Decorator Charlotte Barnes Combines the Old with the New for a Collected Aesthetic
Celebrated interior designer Charlotte Barnes is the latest to take up our “New Mix Masters” challenge at Avery & Dash Collections. Using what she could find among Avery & Dash’s period furnishings and accessories (plus Benjamin Moore paint through Ring’s End, Carlisle wood floor and Diane James greenery), Barnes created an elegant yet intimate drawing room that reflects what she is known for: creating spaces that are classic, yet clean and modern. “I believe that this is what my vignette is all about—pieces that will last forever, old and new,” notes Barnes. “It’s that juxtaposition; that mix. And it doesn’t look decorated but rather collected.”
What was your inspiration for the space? My inspiration for this vignette was my aunt’s entryway in her New York City apartment and lots of Old-World charm by Elsie de Wolfe. I have a favorite saying, “good design, to me, is traditional but not.” This means comfortable, but still interesting. Appropriate but novel. Traditional but not. Old-World charm with eyes wide open to the now.
How did you choose the wall color (Realgar N2)? I was so excited by Benjamin Moore’s new Century paints—they are so rich and saturated. This particular shade of melon is brilliant with antiques and paintings. It feels fresh but enhances the beauty and patina of the furniture in the room.
Literally, it is nearly a neutral. I love this color! Why do you call this a drawing room? It brings me back to my days living in England. It is a room to be lived in; a room to spend the day in. It is comfortable, warm and inviting at any time of day or night. Perfect, too, for entertaining with lots of candles and friends.
How did you decide on the floor pattern? I imagined a house where the carpets were rolled up for the summer—and the surprise was that the room felt newly decorated. These colors and pattern, I felt, added a sort of modern twist.
What was the first piece you chose? The Wendell Castle Sizzle coffee table. Such a wow, and I felt that it worked so well with my “traditional but not” sort of decorating.
What was it like creating a vignette here? My second favorite saying is “shop till you drop!” This gave me the best of all clients to shop for. Please tell me a little about your furniture selections. I have a deep love for antiques and painted furniture. For me, the secretary adds such beauty, richness and height to any room. Also, there is that irresistible ability to fill it with lots of collected things, old and new.
And the artwork? I wanted the room to look collected. And for me it is all about the mix.
What would you like to take home from here? Of course, I want it all. My favorites are the Helen Frankenthaler screen print and the Italian neoclassical console table. They would slide right into my living room today.
What is your top tip for successfully combining eras and styles? The best rooms are all about the layers—buy what you love, and you will always find a home for it.
Who can you envision living in this space? I imagine a confident couple who enjoys collecting things that they love; fearless in their choices. They truly live in this room even when not entertaining. The house could be anything from a charming stone farm house to a more formal Georgian.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2019 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Traditional But Not.