After growing up on a strawberry farm in rural and bucolic Watsonville,
Barry Johnson earned his environmental design degree from UC Davis and has since racked up over 30 years of interior design experience. His goal is to closely collaborate with clients to create a finished product that expresses a their lifestyle, personality and entertaining style. In addition to running his own full service residential interior design firm in Palo Alto, Johnson also designs furniture for the Kolkka Furniture Company and opened Brick Monkey, a retail home design store in Redwood City, in 2009. 119
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1. Where do you currently live in CA and what’s special about how you’ve designed your personal space?
I live in Palo Alto in a two story midcentury Asian style home. It is very indoor–outdoor with a tropical garden. Like a handful of other interior designers I work with pattern and color all day so I like my floors dark, walls white and pops of bright accent colors. Right now I am remodeling my kitchen and family room. The color scheme is white and charcoal—very minimal and modern but with texture so the space is warm.
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2. What’s your dream design project? Who would it be for (dead or alive)?
My dream project is for a billionaire Silicon Valley client (he doesn’t know it yet), but I would like to assemble a team of professionals I currently work with and build a custom home from the ground up—very minimal that would celebrate his art collection and use of my talent gain over the years. The home would be handsome and understated. The project would be in Woodside.
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3. In real life, what’s your favorite design project you’ve completed to date?
My favorite project to date is nearby here in Palo Alto – it was for a young family, and the team was terrific and every idea was open to explore. The husband wanted to put a trampoline in the entry hall and bounce from entry to each room. We ended up digging 20 feet down for a walk out trampoline in the basement with a trapeze above. Crazy but a great entertaining space. Our team had dinner recently at Tamarine in Palo Alto (my favorite restaurant) just because we had been missing the years working together!
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4. You’ve been gifted a fabulously furnished dream home but can only bring one item from your current space. What would it be?
A favorite painting of Venice my wife and I found on a great trip there.
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5. What’s your creative process when designing a space?
It starts with a mission statement and the focus on color.
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6. Where do you score prized interior design items? Any shopping tips?
I usually make the items—I do a lot of custom iron furniture with Kolkka Furniture in Napa. I think a great consignment store like
Afterwards in Menlo Park is a good place to find a vintage piece that can give a room soul at a great price.
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7. Ever had an epic DIY disaster? What project would you never take on again yourself?
I ordered a custom chandelier (very expensive) I could not get it into a vintage building with a small elevator on Nob Hill. Thankfully we sent it to my friends in Napa and we chopped it apart and reassembled it onsite—it was a hair raiser with six people to hold it up as it was installed. That apartment is always a delivery challenge.
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8. What new design trend are you excited to integrate into your next project?
Fresh contemporary minimalism–with great new designs in plumbing fixtures sourced from Bath +Beyond in SF.
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9. Lightning round! Beach or mountains?
Beach Twitter or Facebook?
Facebook Instagram or Pinterest?
Instagram Architectural Digest or Wallpaper?
Architectural Digest Should you spend money on a fabulous bathroom or kitchen?
A kitchen is money well spent Would you rather shop new or vintage?
New Great view or perfect pool?
Perfect Pool (I like looking at one and swimming in one) SF or LA?
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10. What’s one tip you wish someone had told you when first starting out in the design world?
Scale is the most important design element to get right after color.
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Barry’s portfolio and interview. Text by Mary Polizzotti