Inspired by the coast of California, designer Amanda Barnes creates bright, uncluttered spaces that function well for families, couples, and single people alike. Here, Barnes talks with Dering Hall about how she approaches minimalist, multi-functional design and how she aims to create joy for her clients with each project.
Q: One of your focuses is designing for families, but practicality is an essential design consideration for most homeowners. How do you balance practicality with high design?
A. Balancing practicality with design is all about being selective. We try to narrow in on which piece or pieces will be the focus for each room. Making beautiful, long-term investments that will transition within a space as a family grows is integral to each project. Well-constructed sofas, rugs, and furniture are worth the expense. Throwing in a few finishing pieces that are more budget-friendly, such as throw pillows, blankets, plants and baskets can elevate the look of a room without breaking the bank. The combination of high and low price points built around the aesthetic of the investment pieces complements the high design while keeping a space livable and well-loved.
Q: How does the design of a home affect how the people living in it spend time together?
A: I am a believer that a thoughtfully edited room lends itself to a clear mind and inspires a home that nourishes emotional well-being. If a room is overly cluttered, then you end up with competing focal points which weigh down the look and feel overwhelming. Just like a closet that is overstuffed with pieces people don't wear, which makes it hard to find your favorite things, the design of a room works the same way. Editing down to what gives the room character and purpose creates an inviting space with room to live and a look to love. Layering a room is important as long as it adds to the value of the room and doesn't take away from the function of the space.
Q: For grandparents, how would you create spaces that can quickly transition to being child-friendly when grandkids visit, but aren’t necessarily child-friendly all the time?
A: The easiest way to create a family-friendly space that breathes "adult-living" is to use pieces that have rounded corners and keep as much lighting on the walls and ceilings as possible. Having less to knock over and fewer wires to trip over is always ideal. Using outdoor fabrics to upholster furniture and avoiding viscose in your rug selections are also a good idea. I have placed many indoor-outdoor rugs in a home that you would never guess are mold, mildew, and UV-resistant. Beautiful and kid-friendly design should not limit the look of a room, regardless of who lives in the space.
Q: How do you design children’s rooms that are aesthetically cohesive with the rest of the house?
A: The concept my clients find most surprising about the way I design children's rooms is that I rarely use pieces intended for kids. Aside from tables and chairs that they can independently pull themselves onto, I find that children's furniture comes with a hefty price tag, given that it feels dated very quickly. I often gravitate to lower, more modern adult-sized beds if the space permits. If I do use a children's bed, it is usually because my client has already fallen in love with a particular piece. If the home we are working on has been layered by mixing metals, textures, or a particular palette, we will definitely find a way to incorporate it into the bedroom to keep the rooms feeling cohesive.
Q: For people with kids or without, how do you make an interior feel playful?
A: To keep an interior feeling playful it has to inspire interaction with the homeowner. What pulls that client in and makes them smile? Is it a wall of family photos that highlights their fur baby and loved ones? If so, we make sure to build this into the design. Do they have a hobby we can build around without creating a literal theme for the home? For example, my clients who live in northern California retreat regularly to a ranch in Mexico, where they indulge in non-stop relaxation and family time. For this client, we brought pieces of their Mexico ranch into their home, An oversized potted cactus, a vintage wooden daybed, and linens that bring them right back to their favorite getaway make their home feel playful and inviting even on their busiest days.
Q: With fall around the corner, what’s an easy way to update a space for the new season?
A: I am not the biggest fan of updating spaces with traditional seasonal decor. Even with the best intentions, it often looks like a discount store may have exploded in an otherwise very soothing space. Swapping metal or ceramic fruit bowls for heavy wooden dough bowls in the kitchen provides a great way to show off your fruit as the fall season sets in. Clipping greens, fruit branches, and flowers from your yard and putting them in clear vases costs nothing and quickly adds interest to a room. A seasonal candle or heavy crocheted blanket also inspire a subtle change. Filling wooden bowls with piles of apples and squash or baskets with birch logs also warms a space up without a big expense or competing with the existing design of a room.
Q: Where do you travel to in California for design inspiration?
A: I love this question. I grew up at the beach, but have spent the last decade braving the fog and a colder climate. I love everything about the California coastline! A few travel spots that inspire me include heading home to Laguna, taking in the fresh mountain air in Tahoe, Yosemite, Carmel, anywhere near Big Sur, and of course, my absolute favorite, the stretch of happiness that covers the Santa Barbara and Montecito areas.
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