Embrace the Unexpected – A Discussion on Design with Charlotte Barnes

Charlotte Barnes was working in fashion and jewelry (first at Ralph Lauren Womenswear in New York and later at Pomellato USA in London) when serendipity intervened in the form of a feature in “British House & Garden.” While her eye for personal style had been in demand for some time, once her London home was on display, her interior design skills began attracting attention as well.

Charlotte Barnes designed living room©Jane Beiles

With a move state side, to Greenwich, already in the works, Charlotte Barnes shifted gears once her fellow East Coasters started to ask for help with their own homes. “I actually think decorating and fashion are quite similar.  We decorate ourselves with things we love just like we decorate our houses with things we love. I think over the years, since I started my business, I have been lucky to be surrounded by and work with a great and talented team which has allowed me to push the scope a little more broadly over time.”

Eclectic design by Charlotte BarnesPhoto by Gea

The homes she designs provide an immersive experience, one with layers of textures, unique color combinations, patterns and eclectic styles that work together surprisingly well. Achieving a bold and yet totally livable look that feels modern as well as timeless.

Charlotte Barnes designed bedroom Photo by George Ross

“It is interesting to me how things just come together. I have had many people say to me that they love my house, but the reality is if I put all those fabrics in a presentation for a client, they would most likely reject it. Timeless is all about things that aren’t trendy, but that doesn’t mean they are boring. For example, I recently put a hot pink velvet on an antique stool, the look was thoroughly modern, but not trendy.”

Library designed by Charlotte BarnesPhoto by Chichi Ubina

Having a seemingly bottomless pit of design ideas is useful, but without the ability to edit, any project can easily go off the rails. This is part of why Charlotte Barnes’ work is so impressive. Known for her measured restraint she describes the process: “Patience, trust and lots more patience…decorating should not be forced, things will come and when they do, jump! Be willing to try things and move them around.”

Photo by Chichi Ubina

This concept can be applied to many aspects of live, including to one’s personal style. “Traditional but not…they are words to live by – for me anyway. I am all about the mix and by that I mean — high, low, serious, vintage, simple, fresh, edited and low key. Everything should be beautiful and well-made but it can be all mixed from there.”

Neutral colored furniture in sitting areaPhoto by Chichi Ubina

One very effective way to achieve this mix is through vintage shopping. For those new to adding antiques into the home, Barnes shares this advice: “I am a firm believer that if you buy what you love you will always find a place for it. I would say to get out and “wander” (in real-life or digitally) to get a feel for what you like. If you don’t know already it will allow you to feel confident when you are ready to start purchasing – because you will have had some comparative experience.”

Bright living roomPhoto by Chichi Ubina


Five Questions with Designer Charlotte Barnes

TLV: Is there a style of home / or a dream project that you would love to work on that you have not yet had the opportunity?

CB: YES! I would love to do a “boutique hotel” I have been dreaming of one since my days of living in England. 


TLV: Favorite era / favorite designer?

CB: I think I would have loved the glamour and decadence of the 1920s. Of course, Elsie de Wolfe for so many reasons but my love of leopard and all things mercury is thanks to her.  


TLV: Where do you look for inspiration when you are feeling blocked?

CB: Like most people, I find my inspiration thru books, movies, Instagram, galleries and museums, travel and life experiences.  Sometimes I find that I just need the time to wander.  As designers we are constantly being asked to make very important decisions for our clients and I find it is the down time that allows my creative thoughts to flow more freely. 


TLV: Do you have a favorite book or movie (or show) that you love for the design or style?

CB: The visual splendor of the movie I AM LOVE is something I think about a lot.  From the architecture to the interior design and clothing…the movie literally has it all.  

Text by Liana Hayles Newton


Click here to shop Charlotte’s Curated Collection




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