Barbara Barry on Her Design Process
February 4, 2014 - 4:21pm
The Las Vegas Market’s 2014 Design Icon Barbara Barry starts each creation with a watercolor sketch.

Barry: I travel a lot, and sometimes I’ll see something that sets an idea in motion. I try to capture my take on it quickly. I travel with my watercolors and always have a set close at hand at home. I always begin with a watercolor sketch. I love the way it brings an idea alive quickly by giving it dimension. The little watercolor sketch seems to hold the DNA of the idea in it. I then play with the idea by doing lots of little sketches and when I think I have something, I work with my office to take it to scale and then eventually to full scale.

I’ve always looked to my own life and my clients’ lives as a muse rather than interpreting any period or style. I’m interested in how design can create harmony in our lives and an inviting mood — a platform on which a personal life can unfold with security and comfort. This to me is when design is powerful and transforming.

Lighting is the most important factor in design and in life. Light makes things come alive. It establishes the mood, illuminates the textures and the subtleties in design. It’s what I love most about living in Southern California. Its constant light has greatly influenced my work. It has influenced my signature color palette of soft nuanced shades of green and celadon, which evoke the agaves in my neighborhood. Light brings to life the silvery taupes of the eucalyptus tree bark and the pathways of my hiking trails.

When using these colors in homes, the interior lighting allows these subtle colors and textures to work their magic establishing the mood of a room — a calm mood. I almost never use down-lighting, preferring the soft diffused light that comes through a silk or linen shade. I began designing lighting as a young designer because I liked the quality of light that comes through a shade at eye level. I didn’t so much want a decorative object as much as the light. The simple lighting that is now vogue didn’t exist then the way it does today.

The Enlightened chandelier for Baker is one of my favorite designs. I like the way it integrates the masculine metalwork with the feminine silk shade. I thought about the rich mellowness of beeswax candles when choosing this silk, knowing it would cast a warm glow.

I also love the Simple Scallop for Visual Comfort. It brings a feminine aspect to lighting with its scalloped shade that resembles a big skirt. I like to bring a feminine curve to many aspects of my work to balance the square rooms in which we reside and the harsh world in which we live.

  • Barbara Barry's Enlightened chandelier for Baker is one of her favorites, combining masculine metalwork with a feminine silk shade.

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