Podcast, Ep. 140: designer Barrie Benson

Designer Barrie Benson joins the show to talk about how she creates spaces that are both super sophisticated and also lively and fun. She talks with us about huge yet doable ways to start an art collection, why she thinks more Southern homes are mixing stately with the new and lively and blows our mind with the concept of taking something modern and making it seem more antique and traditional.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode:

  • How Barrie mixes fun and colorful with sophisticated and well thought out design.
  • Why it’s important to really know your taste when working with a designer, and it’s okay to embrace if your taste is different or eclectic!
  • Ways we can reinvent old family heirlooms or furniture and how just a fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference.
  • It’s great to call a friend (or designer of course) to get a perspective and outside look at what you have going on in terms of your design.
  • Barrie has seen more Southerners mixing traditional and stately with new and lively lately.
  • Ways you can get involved in your local art community and get to really know your taste and palette for art.
  • The more you are passionate about your house, the more you are proud and connected to it.
  • How Barrie uses the 80/20 rule to plan out her rooms, but leave space for new and organic pieces.
  • What toile wallpaper is, and how we can use it in a fun way.
  • Barrie’s choice of performance fabric rugs that look great and also are durable and forgiving on wear and tear.


Decorating Dilemma:


I love your podcast and was recently listening to your episode with the ladies of Gordon Dunning where you discussed the tricky use of sectionals in a living room. My husband and I have been in our home for about 2 years after we purchased it as a short sale. We have put a lot of effort and money into making the basics of the home beautiful and functioning and now it is time to start bringing in the pretty pieces AKA kick out the furniture hand-me-downs!! That brings me to my question… We were given this couch and love seat when we moved in and it is looking very sad so it is time for a new one. We were thinking about getting a longer couch with a chaise lounge on the side closest to where the love seat is and not putting any furniture in that corner. Now I know that a couch with a chaise isn’t a sectional, but it got me thinking that it would ruin the flow of the space. We use our fireplace all winter long (hello Connecticut winters), but currently no one really sits in the love seat when it’s just us OR when people come over. We love to entertain, but it is always awkward for people to find a place to sit, so we thought a longer couch would help. But what you all said about no one wanting to sit in the middle seat made me panic because IT IS SO TRUE I don’t really know that a couch could go anywhere else in the room because of the front door/ windows/ dining room. My other thought for getting a chaise lounge is that my husband always wants to put his feet up when watching TV at night (which is why you see that awful brown foot stool tucked under the coffee table so he can pull it out at night while watching TV lol). I have thought about a regular couch with ottoman as the coffee table. I am also not sure what color! I was thinking a navy so it will not show stains/ wear as much. What do you suggest?

Thank you!

P.S. I have a Ballard Design indoor/outdoor rug in here because I lOVE the contrasting color with the dark hardwoods, but the lighter colors tends to get dirty. Fingers crossed this one is in it for the long haul! So far I love it!

Barrie suggests some smaller-scaled pieces and doing a pair of chairs with a shared ottoman and side tables. It may look great to have two different types of seating arrangements with something in the center that can go between them, and you can use the rug as a guide to visualize where each grouping should go. We think you could drop the TV because it seems a bit high, and adding a long console under it could open up some space for beautiful lamps or lighting options. We are totally loving that your husband likes to kick up his feet and relax, but that doesn’t mean the ottoman or footrest needs to be ugly! Check out the Augusta Ottoman for some ideas.

Mentioned In This Episode:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.