Arguably the most iconic house in Charleston belongs to Patricia Altschul. The imposing mansion and its formal gardens are hidden behind stone walls and perfectly manicured hedges, but its magnificent interiors are broadcast around the country every week to viewers of Southern Charm, the Bravo reality show in which Altschul stars as the resident grand dame.

Her home’s sumptuous living room, stately dining room, and imposing staircase have set the stage for many cocktail parties and fancy dinners, and while the cast’s behavior is never perfect, the house always looks immaculate.

Altschul purchased the 19th century mansion in 2008 and it was decorated by Mario Buatta, one of the most renowned American interior designers. His whimsical and colorful style made him a favorite among socialites, celebrities, and everyone in between, and he designed four houses for Altschul over the past few decades, culminating with her Charleston residence.

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Altschul and Buatta at her home in Charleston

Along the way he and Altschul became fast friends and traveled the world together, visiting Buckingham Palace, Paris, and in Altschul’s words, “The entire Eastern Seaboard.”

Buatta passed away in 2018 but his legacy lives on through his inventive interiors, and his estate is coming up for auction at Sotheby’s later this month. Altschul spoke with us ahead of the highly anticipated sale and shared her favorite memories of Buatta, along with some unseen photos from her archive.

When did you first meet Mario? Were you familiar with his work before you met him?

I began following Mario’s work after I first saw it published in interior design magazines. When I married Arthur Altschul and moved to New York, I just called up Mario on the phone and he answered. We lived a few blocks away from each other so he said he would walk over to my apartment, and we hit it off immediately. I hauled out my file of all of the clippings of his work that I had collected, and he was amazed because he said it was more complete than the file he had on himself. He even borrowed quite a few clippings to copy—I told him he couldn’t have them, but I lent them to him. We became fast friends after we met and I enjoyed his wacky sense of humor.

Do you have a favorite memory of Mario?

After Arthur died, I traveled a lot with Mario. We went to London and Paris many times to shop and go to auctions, and we would go antiquing around the country.

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Altschul and Buatta with Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace

Patricia Altschul/ Luzanne Otte

Mario always carried his rubber cockroach Harold with him, and he brought him to an event at Buckingham Palace. Mario placed Harold on this magnificent piece of furniture and all of a sudden Camilla started walking over to us, accompanied by Prince Charles. I didn’t know this beforehand, but Camilla actually knew Mario because she had been the receptionist at Colefax & Fowler. Camilla saw Harold and said to Mario, “That is so boring, can’t you get another party trick?”

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