This past year I had the good fortune to spend several days with the enormously talented Barry Dixon. While I have long been an admirer of his work, I only first meet Barry and his charming partner Michael Schmidt earlier this year. Both men are so gracious and interesting; it’s difficult to not to be smitten. In all honesty, they are two of the most gentlemanly people I have ever met. As fate would have it, Barry and I recently ended up on the same flight to Venice. In fact, I was one seat behind him until they pulled that damn curtain. Once we arrived he offered to share a water taxi. And, being true to style, he refused to let me contribute to the cost.
The son of a metallurgist, he spent his childhood in such places as India, Korea, New Caledonia and South Africa, where he graduated from high school. His design aesthetic is clearly influenced by a lifelong interest in global cultures and a love affair with intriguing objects. His passion and insight has garnered legions of fans (and clients) worldwide; including Diane Sawyer and former Senate majority leader Bill Frist.
Never one to sit still, Barry launched his own furniture line with Tomlinson/Erwin-Lambeth in 2005, his rug collection with Megerian in 2009, and his fabric collection with Vervain debuted at Maison&Objet in Paris in January 2010. His collaboration with Fortuny continues this year with new showrooms and his next book with Gibbs-Smith Publishers hits the bookstores this winter.
If his first book Barry Dixon Interiors published in 2008 (now in its third printing) is any indication of what’s to come, I can’t wait for winter.
How would you describe your personal style?
Hailing from the American South, my earliest influences were warmly traditional with a reverence for the past. I inherited from my Tennessee family an appreciation for things passed down, not just the rarefied but also things that were simply loved, cherished & touched by earlier generations, things with spirits and stories. Growing up we lived all over the world and I fell under the spell of myriad exotic influences. If I have a personal style, it’s some layered pastiche of all these elements, a filtered traditionalism that, in the best instances, emanates warmth and welcome.
What is your most prized possession?
At first blanch, I’d say my health and sanity, though there are those who’d argue that I possess the latter. If one can actually “own” an old house, I’d say Elway Hall, my home in the Virginia countryside. But somehow, as a steward of such an old property, I suspect that it possesses me, much like Ellie, my wire-haired terrier.
What is your idea of earthy happiness?
Knowing that all in my sphere are well, including family, friends and farm animals.
What inspires your creative designs?
Nothing is more inspiring than the natural world beyond the window, the father/mother of all artful creation. That, and the rich history of ornament & decoration that is the legacy of generations of gurus and geniuses who inhabit and define the continuum of design.
What is the one thing in life that you cannot live without?
Travel. It educates the mind, sparks the imagination and nourishes the creative soul. I’ve never taken a trip that didn’t affect me in some profound way. I can’t live without travel, or Masterpiece Theatre.
What is your favorite luxury in life?
Time, life’s rarest treasure.
Who are your style icons?
Where to start? Van Day Truex, David Hicks, Albert Hadley, Rose Tarlow, Francis Elkins, Renzo Mongiardino, William Morris, Jacques Grange, Billy Haines and Mariano Fortuny… to name a few.
Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
Any excited and engaged client who brings something special, something original to the collaboration, whether it’s a quirky collection or a point of view (and who treats my truly wonderful staff well!)
What books are currently on your bedside table?
Redeeming Features—Nicky Haslam’s juicy biography
The Help by Kathryn Stockett—haven’t I known all of these characters intimately in my super-southern half-century?
Harper Lee’s unparalleled To Kill a Mockingbird—always worth a revisit and, of which, a first edition copy remains perpetually at the top of my Christmas wish list.
Past or present who has most influenced the direction of your life?
My incredible father, M.E. Dixon, an insightful, Hemingwayesque character whose sage counsel convinced my career-addled collegiate brain to change an ill-fated future in the practice of law to a fated one in design. He thought I would be “good at this,” “happy doing this,” and that it was my “nature.” Aesop could not have said it better and my life has been somewhat of a fable ever after.
Profile by Ronda Carman