Chris Barrett on California Style
Designer Chris Barrett talks about Southern California style and design trends.
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Chris Barrett is a graduate of UCLA’s interior design program and has had her own design practice, Chris Barrett Design, Inc., for 20 years. Her firm’s work has ranged from cottage-style homes in Santa Monica to a historic landmark in Pasadena. Her personal style is a mix of eclectic and elegant. Here she talks about Southern California style and design trends.
What are recent design trends you’ve noticed in California?
I am noticing more and more that people are moving back to traditional architecture and furnishings—even when building a new house they want the "new old house" look. They want classic details with 21st-century conveniences.
In California we live indoors and outdoors—most of the homes, when given the opportunity, incorporate the exterior in their living environment. We, for the most part, tend to lean toward casual, easy elegance.
I just purchased a home locally. The house is Spanish and was built in the late '20s. It is very small but it sits on a creek. I bought it for its charm and location. My biggest challenge is working within its original footprint and trying to get enough closet space and storage.
I read a Wall Street Journal article about people doing their own design, as in customizing rugs and other furnishings. Is that really a trend? How does that translate to those of us who don’t have a lot of money?
Everyone wants to personalize his or her own space. Most of the furnishings for our projects are custom. I think it's great to customize as long as you don't sacrifice good design principles (scale, proportion, appropriateness). If your budget is limited you can make your own pillows, trim your window coverings with something special, or use in-stock carpeting and have it bound to make an area rug.
We hear a lot about the "new intimacy" in home design. Does that mean that the great room concept, with entertaining and dining together in one room, is dead?
It's true that there seems to be more attention paid to intimate and private spaces, but I think that more and more people are entertaining in their own homes rather than going out, so they need the great room. A lot of times we incorporate multi functions in the great room—creating intimate spaces within.
You seem to be a fan of eclectic, comfortable design. How did you come to that?
I think that "suites" of matching furniture are boring. I believe that every room in your house should look inviting and interesting. The only way to do that is to mix it up.
What three things would you say are classics, will never go in or out of style?
Black, leather and a chesterfield sofa.
Have you seen some sort of design trend or furnishing that’s really out of the box?
I saw an exterior where the landscape had incorporated chaises made with concrete built into the grass landscape into the outdoor furnishings. It was amazing.
What is the number-one design mistake that people make?
Poor scale and proportion.
Where do you get your design/decorating inspiration?
I am inspired by everything I see. Nature, peers, history. You have to look at it all. And I look to the legends: Sister Parish, Andree Putnam, Axel Vandervoodt.
What are five things that you can’t live without?
I can't live without my antique leather chesterfield sofa, a chocolate brown cashmere throw, my collection of portraits from the '30s and '40s, my all-white bed linens and towels, and all of my antique light fixtures.
Anne Krueger is the editor of HGTV.com's Decorating newsletter. She has written for In Style, This Old House, Martha Stewart Living and The New York Times.