When it comes to the interiors of Charlotte-based interior designer, Barrie Benson, we have four words for you: Get. Ready. To. Swoon. With a penchant for knock-out patterns, and playful juxtapositions, Barrie Benson (who, fits the definition of a southern belle to a T… just in case you were wondering), has taken the southern interior and given it a chic and colorful facelift. From the opening of her eponymous firm in 2000, to her cover feature in Domino magazine in 2007 (which showed off her swank, 1950s ranch-style charmer), Benson has long established herself as the go-to source for all things stylish and Southern—a title which, thanks to the emergence of her new furniture line for Highland House and hardware collection for Addison-Weeks, she shows no sign of giving up anytime soon!
We recently sat down with Barrie to get the low-down on some of her favorites, and as we found out, this tastemaker is just as sweet as her interiors hint at! Get to know Barrie below, and be sure to check out the color combo she’s currently crushing on (because, like most things she hearts, we have a feeling it’s going to be huge!)
Favorite item on Chairish right now?
I love these Bagues Rock Crystal Parrot and Flower Sconces. I can see them used in a beautiful powder room or even a sweet little girl’s bathroom. I have been eyeing these for ages.
Favorite thing about designing with vintage pieces?
What I love about designing with vintage pieces is that it usually means incorporating something no one else will have. It adds that layer of personality and allows the design to take a different, more interesting, and unique direction.
What are the must-have elements of Southern design?
A huge element of southern design is using family heirlooms, or pieces that have been in the family for years. Even if it’s not the most perfect piece, it oftentimes tells a story and will add character to the room. Of course, embroidered hand towels and linens are always a must in southern design, too, as are floral and garden prints—southerners love color! If you truly want elements of the south in your design, you can’t be afraid of color.
Is there a design trend that you’re gravitating towards these days?
Bringing the outdoors in using chintz, flora and fauna is really big for me right now. Last spring at High Point market, we did this amazing collaboration with artist Anne Lemanski and had her apply her flora and fauna artwork to two of my chests for Highland House—it was so fabulous. I am also loving how fabric prints are translating into wallpaper and vice versa. Currently, my favorite use of this trend is custom fabric lampshades.
Favorite way to add drama to a room?
Fabulous art will absolutely transform and add drama to a room. There is something very dramatic about a large installation, just as there is with just one small solo piece. A room is never complete without art.
Favorite source for design inspiration?
I always look to my travels for inspiration. When travel is not an option, World of Interiors, Vogue Living, and Instagram are other huge sources of inspiration.
Favorite paint color?
Right now (and I mean this week—it will change by next week!) I am loving Sherwin Williams’s Garden Spot
I fall in love with a new one every week so it’s hard to pick just one! However, one of my recent favorites is “St. Marks” from Schumacher’s Frank Lloyd Wright collection. It is a beautiful print with amazing colors that can be used in so many different ways. Upholstered on the wall…for draperies…for lampshades…In fact, I actually just designed a room using it all three of these ways!
Favorite design rule to break?
All of them!
Favorite color combo?
Currently, peachy rose and deep plum. Recently, I have been in the mood for tone-on-tone and have been playing with different values of the same color. We just painted our office walls a rose color and the ceiling a deep plum, and I love how it turned out.
Favorite way to mix high and low?
Sometimes we will find a very special vintage piece that is out of budget, so we will pair it with something low to make it work. For example, I love the idea of splurging on a beautiful, vintage chandelier and pairing it with an inexpensive dining table that’s then elevated with lacquer. If you have a fabulous chandelier, no one will notice the table, anyway!
Favorite way to work a bit of vintage into a room?
Definitely by using lamps or an interesting chair. I’ve also found that coffee tables are a great way to incorporate a vintage but modern piece, particularly if the client is more hesitant about modern design influences.
Favorite beauty/grooming product?
Laugh Kiss Care Lip Stain in colors Retro and Hero. I love lipstick but could never seem to keep it on until my hairdresser, Jacqueline, told me about this stain. I put it on in the morning and it lasts all day!
Favorite travel destination?
It is always changing, but right now I’m dying to go back to London. I went six months ago but could only stay for two days, and just that glimpse of the city was so inspiring! I can’t wait to go back and spend more time exploring.
Favorite hotel to check in to?
Anything by Chuck Chewning, including The Gritti Palace in the Peggy Guggenheim suite!
Favorite weekend activity?
A Friday night cocktail with my husband, kids, and dogs after a long week.
Favorite way to treat yourself?
Taking time to exercise and go home early to hang with my kids.
Favorite morning beverage, plus how you take it?
Two espressos with a shot of coconut milk.
Favorite adult beverage?
A tequila gimlet
Favorite entertaining essential?
A sense of humor and great guests.
Favorite thank you/hostess gift?
A big container of really good Olive Oil from Food 52…it comes in a beautiful wooden box.
Honestly, Instagram, which I have a love/hate relationship with. It’s great for inspiration, but bad for time wasting! And then The New York Times Cooking app. I love to cook, but often don’t have time for anything elaborate, and they have very fast and easy recipes.
It changes often, but currently David Hockney.
Favorite TV show?
I’m not really a TV person, but I love to binge watch British dramas from Masterpiece Theatre.
Favorite thing to collect?
Art and china.
LOCAL FAVORITES: Charlotte, North Carolina
Favorite hotel to recommend to visiting friends?
The Duke Mansion. It’s in the most beautiful neighborhood in Charlotte.
Favorite local attraction?
The White Water Center
Lead photo by Brie Williams