Thursday, November 13, 2014

Designer Barbara Barry: Corona del Mar, California

Living Room Vignette:   A demilune table, Gustavian wall clock, garden flowers, and stacks of books showcase Barbara Barry's eye for beautiful compositions.

Lovely ...  A lovely watercolor, is how I would describe the design work of Barbara Barry.

She designs a room like a watercolor artist, with brush strokes that are wide and sweeping, yet at the same time finely intricate. Nothing is out of place; each color and each piece, is part of the whole, seamlessly blending and defining... nothing dominates ... the medium is controlled... but fluid.

Mastering watercolor painting is almost entirely learning how to anticipate and leverage the behavior of water.  Water is an active partner in the process, changing both the absorbency and shape of the paper when it is wet and the outlines and appearance of the paint as it dries... this is the beauty of a watercolor painting.

Here is Barbara Barry's "watercolor painting", if you will, a beautiful home she designed in Corona del Mar, California.

Living Room:    French Antique chairs, custom-designed sofas, barrel & slipper chairs, and ottomans.  Oberon cocktail table from Baker, glass-topped Cabochon table from Henredon, both by Barry.

"I saw the living room as a tonal painting of warm golden light," 
Barry Says.  
"The color of hay and wheat, parchment and sand, punctuated by the soft cerulean blue 
of a southern California sky."

This living room chair covered in Kravet wool silk and edged in gold-leaf.  Perfection.

Sculptural shapes on an Alastair gold leaf and crackled ivory side table reflect the palette of the house.

Dining Room:   Nevo pendant by Arturo Alvarez and Swedish cabinet compliment the graceful curves of the vintage and custom chairs and the 1940's table.

I love the composition: the contemporary chandelier with traditional artwork, floor length café curtains, the mix of chairs and antiques, and the styling that compliments but doesn't distract from the design. 

Outdoor Dining Area:   Used year-round with it's Teak dining table and Barbara Barry's Bowmont dining chairs for McGuire.


An artist palette... Painting the living room chairs in watercolors first allows Barry to get the exact blue she wanted, then she matched the color to the fabric.  Even her grey and cream tray, a beautiful mood board if you will, canvasses her design inspiration: gold leaf, flowers from the garden, fabrics, a leaf green pen...

Watercolors from other design projects.  I would frame these and hang them in my home.

The Painter's Pot

Kitchen:   Cabinets are painted Farrow & Ball's Light Gray. Walls covered in a strié paper, Drag, also by Farrow & Ball.

Flooded in light from the garden, the kitchen was softened with "a shadowy color, one you can't quite describe - mushroomy, taupey, tree-barky.  I love colors you can't describe," she says.  "It instantly made the room warmer and more intimate. In fact, it feels more like a room than a kitchen."

Color Inspiration she finds in nature in this speckled egg, and the coolness of marble with it's shadows and veining.

Breakfast Area:   Barry had the homeowner's black chairs painted and reupholstered in linen.

A still life composition... the colors, flowers, handbag, teapot, the perfect weave on the basket mirroring the pattern of the wood flowers, white marble, white linen inside the cabinets, white dishes, white chandelier shade, and the dark, aged candlesticks with the dark leather handles on the basket... lovely.

Family Room:   A large custom leather ottoman doubles for seating or a table for informal meals.

"The earthy tone of the kitchen is continued through the breakfast room into the family room uniting them as one large space," Barry says.  "It's more embracing, and you just don't want to leave.  This core of the house works like a shadow box that  opens onto a vast horizontal green garden."

Outdoor Furniture by Barbara Barry for McGuire.  A favorite spot in the evenings.

Master Bedroom

A Peaceful space... "a feminine nod to the woman of the house, who loves flowers."  Barry upholstered the bed and curtains in Faded Poppies by Hodsoll McKenzie.

Guest Bedroom

Barry pulls the soft greens and blues from the garden creating a sanctuary for guests.

Landscape designer Margaret Carole McElwee created the gardens, lush with boxwood hedges, lavender, ficus, and cypress.  Towering cypresses stately frame the entrance of this Southern California home. 

Barbara Barry

I hope it's lovely where you are...

All the best,

*Photos courtesy of HouseBeautiful and


  1. She just always gets it right. The home is so warm and inviting - love the living room!

    1. We agree, to quote my dear Irish friend. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! xxRié

  2. Another beautiful post! Barbara Barry's work showcases the fact that great inteiror design is truly an art form. I love the progression from her watercolors, to living spaces that are exquisite yet functional and balanced. Edgar Degas said, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Thank you for showcasing Barbara Barry's work in which we all can see the art that is interior design.

    1. Great quote, and well said... I think you should write my next post! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment... have a wonderful rest of your day! Rié

  3. I love your descriptions of Barbara's work. She is one of the few designers I have seen that can integrate a bold print into a lovely watercolor effect. She is so sensitive to how nature works -the basis of classicism in design. Isn't she one of the best modern designers because of that? Loved your post!

    1. Kristin, Thank you for your kind words and for stopping by! I couldn't agree more, Babara is one of the best modern designers. And her book, Around Beauty, speaks to her inspiration from nature. I think you would appreciate it. I hope you come back again, or follow by email! All the best, Rié

  4. She is brilliant! Such an elegant portfolio of the best of the best! Beautiful post, Rie. Thanks for all the inspiration. Cheers from DC~

  5. I have followed your blog for months now, and this is definitely my favorite post! The lighting and color palettes of those rooms are simply stunning; I could read and reread this post all afternoon.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Barbara Barry's color palettes are always a favorite! I hope you come back again and again. All the best, Rié

  6. I was very impressed with this. Everything is very open with clear classification.


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