Christopher Sacco's lineage is not exactly what you'd call ordinary. In her younger days, his mother was an English beauty queen; his father is '60s pop star Lou Christie, best known for his stratospheric falsetto and gold records such as "Lightning Strikes" and "Rhapsody in the Rain."
"He was the first (artist) to have a song banned from the radio," Sacco says of the suggestive lyrics of "Rhapsody." "Let's just say I come from a very creative family." From an early age, Sacco was aware of a focus on aesthetics in his surroundings. "With my parents, it was just a very stylish environment," he says. "They used to live next door to Elizabeth Taylor in London."
With the right side of his brain taking the reins after college graduation, Sacco abandoned his initial plans to study law and went into business with a commercial interior designer from Jackson, Miss.
"We started working together and built a business doing furniture and lighting design," Sacco says. "We did several 10- to 20-thousand-square-foot showrooms in Dallas and some French Quarter renovations."
The two have since parted ways, but Sacco has parlayed his design experience into a new business with fellow Englishman and kindred spirit, Mark Davies.
Q: How did your company, British American Design Group, come to be?
A: Mark was in the financial business for many years. He was in New York during 9/11 when the buildings came down and lost friends there. At that point, he had just had enough. He wanted to change his life completely. So he threw away all of his suits, grew his hair long, built a motorcycle and started riding it around the country. He really liked New Orleans and the Northshore, and he just decided to do what he loved, which was building. Of course we're both from England, so we immediately connected. We realized that if we combined our expertise in both fields, we would have a great business. So he handles the construction side of the business and does project management. I do the design and interact with clients.
Q: In terms of design, do you have an affinity for a certain style or era?
A: I have a passion for doing modern, but I rarely ever get to do it here. I go to the design shows in Italy and Milan. B&B Italia, all of these companies are doing these fantastic, very simple, elegant, ultra-modern things. I love that aesthetic. But I tend to do a lot of traditional stuff here in the South, just because that's what the demand is for. But what I try to do is to make it interesting. And to me, the most important thing is just to be authentic, as authentic as you possibly can be. Using real materials, not using simulated wood-grain tile. I won't do that. If you're going to use tile, use it for the purpose it was designed for. Don't try and substitute things that are of lesser quality. It doesn't matter what the project is, whether you have a big budget or a limited budget. There are answers to every problem, and you can do it authentically. And that's what's important to me. I like to do unique things, things that are just different. You see so many interiors that are just a collection of antiques. But they don't do anything with the structure or the general architecture of the place.
Q: What are some common design pitfalls, and what's your advice on avoiding them?
A: The thing that makes me the most crazy right now is just the fact that everybody goes to Home Depot, and everybody's buying the same exact thing. I understand that it's inexpensive, but I think there are other things you can do and other sources you can buy from to really give your home some character. That's the thing that bothers me: So many times I just go in to different homes and see the same light fixture over and over and over again.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for alternative sources?
A: Ferguson and Stock. I think they can compete with the prices for the most part, or you may pay a little bit more, but you get a much better product. Ebay has lots of interesting things. And there are people in town who do custom stuff, but that can be a lot more expensive. But I think it's important to explore alternative sources. Take the time to go to Lighting Inc., go to Ferguson (Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery), go to Stock Building Supply. Go to some different places that might carry different manufacturers. You know, the big box retailers deal with certain vendors, and that's all they deal with. And there are other vendors outside of that that have really interesting and different products.
Q: What's your favorite design magazine?
A: DWELL. Everything is fresh and new in there, things that you haven't seen before a lot of technology-oriented items and just the modern aesthetic that I really, really like. They also have a show on HGTV that I watch sometimes.
Q: What about your favorite designer?
A: That's a hard one. But I guess I'd have to say, from my love of cars Pininfarina. It's mostly automotive design, but there's another division, Pininfarina Extra, that does architecture, interiors and technology products just some really beautiful stuff.
Q: So you're into cars?
A: Yes. I race cars. My racecar is a Honda CRX, but it's a purpose-built racecar. And I belong to a Ferrari club in New Orleans, a bunch of guys who are into exotic cars. We organize a charity event every November; you can go to frenchquarterclassic.com. We have over 100 historic Ferraris that come into town from all over the country. Last year we raised money for the NOPD. I have an older Ferrari, an '87. It's at the mechanic right now; it stays there a lot.
Q: What part of you would you say is British?
A: Well, I play soccer four days a week. And my look, obviously. I guess I fancy myself an English dandy at times.
Christopher Sacco - British American Design Group, 782-7940; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cheryl Gerber
- Sacco checks out some new arrivals at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery on Labarre Road with showroom administrator Heidi Ryan.
- Cheryl Gerber
- A bathtub that can be filled from the ceiling is a distinctive feature in one of Sacco's Metairie renovations.
- Cheryl Gerber
- Sacco meets with two of his favorite clients, Gaynel and Sidney Leonard. "We wouldn't be doing this renovation, had Katrina not wiped us out," says Gaynel. "You can get stuck trying to rearrange what you have. But Christopher has helped us see that, if you're going to rebuild, it only makes sense to change things to meet your needs better."
- Cheryl Gerber
- A watch and cufflinks from Aidan Gill for Men are among Sacco's most-worn accessories.
- Cheryl Gerber
- Sacco's '87 Ferrari