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Elliot Barnes

While in Paris during the fall of 2013, I had the opportunity to see the brilliant work of Mr. Barnes first-hand at the Architectural Digest Intérieurs show house. The quality of his installation was evident, the innovation of the material he used was without precedent, and the room was definitely the talk of the show.   Seeing this level of design really taught me that good design needs to be timeless, innovative and overall practical.

Since 2004, Elliot Barnes Interiors has expressed a very unique and eclectic vision in the world of Interior Design.  From Residences, to Boutique Hotels, Spas, and Institutional spaces, Barnes’s aesthetic has developed a language that is memorable yet practical, while maintaining his approach to luxury.  His studio has produced fine work in France, Germany, Austria, Russia and Japan.

In 1985, Elliot Barnes obtained a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Architecture and Urbanism from Cornell University.  Later on, he had the opportunity to start his professional career in the offices of Arthur Erickson in Los Angeles, and in 1987 interior design legend Andrée Putman invited him to join her office in Paris.  By 1997 Elliot Barnes was partner and project designer for Putman’s studio until 2003 when he created his own firm.

Since I saw Barnes’ work I knew I wanted to have an interview with him and have the opportunity to  learn more about his incredible approach to design.   That day is here, and I am so happy to share Mr. Barnes’ thoughts on design with you.

Iván Meade – What was your first experience with design?

Elliot Barnes –  I think it dates back to when my parents decorated our house. I watched my mother and her decorator discuss design issues. I did not realize that until about 12 years ago.

Elliot Barnes Ritz Carlton lifeMstyle

Interiors by Elliot Barnes

 Iván Meade – What do you think has had more of an influence on your work, your American background or your constant exposure to French/European design? 

Elliot Barnes – I think the thing that has had the most influence on my work, in a foundational way is, jazz. Then I would say the the local LA design atmosphere has followed and influenced me the most.

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Interiors by Elliot Barnes

 Iván Meade – When you moved to Paris you had the experience of working with the french design legend Andrée Putman – What was your experience working with her and what do you think has been a lesson of hers that still resonates with you? 

Elliot Barnes – My time with Andrée was one of never ending surprises. She had the capability to find uniqueness in even the most ordinary. She was always inspired to be different and never rely on one way of doing things. She didn’t have one vision but multiple visions. Of all the things that she shared with me that is the one thing that rings through daily.

Elliot Barnes Bathtub lifeMstyle

Interiors by Elliot Barnes

 Iván Meade – You also have pursued an academic career teaching in renowned universities in the States and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris – What would be the best advice you can give to somebody starting a career in design?

Elliot Barnes – Advice is a hard thing to give out and even more so when it is not specific. All I would say to someone starting out is to appreciate each moment and each detail. Rather than just reinforce what speaks to you try to establish an understanding of that which is foreign to your point of view; you’ll usually learn more.

Elliot Barnes Sigma Table

Sigma Table by Elliot Barnes

 Iván Meade – Your designs propose a resolutely contemporary and innovating approach to luxury – What is luxury to you? 

Elliot Barnes – True luxury is felt before it is seen. Luxury is unique and singular. It is unencumbered and fluid.

Elliot Barnes Interiors 5 lifeMstyle

Interiors by Elliot Barnes

 Iván Meade – A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to see one of your projects first-hand at the Architectural Digest Intérieurs – Le Salon De Compagne in Paris   – I still remember the incredible fireplace you created for the room, but that leather wall concept was out of this world, so memorable!  It felt like butter sliced by light – So visually unique and interesting.  How do you come up with your design concepts?  What is the source of your inspiration?

Elliot Barnes – I think there is no one formula that arrives at the solutions I propose. Just as there is not one source of inspiration. But each time I’m confronted with a situation I always turn the paper upside down to change my perspective.

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Interiors for AD Interieurs by Elliot Barnes

Iván Meade – What is your current favourite material, and why?

Elliot Barnes – I don’t have one favorite material. But I do enjoy tweaking existing materials. In the AD room that you saw, as there was this entire sub theme about family. My dad was from Texas. Though he was not an oil man he did tell me stories involving Texas tea or black gold. That gave me the idea to create black gold, and then blue and green like the Miles Davis tune.

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Interiors for AD Interieurs by Elliot Barnes

Iván Meade – What is the main element that, in your opinion, any home should have?

Elliot Barnes – Every home should have a soul.  This is not something that can be created. But it can be revealed and intensified.

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Interiors by Elliot Barnes

Iván Meade – In your opinion, what is the most beautiful object you have ever seen?

Elliot Barnes – A Sparkman & Stephens Seawanhaka 21 class sloop

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Interiors by Elliot Barnes

 Iván Meade – What is your favourite project, and why?

Elliot Barnes – Probably the Ritz Carlton Hotel Wolfsburg. It embodies many processes that reflect my vision of luxury. And, it was also a project that allowed me to work with artisans across Europe.

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Interiors by Elliot Barnes

Iván Meade – Living in Paris, the world’s capital of style and fashion must be an incredible experience – What is your favourite part about living there?

Elliot Barnes – It’s hard to say what my favorite part is. I think what keeps me here is a sense of freedom and discovery. I live in an expat space, the space between my country of origin and my country of adoption.

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Interiors by Elliot Barnes

Iván Meade – Lastly, you have already created a stunning body of work.  What would you like your legacy to be?

Elliot Barnes – I think I’m a far cry from worrying about my legacy. There is still so much to do, to uncover, to compose. I’m more concerned with the now than with what future generations will think or do with what I’ve done. So let’s have a chat in about 15 years and I might have an idea ! 

I invite you to visit Elliot Barnes’s website and learn more about his incredible design philosophy and amazing body of work:

Elliot Barnes Logo lifeMstyle