Barbara Barry

barbara barry on beauty

photo: Mark Edward Harris for Traditional Home

I had the great good fortune to be among a small group of people to hear Barbara Barry speak about design recently at the Kravet showroom in Toronto. It is a pleasure I have had a few times before and one I will never miss if given the opportunity. Barbara is a gem. She has a voice like silk velvet. It's refined and soft and luxurious. She could read the dictionary and make it sound chic. In fact, I'd love to hear her read the dictionary. That night she was plucking from the stories compiled in her recent book Around Beauty. I had just rushed to the event after wrapping work on the high-stress all-hands-on-deck Trends issue of House & Home. So I was very amused when Barbara shared this pearl:


Beauty is always in. Ain't it the truth! An old tree, a peeling onion, a peony, pond scum (yes!) - these are some of the things Barbara finds beautiful. The evening inspired me to look back at my photo library to see those times when I have felt compelled to document a beautiful little moment with my iPhone.

This is a pile of coiled rope on the warf at Covehead, Prince Edward Island. That aqua colour is so pretty but I also love the mezmerizing pattern of swirls the rope makes. Layers and layers and layers.

Ferns ferns ferns. Always and forwever. I am so captivated by ferns. I snapped this pic on a bike ride between Morell and St. Peter's, also in PEI.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted this guy while golfing last month at the course near our place in Tweed. He was pretty big - about 6inches long! Just look at that muddy green colour of his shell and the bits of red at the edges and some pale yellow too. And that pattern. Wow.

These are some stunning candycane beets I bought last week at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Can you believe how pretty!? My only disappointment with them is that the colour gets much more subtle when you cook them. But as Barbara says "Subtlety is always in."

This is a detail of an old fishing shack at Red Head harbour warf in PEI. I could stare for hours. I know, I'm weird.

Here's a little peek at one of my favourite secret spots. This is the wooded path behind our place in Tweed. It's where we walk the dog on Sunday mornings and I love watching the seasons change here. The colours and patterns and textures are magnificent: moss on rocks and a carpet fallen leaves (oak are my favourite) and pine needles. It's so peaceful here. Beautiful. 

a tale of teacups

Barbara Barry Curtain Call by Wedgwood.

In honour of the tabletop market going on right now in New York, today I'd like to talk about teacups. Tabletop market is a twice-yearly event that takes place at 41 Madison Ave., a magnificent Manhattan office tower filled with showrooms for all of the world's top tabletop manufacturers. I have visited the Wedgwood showroom there, though have never attended tabletop market. I'd love to. I adore all things tabletop. Now, about the teacup. I always judge a china pattern by its teacup. The shape's the thing. Here's my bias: Just say no to tin can teacups! Give me curves, tapers, trumpets. Above is one of my favourite shapes - Wedgwood calls it the peony shape. Deep curved bowl, delicate footed base, flared rim and elegant curved handle. Love.

Above is my wedding china. It's Alice by Royal Doulton. Here's another shape to love. Not as much flourish as the one above but still a lovely little foot and a classic trumpet shape bowl. 

Intaglio by Wedgwood. At first glance the sides of this cup look straight, but no, there's an ever so subtle taper to the sides, and the incredible angular handle elevates this to the realm of the desirable in my mind. The embossing detail is all the embellishment this cup needs. I first fell for this pattern when I used it when styling this photo a couple of years ago. Photographer Edward Pond and I worked on this together - one of my favourite shoots.

And finally, below an example of the offending tin can teacup.

Please, don't serve me tea in one of these. I'm told the shape has become ubiquitous thanks to the increasing role of men in the decision-making process when choosing wedding china. So sad. These opinionated men want to have a say, but aren't secure enough in their masculinity to hold on to a curvy cup - or even own one. Please. Thanks to them, we get this. Fine bone china made into the shape of a can of Coke. I weep.

dining rooms to die for

When Thanksgiving came and went it got me thinking about dining rooms. At one point, about 10 years ago they were a dying breed. Everyone was ripping out walls left right and centre, sacrificing dining rooms to make ginormous open plan kitchen/great rooms. Hmm, I love a great kitchen, but I also love a great dining room. What a luxury to have a separate space devoted to dining -- no dirty dishes or giant TV on view. I appreciate the ceremony of it all and love dining furniture. My favourite dining design idea of all is a dining room that does double duty as a library. The other interesting thing about dining rooms is that when I go through the exercise of sorting my favourites, the complete diversity of my personal design taste is laid bare. I'm going to start with my all time favourite -- I stray to different looks, but I always come back to this one dining room and I have never ever looked at it and felt anything other than -- that is gorgeous!

It's by Gil Schafer. The colour, the chairs, the symmetry, the greek key trim, the books, the fireplace, the carpet: perfection.

So, how is it possible, if that one is my favourite, that I also love every last one of these?

The architecture, lucite table, chairs, styling. So chic by Timothy Whealon.SJP's Hampton's place by Eric Hughes. The table, mismatched chairs all painted matte black - inspired idea!

Country home of House Beautiful ed in chief Newell Turner - I imagine he must have long leisurely weekend brunches here.

Everyone I know loves this room. I am no exception. Rough meets pretty by Amy Nuensinger. Dreamy.Ina's barn. Sigh.Victoria Hagan. Table, chairs and art - love. Pendant, not loving but love other elements enough to make up for it. More handsome formality from Gil Schafer. The perfect setting for the costume drama of my dreams. Black tie Christmas dinner complete with roast goose and Anthony Hopkins serving, natch. Leslie Klotz's light, bright, easy & breezy space. A dining room to serve summer produce and pass the salads family-style -- and keep the Pimms No. 1 cup coming.

Technically a breakfast room, but Barbara Barry really got me with this one. A wood burning fire and comb back Windors warm the cockles of my heart. A dining space for stew and artisanal breads and cheeses.Darryl Carter's mastery of old + new + restraint fills me with awe.More Darryl Carter. This time his own DC place and technically a breakfast room. My affection for this place stems partly from an excellent memory of a wine-soaked evening sitting around this table. I sat right in that chair in the foreground. Delicious food and company. Promises were made about return trips to DC after that meeting, and an open invitation to visit Toronto -- but it has only been Christmas cards and e-mails since. Still, I feel sure we will cross paths again and it will be as if no time has passed.sources: 1. Gil Schafer. 2. Timothy Whealon. 3. Eric Hughes/ELLE Decor. 4. Newell Turner/House Beautiful. 5. Amy Neunsinger/House Beautiful. 6. Ina Garten/House Beautiful. 7. Victoria Hagan. 8. Gil Schafer. 9. Leslie Klotz/House Beautiful. 10. Barbara Barry/Veranda. 11 & 12. Darryl Carter/ELLE Decor. 


Babs goes country

You might think glamour girl design maven Barbara Barry would be as ill at ease in the country as Ava Gabor in Green Acres. You'd be mistaken. She designed this interior in the wilds of Wyoming. It ran in an issue of Veranda mag and I've been returning to it time and again for inspiration. I love the way she embraces the country vernacular and breathes fresh new life into it. I think she has achieved something like "Luxe elegant country minmalism. " Have a look and see what you think.

PS I have a big beef with the Veranda web site coverage -- couldn't find the photographer credit! Such a shame because the photos - lighting and composition - are spectacular.