1st dibs they have great furniture  with many diferent prices. 

I think that coffee table accessories should invite examination, sparking conversation. Big, gaudy coffee-table books tend to be too heavy to pick up and examine; they also focus on one topic that may not be of interest to all guests. I myself greatly enjoy providing for anyone’s, and everyone’s, examination something that is guaranteed to inspire conversation, the small, 3x4” accordion-style “photo-albums” holding, between 2 “stiff covers,” 12 snapshots of my grandchildren, of my most recent holiday trip, of my friends. These are small, light, and are always of interest.

not sure i agree. i love books in any form or shape. not sure i want people in my living room to see my personal photos etc ( maybe the den) buy my book, great size and hundres of diferent topics and fotos. also interesting objects creates interesting questions/conversation.

What are your favorite rugs that don't break the budget. I am sick of sisal.

thats a difficult one. i believe rugs should be the most expensive item in your room, if you can afford one, restoration hardware, serena&liily etc they have nice inexpensive ones.

My fireplace does not include a mantel. What would you suggest for placing to the left & to the right of the fireplace other than the stand holding fireplace implements?

a great basquet with wood or a great magazine stand or 2 beautiful potted ferns  or plants on each side.

My 7 year old daughter wants to paint her room Exuberant Pink and Kismet (Sherman Williams colors). Both are very deep colors, but she insists. What the harm, it's just paint right...any suggestions on how to make these colors look good together?

is just paint. let her do it. do her headboard in a color that will balance both like green.

Carlos, I just want to say that I love your statement, "Beige is not a color." AMEN!


I like to keep my coffee table (which is glass) pretty clear, except for an urn and a few Chinese figurines around it. I like to keep it clear for drinks when friends are over and don't have to keep removing items when they do come over. Also, don't like a lot of dust collectors around.

sounds good. only thing missing is my book on your coffee table.

I travel a lot so i can't have living plants, unfortunately. I would like some really good looking fake trees for my sunroom. Any suggestion on where to get terrific looking ones; money no object.

go to the flower market in nyc on 28 st. they are few great stores that sell fake plants etc not sure where you are?

How long did you work on your book? Was it hard to get all those photos together? It's a beautiful work.

thanks! it took about 6 months or so. the photographers were wonderful and pretty much gave me eveything without any problems.

Can you give me some idea for some nice summer flower arrangements?

buy my first book on amazon, CHIC &CHEAP flowers by carlos mota.  great ideas. love carnations in deep colors, love sunflowers mix with purple flowers etc

hi carlos! i ADORE vibrant color on walls and i also have some pieces of art that i love. my living room has moulding (crown and floor) as well as some chair railing. i have a beautiful deep golden-mustard yellow i want to paint but i'm thinking all the moulding will bee too busy for the eye, esp detracting from my art work. i'm thinking of painting ALL the trims (floor, crown and chair) the same yellow color to make it more seemless. does that make sense or should i default to a more neutral color for the wall like (cream or light beige). thank you!!!!

paint the whole room in that mustard yellow and then paint  a dark green or black line alone all  the molding for more drama.

We need to replace our wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the house. Right now it's a light seafoam green, which we like but we are looking to sell probably in five years or so. We have pets. Is hardwood an ok choice with pets? For the bedrooms on the second floor, I hate to say it, but is some shade of beige the best choice?

harwood is ok, painted in a dark color ( more elegant) or lighther color ( more casual) do the whole house the same wood floors.

My coffee table is a large leather ottoman. So my vignette consists of a colorful tray, coasters, a pretty box for all of the remotes, and the feet of any TV viewers sitting on the sofa.

add a nice potted plant, something in green or a orchid.

I live in Washington, DC, so can't lug fake trees home from NYC. Any good places to order from on line?

sorry no idea.

Games - beautiful wood games, something like a mini labyrinth. My father was Hungarian and my coffee table has a Transylvanian 'trick box' on it. It's beautifully carved and people love trying to find the key and open it. Something meaningful that opens your heart. We keep the Tibetan singing bowl that we used at our wedding on our coffee table. Books of course!

exactly !!!! objects with memories are the best.

My coffee table vignette consists of a large display of Crayola crayons stacked on top of a pad of white drawing paper, plus the TV remote in a small pretty tray (so I can turn on cartoons). Did I mention I live with a toddler? Other than that, I keep the coffee table clear. What is wonderful about my vignette is that it usually inspires adults, even ones who don't like art, to draw!

then enhace that look with lots of paper, books where you can draw and paint and lots of small containers with lots of pencils, markers etc to look like an artist studio.

You are so fast - great answers and tips. Thank you so much for doing the chat, Carlos. The prize of your beautiful book goes to the person with the Hungarian father and the Transylvanian box. Please email me your mailing address to Next week we are taking a break from chatting. So the next chat will be Thursday July 16 when Patrick O'Connell from the Inn at Little Washington will join us. Happy holiday weekend.

I get that stylists want things to look pretty but most of these recommendations are not realistic, and especially not for people with children. How is something like a potted plant on a tufted ottoman/coffee table supposed to work? Come on!!

of course they/you  can, you need to teach your child how to be careful with the nice things at home. is very simple. dont change how you live because you have a 3 year old running around.

is been just great, thanks for having me jura and the washington post.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Carlos Mota
Carlos Mota is what’s known in the design biz as a stylist. His eye is responsible for the glamorous design details in many cover shots and photo spreads in magazines such as Architectural Digest, Elle Décor and Vanity Fair and for catalogs for companies such as Bloomingdale’s, Estee Lauder and Pottery Barn. Currently Carlos is an independent stylist and Architectural Digest’s international style editor.
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