Meet New England Design Hall of Fame 2015 Inductee Charlotte Barnes
October 22, 2015
Text by Erin Marvin
For Charlotte Barnes, having her house photographed for British House & Garden magazine was meant to be a special remembrance of her beloved London home before she moved back to the United States. Instead, those photos sparked an unexpected public interest in her personal interior-design aesthetic that led to an exciting new career.
In 1995, after eleven years in the fashion industry with Ralph Lauren Womenswear, Barnes opened Charlotte Barnes Interior Design & Decoration, bringing with hera keen eye for style, a meticulous attention to detail, and a love of fabrics.
She finds inspiration in many of her favorite things—European furniture, books, movies, and museum exhibits—as well as in the work of past design icons such as Elsie de Wolfe. “I love what she did,” says Barnes. “She took very fancy houses and gave them a little personality. She was the innovator of the ‘mix.’”
An eclectic blend of contemporary and antique is also a hallmark of Barnes’s own interiors. This mix might manifest as upholstering a traditional chair in a modern fabric, pairing antique Chinese lamps with contemporary Quadrille wallpaper, or playing with scale and proportion by putting large pieces of furniture into small rooms to make them feel bigger.
Whatever the formula, the result is always beautiful, elegant, and comfortable interiors that feel more like curated personal collections than overly decorated spaces. Magazines are once again taking notice, and her work has been featured in publications such as Elle Decor, New England Home, and New American Luxury.
Barnes has recently launched Collection Charlotte Barnes, her new line of custom furniture. The collection is designed to work in concert with both antique and contemporary pieces. Barnes describes the style as more handsome than pretty, and imbued with a certain strength and the attention to detail for which she’s known. The designer’s hope is that these new pieces will be cherished today and passed on to sit comfortably in future homes. “Maybe they’ll be tomorrow’s antiques,” she says. •