Wednesday, March 11

Profile: Barrie Benson

Most design-obsessed aficionados will readily admit that our styles and tastes run the gamut. At times it feels a bit schizophrenic. For me, it’s a love of traditional furnishings and Mid-Century modern.

In recent years I have become preoccupied with Mid-Century homes. Architects of this era emphasized ample windows and open floor plans with the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing in the outdoors. Although a common home in America's post-war suburbs, the execution wasn’t always perfect. But, when done right, it's sublime!

For years I have obsessed over the house and the interiors in the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The moment Joey Drayton walked into her parents’ sunny San Francisco home and introduced Dr. John Prentice I was smitten—hook, line and sinker.

It was the same feeling when I first laid eyes on Barrie and Matt Benson’s North Carolina home. I, for one, love the integrity of the architecture and the juxtaposing of furniture styles. In my humble opinion, it takes real skill to flawlessly mix Louis XV Bergère chairs alongside Milo Baughman—yet Barrie does it perfectly.

Not only do I love Barrie’s style, her personality is warm, engaging and funny (just read her answers). She describes her upbringing in “a teeny town” near Norfolk, Virginia as pigs, peanuts and paper! As a teen she moved to Columbia, South Carolina, attended Furman University, graduated with a BA in history and minor in Art, with a side trip to Cortona, Italy for a semester abroad.

While in Italy she received a BFA in Interior Design from the University of Georgia in Cortona and taught a summer course. In her own words, “Heaven on Earth!!!!”

How would you describe your own personal style?
If it were a dish, my recipe would be a knuckle of southern, a slab of modern, a dash of preppy and a willingness to be daring and experiment.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
A very strong cup of coffee, creative friends, travel and keeping my eyes wide open for everything!

What is your most prized possession?
I am not sure I have one.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
A working kitchen. Cooking keeps me grounded.

Who are your style icons?
Marina Rust, Iris Apfel and Laura Vinroot Poole (the owner of Capitol in Charlotte).

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
My husband, Matt (an architect with Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson), Julia Carr Bayler owner of Belvedere and Chuck Chewning creative director of Donghia.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
Too many...I just finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and I am now reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

When they get too deep and depressing I have been pulling out The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman and Eat Me, The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin...oh and what’s leftover of the Sunday Times and The Week.

What is your favorite luxury in life?
A trip to Round Hill Jamaica with my husband on a whim...hoping he will read this and surprise me!

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
A glass of Italian wine, a home cooked meal (by me) and my husband sitting next to me...oh and my two kids hiding on the other side of the credenza when they should be in bed asleep. They snicker or pop up when their names are mentioned...and then are shooed off to bed only to return a few minutes later.

It is the only time they are in the same room with me and are not interrupting my conversation

Past or present what designers have most influenced your style?
To name a few of the many, I'd say Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin, and Billy Hanes.

Additionally, I have worked with many incredible designers that have been open to share their talents with me along the way. Most are all local talents but extremely gifted and open to teach. I learned bits and pieces from all of them and all of their styles are evident in my work.

Profile by Ronda Carman


Rose C'est La Vie said...

This is a great interview. Barrie Benson sounds charming, gifted, quirky. Her house is brilliant and I particularly love the dining room with the orangey-salmon seating and the oriental fabric on the chairs.
This is inspirational and refreshing.

ALL THE BEST said...

Thank you Rose. Isn't the pop of orange brilliant!?!

Laura said...

Oooh--she's my new favorite! And I love that one of her style icons is Marina Rust--I'm crazy about that girl's style, too! Maybe you could do a profile on her!

ALL THE BEST said...

Laura I completely agree with you! Anyone who ranks Marina on their list is tops in my book...I'll see what I can do!

The Antiques Diva™ said...

Not only is Barrie full of style, but she's witty and beautiful to boot! Nice profile today!

ALL THE BEST said...

Thank you Antiques Diva! She's the whole package!

MFAMB said...

thanks for the profile! i have been a fan of ms. benson since i saw her in domino oct. 07. she is pretty cool! and somehow the image of her and her husband having dinner after the kids were "in bed" and it being the only time her conversation wasn't interrupted resonated with me in a big way and put a smile on my face.
and i'm with some of the other post-ers...a profile on marina rust please!!

Style Court said...

Ronda -- So glad you profiled Barrie! I think so many of us were inspired by her projects published in the last few years. Her mixes are genius. Great eye for color and pattern. Love her sense of humor too.

ALL THE BEST said...

My Favorite and My Best I laughed when I first heard her answer...we have an 11 year old...I can relate! Trying to work on the Marina profile at this very moment!

ALL THE BEST said...

Thanks Courtney! She has been on my radar for awhile now! I am with you, her mixes are fab!!

Style Court said...

P.S. I also adore all of the art and interiors in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner!

Karena said...

Barrie Benson is incredible, I love her work , sense of color and style.Great interview Ronda!

pve design said...

Life is a bowl full of "Barrie" - love her personal style description and her flair. Great style.
Another great interview.

Anonymous said...

That is so true - I feel completely schizo because my tastes run all over the place. I'm glad to hear I'm not alone.

annechovie said...

Great interview, Ronda! I love the pop of orange, too. Barrie's got serious style.

Lushpad said...

I love the slate wall!


Great interiors and a fun interview!

Anonymous said...

This is cool. The home is similar to that of Amy Butler's. I love the modern 60s lines just like the home I grew up in which I blogged about awhile back!

ClaudeBlogger said...

I have known Barrie since she was very young and her home demonstrates her life long qualities of style, vision, individuality, grace and elegance... with a refreshing dose of edginess. She continues to be someone for whom I have the highest respect - both personally and professionally.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Her style is evident in her home, it's very elegant and refreshing. The dining room floor is really nice, plus the orange seating really makes a statement.

Anonymous said...

I just love the dining room with the gorgeous's the perfect balance of traditional and contemporary which makes it fresh.