Barry Dixon's Design Philosophy
March 28, 2013 - 9:44am
Barry Dixon discusses how both antiquity and nature factor into his eloquent design vocabulary.
Barry Dixon

Dixon: I go to two places for inspiration. One, the history of design and ornamentation. We’re going back centuries to the Greeks and Romans, to artists, architects and craftsmen — to anonymous sparks of thought and design epiphany, to someone we don’t know that lived hundreds of years ago. There is such a rich history. Two, the natural world. Man has always responded to the beauty of nature. It’s what touches our souls.

I moved around a lot as a kid when my mind was still forming and my aesthetic was a blank slate. My understanding of art history, the history of ornaments, as well as my observance of nature gives me a vocabulary heightened by my experiences. When I’m designing, I’m basically creating stories. I ask myself, what’s the matter at hand? Who am I writing to? I then go through forms I see and reinterpret them. I try to be reverent to history but not a slave to it. A great thing we can do now is pluck our favorite elements from this continuum of design.

The Foliage lamp was inspired by an antique Italian faience urn originally made in the 1930s. I added a few leaves and did a masculine and feminine variety. One has a reflective, slightly more formal, crackle cream finish. It’s bright, light and shiny. The other is a matte-finished, grapefruit-peel-textured, bronze green, bold, masculine lamp. It’s a 40-inch lamp, and both finishes accept the light beautifully. It’s a combination of a historical counterpart that I looked to nature to re-embellish.

The Mandarin lamp was inspired by a large-scale rosewood altar candlestick I bought in China. It has an intricate carving of a Chinese fable with this snaking dragon climbing up a very slim cylindrical shaft. I did it in a cast white plaster. It has this ’30s or ’40s European Baroque vibe. The shadow produced from the light source above pronounces this beautiful carving. I love that here we have an anonymous artist who carved something 300 years ago. So he and I together, and Arteriors, are part of the evolution of its design.

I think a good designer and a good collection gives you a lot to choose from or has an à la carte menu. You put your own room together, things that you respond to, things that represent you. You chose from different influences and periods. You’re not just buying someone else’s look. You’re doing something that’s personal. The more you layer into that, the more depth or character, the more intrinsic it is to you. That curated layering of elements is what’s modern in design right now.

  • Barry Dixon
    Barry Dixon
  • Arteriors white lamp
    Arteriors white lamp
    Details of Dixon’s designs for Arteriors Home take on added drama in cream and white. The Foliage lamp has a slightly reflective surface that gives it a formal air.
  • arteriors white lamp
    arteriors white lamp
    The Mandarin lamp in cast white plaster features an intricate dragon design that gets emphasized by shadows from the light source above.

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