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Inspire Me! Barbara Barry
Serenity prevails in this designer’s clean office with a white palette
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“Office” and “serenity” are two words not often uttered in the same sentence. Step inside the offices of Los Angeles-based designer Barbara Barry, however, and serenity prevails.
White walls form a blank slate for design inspiration. Watercolors and graceful sketches dot tidy work spaces. Surfaces are illuminated by diffused California sunlight. Color is subtle, if used at all. Glamour balances simplicity.
“My office is white and clean and without decoration--a blank canvas on which to create,” says Barbara. The only must-have items in the office? Fresh flowers from the garden. Open space. And sunlight--plenty of sunlight.
Photography: Mark Edward Harris
“I am so blessed to work in California, where the light is constant and clear,” Barbara says. “Light is probably the thing that inspires me most. It seems imbued with energy and magic. It brings things alive and can render the mundane sublime.”
Rooms saturated in white give way to whispers of almost imperceptible color. Refined watercolors painted by Barbara are sprinkled throughout the space. Fabrics in her signature subtle palettes appear brilliant against the studio’s monochrome surroundings. A graphic black-and-white advertisement for her tabletop line for Wedgwood dominates a back wall alongside a well-utilized bulletin board.
“We take our work seriously, so our office is a bit like a laboratory with its absence of decoration and color. It allows us to approach each new project unencumbered,” says Barbara.
Since founding her interior design firm in 1985 (projects range from private homes to restaurants and yachts), she has added product design to her repertoire—creating a well-edited array of elegant pieces with an eye toward timeless simplicity: furniture for Henredon, Baker, McGuire, and HBF; lighting for Boyd; crystal for Baccarat; tile for Ann Sacks; fabrics for Kravet; bedding for Bloomingdale’s; even tea and candles. The list goes on.
A bulletin board full of inspiring images takes on a life of its own.
Small items and still lifes scattered on desktops throughout Barbara’s studio offer a glimpse of the motivations and influences behind her myriad designs.
The pattern on Barbara’s “Radiance” china for Wedgwood was inspired by the dots of a sea anemone, its color by the pearl-like beige of a shell.
Something as basic as the ethereal variations in color of a strand of pearls and the texture of this shell tile can influence the design of an entire room.
Barbara has had this chair miniature mock-up for years and continues to find its simplicity inspirational.
20 Ways Barbara Barry Nurtures Her Spirit
Light It is everything! It illuminates a space and lifts my spirit.
Color I love subtle shades of colors because they are soft on the eye and soul.
Form I thrill to the shape of things…from an egg to a spoon to a teacup.
My garden Nature is my biggest inspiration—mesmerizing and elegant. My garden is where I begin each day.
The Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market I live for each Sunday when I jump out of bed and head to the bounty that is unique to California—strawberries, avocados, ginger, flowers galore. It is endless!
Walking I do my best thinking on my walks and always come back inspired.
Yoga and Breathing I start and end my day with a series of simple poses and breath work. It connects me back to my body and makes me feel alive.
Great Sheets It is the most restorative thing to climb into a bed of crisply ironed sheets. I feel like a princess, and I’m grateful for all that I have.
Tea I love tea. The art of preparing it, the beautiful ways to serve it, the healthful benefit of it, and the ritual of stopping to enjoy it.
Solitude It’s probably the most vital thing that restores my spirit. I don’t watch television or listen to much music. I like silence…in fact, I require it.
Drawing A blank piece of paper and a sharpened pencil, and I am a happy girl.
Girlfriends From my sisters to my BFFs . . . listening and sharing heals all.
Blank Slate I love the blank canvas. Whether it is the dining table ready to be set, the dinner to be cooked, or the design ready to be sketched. That feeling of starting is so inspiring!
Space A clean desk and an empty room—pure potential.
My Bulletin Boards I love to put up whatever inspires me on a bulletin board. I see a connectedness in the way all beautiful things seem to relate.
Watercolors I take watercolors with me everywhere I go. It’s my way of capturing the inspired moment.
New Beginnings The minute I get a new project I feel that sense of excitement and play. It’s my favorite moment in a project because it is filled with potential.
Family I was raised by an artist mother. It was/is everything to me—from seeing her exclaim with passion over color and ideas to building a belief in myself that I could do the same.
Home My home is my haven, and it is a testament to my work—fresh and clean and calm.
Beautiful Process, Beautiful Product I believe food cooked with love tastes better, and design made with care and good energy is evident.