BY: Stacey Plaisance
Batt — who plays closeted gay art director Sal Romano — is preparing for the holiday shopping season at the home decor and gift shop he runs in New Orleans with his life and business partner, Tom Cianfichi.
They opened their store, Hazelnut, on trendy Magazine Street in 2003. Offering home decorations such as pottery, stemware, fabrics and frames, the store sits in a neighborhood where homes are scattered among antique shops, clothing boutiques, restaurants and bars.
“It’s something we always wanted to do,” said Batt, as he opened a box of glittery red holiday candles that had just arrived at the store. “I’ve always loved gifts and shopping and design.”
Batt, 46, loves blending and mixing patterns, eras and colors rather than having everything match. His design mottos include, “Don’t be afraid of color. What did it ever do to you?” and “If it looks right, it is right.”
His personal style is a blend of old and new, he said.
“I love antiques, but I love contemporary and modern things,” he said. “I do believe although we can honor the past, we have to live in the present.”
One of the popular items at his store is a New Orleans-themed toile that Batt designed himself with streetcar, riverboat and French Quarter images. Hazelnut sells the toile by the yard or as shower curtains, towels, throw pillows, napkins and coasters. The design also can be put on serving trays, tissue boxes and wastebaskets, he said.
His store also carries oyster-shaped serving bowls, pewter alligator letter openers, streetcar and shotgun house ceramics, crab-shaped place card holders and serving trays with painted-on tree frogs.
“I like coming up with unique things that nobody else will have,” Batt said. “All the big stores, everything is homogenized. Everything’s by committee.
“What I like about this shop is that it’s what we like,” Batt said. “We have things from all over the world and in all different price ranges. I really love when you go in a store and it’s not all one thing.”
Batt divides his work time between New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York. But every break he gets, he heads home to New Orleans to be with family and longtime friends. He and Cianfichi share a home in the city, and Batt said he plans to spend most of the holiday season there.
Hazelnut shoppers shouldn’t be surprised if they find him doing some gift-wrapping.
“It’s one of my talents,” he said with a chuckle.
One of the reasons he has loved working on “Mad Men,” Batt said, is the style of the show, which is set in 1960s New York.
“I’ve always loved mid-century modern,” he said. “That whole era of dress and furniture and design was very unique, and I have a lot of aspects of it in the store and in my own home.”
Being surrounded by 1960s style is a fun part of being on set, he said. “Every detail is painstakingly perfected on the set, from the costumes to every little ashtray and the cigarette butts in that ash tray.”
The show follows the ruthlessly competitive New York advertising business. This season, Batt’s character was fired when he rejected the advances of a powerful male client, and his character was left out of the season finale, which aired Nov. 8.
“I honestly don’t know what is going to happen,” Batt said. The show has been picked up for another year, “and I hope that I’ll be part of it,” he said.
Meanwhile, he has New Orleans.
“New Orleans will always be home,” he said. “It’s so unique. I think it’s not like any other city in the world. We have our own food, our own music, our own way of life.”
He appreciates that the city’s history has been so well-preserved.
“A lot of cities have lost their uniqueness,” he said. “That hasn’t happened here.”
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