Written by Suzanne Walters Gray MFA ’04
Photography by Don Hamerman
David Netto ’92 was shopping for a crib for his daughter, and he was dissatisfied. It was 2002, he was an up-and-coming interior designer with handsome homes on both coasts, and there was not one crib on the market that fit his modernist aesthetic. Everything he saw was cheaply made, overly ornamented, and obviously disposable. In other words, junk.
So Netto did what anyone would do. He grumbled, dithered, and then handed over his credit card for baby furniture he didn’t really like. For most people, the story would stop there: They would live with the charmless items for a few years and throw them in the trash once the kids got older. But Netto was just getting started. The world needed sleek, luxurious, modern baby furniture, he decided. And he was going to give it to them.
Even when he’s wearing comfy Ugg boots in July, Netto manages to look like the kind of person who has mastered the rules on exactly which blazer buttons to leave undone. He has the casual poise of someone reared on good taste. Which he was. He grew up on the Upper East Side, his father ran a high-end textile business, and apartment layouts and furniture choices were perennial conversation topics among the fashionable adults who visited the Netto home. Like any normal kid, David found this talk completely boring. He was fascinated by cars and ships and engineering, though, and took “a Jules Verne-level interest in design.” (This hasn’t changed: He still loves looking at fancy cars on the Internet, and cites his Vespa as an example of a perfectly designed object.)
He first experienced the power of good design at age 7, when he devised a shelving system for his room. “I had utopian ideas about how it would change my life,” he says—“and it did.” He could reach the bookshelf from his bunk bed, he had a nice spot for doing homework, and everything had its place. The shelves gave him what he now tries to give his interior design clients: a “whole new life order.” He contends that, despite the current fascination with home design in shelter magazines and on cable television, many people just don’t know how to arrange their homes to best suit their lives. His job, he says, is “to give them what they didn’t know they wanted.”