Hollywood style is synonymous with the work of interior designer Barbara Barry. But it's not about glitz. Instead, she creates quiet refuges that nurture the artist in all of us.
You were raised in a family of painters. What did this teach you about learning to look?
My mother was my most vibrant mentor. She taught me that style has nothing to do with money. She painted our rooms wonderful colors and always named them for the mood they evoked -- like Elephant's Breath for a smoky gray-green taupe -- so I learned early about the power of my surroundings on my emotions, and I still work from that today.
What’s the easiest way to change a room’s mind?
Color! It is still the most impactive single stroke. Just imagine a cool blue room at four o'clock in winter versus a red room!
What are some of the common mistakes people make in designing their homes that detract from the beauty of the space?
They put in too much stuff and too many different patterns and lose that very precious feeling of tranquility that only a calm and simple space can give you.
How can we make the bath more romantic?
By putting a lamp in the room. Immediately you will have a warmth and a glow. I have built my whole collection for Kallista [a manufacturer of decorative bath products] around the belief that the bathroom is a room, too, and so it should have furniture in it. That’s why I have designed the pieces I have in mahogany, but anyone can do this by putting their sink in a cabinet instead of a run-on countertop.
What type of lighting is most flattering?
The only lighting to have is lamplight filtered through a shade and at eye level. These are our homes we are talking about and the place we go to get healed. Who wants glare or brightness?!
Many of your clients are Hollywood related. Do you ever draw from film in your work?
Films, for me, are compositions and schemes that when good are a great learning tool. They affect me profoundly, and I draw from them all the time. I love The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci and The Garden of Finzi-Continis by Vittorio De Sica, and all of Ang Lee's films, like Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, because all of these films have an incredible sensibility and color-block theory that pervades each shot.
How does a woman living in a busy household claim her own private space?
I need a blank space to rest in, and for me it’s the bedroom. I have no artwork hanging and nothing to "interrupt" my eye. The world is so cluttered and we are constantly bombarded with info and images. We need a little more "presence of absence" to revive our souls. My bed is sooo important, so maybe that is the common denominator. Make it as fresh and special as you can. Buy a new set of sheets instead of another cashmere sweater!