We are beyond thrilled to welcome the multi-talented Francesco Bilotto to the pages of VRAI Magazine in this Q&A and Part I of a 2-part holiday special. Get to know more about the man who’s a regular guest on NBC Today in New York and often seen on Good Morning America. And once you’re done, head over to Part II and check out his Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
VRAI Magazine: We understand you’re originally from Wisconsin. Tell us about the road from Wisconsin to NYC where you reside today.
Francesco Bilotto: Wisconsin was a great place to grow up — I was born and raised on the shores of Lake Michigan. After high school I was looking for my own identity (as do most fresh out of school), so I made the huge leap to Milwaukee Wisconsin (huge leap for me at least) where I started working as a visual merchandiser for a department store. My talents gained an audience and that turned into designing clients homes.
With my ever evolving desire to challenge myself, I then made another huge leap (for me) to Chicago, where I began working for galleries and learning more about fine art, furniture and antiques. Parallel to all of this, I have always had my hands in the floral and event industry. The success of all my professional ventures made it possible for me to take a short pause from my career, where at that time (and after many years of hard work) I was ready to plan the next phase of my life and position myself for that. Choosing New York City was a brave step, but also has been the most rewarding. As they say, ” if you can make it there, you can make it any where” …
VRAI Magazine: How did you get into this business?
Francesco Bilotto: Sometimes I feel like it just chose me, it’s as natural to me as breathing.
VRAI Magazine: We’ve seen so much of your great work, but what’s your most memorable project to date and why?
Francesco Bilotto: I’ve done many, they are like pieces of my soul, impossible to name one. But since you asked, in more recent years…. designing my dear friend Ginger Zee’s Times Square studio dressing room at Good Morning America. The only reason it stands out as the most memorable was because, while alone in the room, creating and working passionately on a window seat as part of the entire room’s project, my eye caught a glimpse out the window (seeing the center of the world basically) and it all hit me — it was a moment of awareness of where I was in life, who I knew, the power of my gifts, talents and strengths…. the little Italian boy from the Midwest (who would watch this show with his grandmother in the early 80’s) was now here. It was like a flash back/flash forward moment, a very special personal moment, of which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced or shared with anyone, until now!
P.S. her dressing room gets lots of compliments from visiting celebrities… so it’s also been a great calling card for me.
VRAI Magazine: Thank you for sharing that special moment with us and by the way, we loved watching that segment and how the room turned out!
VRAI Magazine: Let’s turn the tables and talk about your own home. We can only imagine how beautiful it must be. Can you tell us about the style and how you’ve decorated it?
Francesco Bilotto: It’s daring…. ok well maybe not , but I have a white sofa and drink red wine… that’s living on the edge right? But seriously, I live in a newer highrise, on the Hudson River so when living in a “white box” up in the sky you don’t have the same warmth and charm as you would in a brownstone or prewar apartment. In order to add this and a note of architecture to my space, I placed large (some of which I made) art in many rooms (a few framed in ornate gold). My entire home is a mix of “antique with modern”, high & low accessories, sculpture and only white floral.
VRAI Magazine: What’s your next home project?
Francesco Bilotto: Personally — I move things around almost weekly in my home, it’s half obsessive, half my test studio where I try out new ideas… but since I’m looking for a new place here in Manhattan… nothing major until then.
Professionally — This time of year I’m working on seasonal changes & holiday-installs for most of my existing clients. I did just take on a new home project as well, a delightful couple, recently engaged. They are “blending their styles” in a stunning high-rise on the Hudson River. With the merging of two professional adult homes (who both have extremely different tastes) it will most likely be less designing and more of an editing and moderating experience for me.
VRAI Magazine: What advice would you give to people looking to work with you? How should they prepare? What can they expect?
Francesco Bilotto: To prepare — have an open mind and a willingness to try things out, “it’s just decor, not a heart transplant, chill”.
Expect — to work with me, and go through some of the steps. I don’t do “show and tell” or do “big reveals”, it has to be your home, your event, and your style, so be prepared to be a part of the process. They can also expect fun, an educational time, proud rewarding results and a new friend for life!
VRAI Magazine: How are you celebrating the holidays?
Francesco Bilotto: After planning and attending several holiday parties & events during the month of December, I’m headed to Florida for Christmas …and a short winter break to recharge for 2015!
VRAI Magazine: What’s coming up for you in 2015?
Francesco Bilotto: Only the best I hope! As of now, I have lots of events, weddings, continued television segments, speaking engagements and I’m working on a few other projects including a book.
VRAI Magazine: Thank you Francesco for sitting down with us and letting us get to know more about you. We’ll wrap this up with just a few more fun questions and then we’ll unveil your Holiday Finds for the perfect gifts this season in Part II.
Just for Fun
Q. When it comes to food, what’s your guilty pleasure?
A. Easy – anything involving cheese!
Q. Favorite travel destination?
A. The wine shop down the street…. just kidding! My answer could be based on the weather getting colder here now, but I’m going to say West Palm Beach, great weather, great shops on Dixie hwy, great restaurants like Table 26 and Kitchen.
Q. Most daring color you’ve painted in your own home?
A. Every color is a dare to me, I tend to use gallery white, neutrals & textures in my own home and on projects, however in the past… I have used black in bathrooms & kitchens. I loved it, added such drama, depth and sophistication to what is more of a functional room.
Q. What’s your favorite piece of clothing?
A. A black tailored suit jacket. On men or women, it instantly gives you better posture, which exudes prominence and takes any outfit to the next level.