BLOG CALL-OUT: Style Court
10/14/08 As self-subscribed "design junkies", we're forever seeking out like-minded addicts. We've scoured the blogosphere looking for gifted amateur design critics, and we found one with fresh sophistication at Style Court. We recently had the opportunity to get into the mind of Style Court creator Courtney Barnes. In our interview with Courtney, she explains her art history background and devotion to style etiquette.
LoftLife: Lets start with some history. What is your design background, and why did you start blogging about design?
Courtney Barnes: I’m not an interior designer, and I’ve been careful not to pretend to be one. My education is in art history, and I was a docent at the High Museum for five years. So my focus is often on pieces of furniture and the decorative objects. Blogging offered freedom and control – a chance to cover what truly interested me. (My day job is freelance writer.)
LL: Vogue says well-mannered and harmonious styles are best for entertaining in the home. It lists four essential ingredients: personal warmth, sincerity, understatement, and consideration. Which of these elements are the hardest to achieve?
CB: What I’m familiar with are the elements listed in Vogue’s 1969 etiquette book. Those are components that the editors said were essential for a harmonious, well-mannered house. So they were referring to everyday life too, not just guests.
I think it’s sort of like ingredients in a recipe – all are vital. Consideration is a challenge because you have to put yourself in the shoes of others: family and friends and new acquaintances. And it involves upkeep. Warmth and sincerity are easy for some people, but much harder for others because to have it I think you need to have passion for your house or apartment – or at least your things – and actually live in your home.
LL: You have a strong focus on the use of antiques that bring character and depth to a room. What is your strategy when shopping for antiques?
CB: Buy what you truly love. Don’t make a decision because you hope it will be a good investment. If you are curious to learn more about a certain piece, don’t be afraid to ask. A reputable dealer will be happy to answer questions, and many will let you take the piece (a chair, a coffee table) on approval for 24 hours to see it in the context of your home.
LL: Your blog displays a classic sense of style. What is your honest opinion of postmodern designs?
CB: I appreciate all types of design. I just happen to gravitate to more traditional stuff – it’s practical that I do because then I can work with and re-use things that have been passed down to me. And in terms of the blog, I skew toward the classics because when I began that was original. Hardly anyone else was doing it.
LL: Eyes may be the window to the soul, but someone's bathroom can tell a heck of a lot about the owner. In your experience, what room is usually the most telling of the owner?
CB: Bedrooms and living rooms. People think it’s kitchens and bathrooms but I think those tend to just reflect – sometimes reflect – trends and budget. It’s books, collections, and art that really speak to the person’s soul.
LL: LoftLife often aims to help our readers deal with decorating small spaces. Can you give some advice for designing around large bulky pieces like television sets?
CB: Full disclosure: I only have one small TV on a bookshelf, so I’m not the best person to ask. I do think it’s been proven over decades by some legendary designers that big furniture actually looks great in small rooms. I have a large four-poster bed in a smallish room, but it is the main focal point. It does not compete with a mammoth chest.
LL: Hypothetically speaking, you walk into someone’s home and you instantly know they have southern style. What's your first clue?
CB: Probably just the presence of something that looks like it was passed down – like an oriental rug, Chinese vase or classic sideboard – it doesn’t have to be a traditional interior. Many of the youthful Southern designers working today like to do modern rooms with one inherited piece.
LL: You showcase stunningly beautiful textiles on your blog, some of which are bold and visually seducing. Is there a trick to layering fabrics without making a room look crowded?
CB: Thanks. It’s really subjective. Some designers like to stick to guidelines that might involve having only one very large floral and then complimentary stripes or geometrics, perhaps a smaller print mixed in. Those who are not maximalists may only want one print as a focal point mixed with solids. But others say there are no rules. It’s just what pleases the eye. They think of textiles like art and just continue adding them.
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I adore Courtney Barnes! It's such a treat to get learn even more about her. Thanks for the profile.