Belle Decor

Q&A with design blogger Courtney Barnes

By Haskell HarrisMarch 10, 2010

I'm always curious about how other creative folks view design and I've followed the work of Courtney Barnes since she founded her blog, Style Court, in Atlanta years ago. Courtney has an art history background and her posts have an insightful, intellectual quality that I love. And that's exactly why I find myself clicking on her work when I need a little lift in my day.

Yesterday, I finally had the chance to find out what inspires her most and I think her answers will inspire you too! 

BD: Do you have a favorite quote about design that sums up your personal philosophy on the subject?

CB: New Orleans native and Los Angeles-based decorator Suzanne Rheinstein has a mantra: “Everyday is all there is.” I think she said she picked up the phrase reading Joan Didion. I try to live by the words too. The point is to use, appreciate and enjoy your house—or more specifically all of your things—everyday. Don’t wait.

BD: What design book to you look to the most for guidance?

CB: At the moment it seems to be Horst Interiors by Barbara Plumb

BD: If you could have your house professionally designed by anyone (living or not), who would you hire and why?

CB: Honestly, if I finally found myself in a position to be able to afford one of the designers I most admire, whittling down the list of favorites would be incredibly hard. I’m a serious long-time fan of Peter Dunham and Charleston-based Amelia Handegan, just to name two.  But for nearly seven years now I’ve been obsessed with Schuyler Samperton’s apartment. Schuyler lives in L.A. but has roots in Washington, D.C. For herself she mixed together a bunch of disparate pieces collected and inherited over time—antiques, art, old rugs—and made them work. Since I have a bit of a magpie streak in me, I’d love to see what Schuyler could do with all the stuff I’ve gathered. She has a great eye for color and fabric, too, and she can make a nondescript condo feel like a distinguished London flat with a garden courtyard.

BD: What paint colors make you happy?

CB: Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue and the black-green associated with Charleston, SC.

BD: What fabric could you live with forever?

CB: Peter Dunham’s Fig Leaf. Reminds me of one of my favorite paintings by 20th--century Virginia-born artist, Patrick Henry Bruce, and it looks terrific with so many different woods, not to mention doors painted black.

BD: Do you still have the very first piece of art you ever bought in your house in Atlanta? If so, why did you buy it? Why did you gravitate toward the artist?

CB: Technically, the first painting I ever selected from a gallery ended up being a gift. When I was younger I was simply drawn to the rough brushstrokes and colors—soft aquas, greens and oranges—of an old landscape hanging in my uncle’s gallery.  After he died unexpectedly at a young age, I received the piece as a surprise from his wife. Since then, I’ve built a salon-style wall of art around it, with works including my recently purchased small abstract landscape by contemporary Southern artist Lisa diStefano.

The way other women are shoe junkies, I’m into small paintings. Lisa’s brushstrokes are refined and layered, and she uses color in an evocative way. If you sit and stare at her work for a while there seems to be something personal embedded in the landscapes.  I love the juxtaposition of her new piece with the antique painting. 

BD: What is the most creative design solution that you've ever come up with to solve a problem?

CB: My bedroom is narrow and chopped up by three doors and three windows. I appreciate the relatively long older windows, but it is impossible to place a full or queen size bed in there! At least with any sort of symmetry. I'm hardly the first person to come up with this idea, but I finally conceded that if I broke the rules and put my big four-poster bed smack in front  of the window with the unfortunate view of a neighbor's driveway, I could make the bedroom's furniture placement a lot more pleasing. I didn't have to loose any natural light -- it still comes through the white cotton bed curtains that obscure the window behind.  I also painted the window trim (woodwork) the same color as the wall so that the little bit that shows above the bed tester isn't noticeable. And, lastly, I hung an antique mirror from the tester to reflect the window on the opposite wall.

BD: What flowers do you love most from season to season: spring, summer, fall, and winter?

CB: Peonies and gardenias are my absolute favorite but I think cut hydrangeas and garden roses feel right, indoors, any time of year.

BD: What young, on the cusp Southern interior designers are you watching most these days?

CB: Melissa Rufty is known in New Orleans but she is not yet a household name nationally. I’m fascinated by her distinctive work. It doesn’t look like everyone else’s, it can even be kind of electric, but it is timeless. She incorporates her clients’ treasured things, and her projects never look like a showroom.


Photo credits: portrait by Steve Pomberg; amazon.com; samperton.com; discountpaint.net; annconnelly.com; greylikesweddings.wordpress.com; nireblog.com; gardenblog.typepad.com; classicroses.co.uk; mminteriors.com; all other images provided by stylecourt.blogspot.com or Courtney directly