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Publication Date: 2019-09-17

Behind the Design

Explore Barbara Barry's Artist-Inspired Rugs for Tufenkian

Having collaborated with Tufenkian Artisan Carpets on a number of one-of-a-kind lines, designer Barbara Barry decided to let some of the 20th century's greatest masters guide her next collection. Inspired by the modernity and elegant abstraction of these art world superstars, she designed the Mondrian Rug (for Piet Mondrian), the Serra Rug (for Richard Serra), the Arp Rug (for Jean Arp), and the Agnes Rug (for Agnes Martin). We spoke with Barry about how these artists inspired her creativity, how minimalism and rich textures work together, and which artist she'd most like to meet for dinner. See what she had to say below and be sure to browse all of Tufenkian's offerings.

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The Arp Rug - Gris, inspired by Jean Arp

Q: Some interior designers start their work on a room with one particular piece, be it a rug, sofa, or piece of art. How do you begin your design process?

A: I generally begin any space from a color perspective. As a watercolorist, I am drawn to the infinite possibilities that color combinations hold. I often watercolor the color scheme and then try to find ways to support it. That’s what makes being a product designer so much fun; being able to create the colors in fabrics as well as in rugs.

Q: The pieces in this collection are very textural; how does a rug's texture figure into your design work?

A: I like subtle contrast so texture is a way for me to play with the contrasts between smooth and nubby textures, shiny to matte surfaces, the patterned to the plain… and on and on. I love the dialogue between the wool and silk in the Tufenkian collections and how they play off of one another.

The Mondrian Rug - Mineral, inspired by Piet Mondrian

Q: How did you decide to select modern minimalist masters as the inspiration for this line?

A: Thinking in a more modern way of color-blocking and simple gestures, these inspiring artists came to mind. Each of these artists has a signature way of working that defines them and their philosophy, which is what the creative process is all about.

Q: Your line includes pieces inspired by Jean Arp, Piet Mondrian, Richard Serra, and Agnes Martin. If you got the chance to have dinner with just one of them, who would it be?

A: Absolutely, hands down Piet Mondrian! His work has been like a guiding light for me based on his philosophy of total abstraction as a model for harmony.

The Agnes Rug - Ivory, inspired by Agnes Martin

Q: Who are some other artists who inspire you and your designs?

A: Ben Nicholson, the British modernist painter; John Singer Sargent, the master watercolorist; Louise Bourgeois, the sculptor.

Q: What's your personal favorite piece of art, and how does artwork interplay with your design work?

A: I like simple abstract pieces that play with light and planes of color. I find them a good backdrop for all the “real” still life assemblages of “real” life. 

One of my favorite pieces hangs in my living room and I love looking at it every day. It is an abstract by James Kennedy. I have had this painting for years and recently having moved homes, it seems like a new painting in this new space. It is just what the room needed. That is what is wonderful about living with art… it seems to be a mirror for the changes in us.

The Fine Line Blush Rug

Q: What's one of the biggest mistakes that designers (and end consumers alike) make with rugs?

A: This is only my opinion—since I like subtle rooms layered in similar hue and value—but choosing too intense a color or pattern in a rug or any fabric can be a mistake. I choose to create mood through tonal layers rather than decorative ones.

Q: Do you have other collaborations with Tufenkian in the works for the future?

A: I have a wonderful relationship with James Tufenkian and he is always willing to listen to me and my ideas… any ideas for a rug or for a collection of rugs. James was one of my first designer/manufacturer relationships and I owe him a debt for his support of my work.

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