Podcast, Ep. 187: architect & interior designer Barry Goralnick


Our guest today is New York-based architect and interior designer Barry Goralnick. His firm customizes projects to include everything from early planning stages in building to interior design, to product design — check out their impressive collections! Barry’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest, ELLE décor, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and he is also a featured designer in Rizzoli’s new best-selling book Interior Design Master Class – 100 Lessons from America’s Finest Designers on the Art of Decoration, among many, many other accolades. We discuss how Barry’s background in fine art & literature influenced his varied style, decorating for small and big spaces, his tips for getting back to basics, and more.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Why Barry is an architect and an interior designer.
  • How would Barry describe his style?
  • What Barry’s recommendations are for decorating built-ins.
  • More on the State Street project in Brooklyn with built-ins, wood finishes, and an upright piano.
  • Barry’s take on open floor plans; especially during the post COVID era.
  • How to pack a lot into a small space while keeping it functional yet glamorous.
  • Barry’s tips on what to do when getting stuck in the design process.
  • Decorating Dilemma about how to modernize a cabin in the Smoky Mountains.

Decorating Dilemma

Hello ladies!

I’m a huge fan on the podcast and have binged during COVID as I’ve been updating and tweaking our home. We recently purchased a mountain cabin in the Smokies (we live in Nashville & I just visited the new store! Congrats, it’s beautiful!) We plan to use the home for a rental & a place for us to enjoy. 

These are real estate photos, so please imagine it totally empty! The stuffed animals are not ours. 🙂

The home is all pine walls throughout, and I was thinking of painting the walls of the family / shared space white, leaving the ceilings wood for warmth. (The ceiling also opens into a loft area above). What do you think for a furniture layout in the living space? It’s not too large, so can only accommodate an apartment sized sofa & smaller chairs.  I’d like to also paint the kitchen cabinets (maybe a dark green or dark tone, not basic black). The stones on the back of the island need to go, what do you think of putting a banquette there for dining, as the space is not large and the door to patio opens on the right side. (The homeowners had a narrow table pushed up against the windows to allow walking space to the porch)

Any and all ideas welcome! We will be undertaking this project over the holidays while my son is on break from school.

Thanks so much!


Hi Christine,

One thing I would remove is the stone around the peninsula in the kitchen; it looks inauthentic to me. If you extended the top, you could create a place for barstools. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but if you’re considering changing the cabinets at all perhaps you could turn the peninsula into an island. There are even some great freestanding kitchen islands available.

I like the idea of painting the cabinets and painting the walls. It will help break up the monolithic theme. I would not paint the cabinets and the wall behind the fireplace the same color. I would choose a light color for that wall and maybe even pull from the stone. Also, even if you just paint the wall behind the hearth it will not only bring some contrast, but it will make the space feel taller. If you want to keep some of the wood, you could maybe sand it down and do a clear or light finish to lighten it up a bit, so you keep that rustic mountain feel.

I know you didn’t ask me, but the drapes need to go! I would either do some shades or floor lengths. Regarding the banquette, I wouldn’t do a built-in one, but I like the idea of a long bench. If this is a vacation home, you want to be as flexible as possible and be able to shift things around. I am not a huge fan of the black railings since they are kind of heavy; even if they were light grey with a wood rail on top it would lighten it up. In terms of overall decorating, we think you should choose some stylish, well-scaled furniture and don’t go kitschy with it. If you leave even half of the wood in there, you don’t need anything else that nods to the Smoky Mountains. And don’t get furniture in the same color wood! We definitely recommend adding some upholstery and softness to the space. If it’s a rental space, we highly suggest performance fabric! 

We are excited for you. Do we get a free weekend to stay there now?!  Send us the photos…and the listing!

Mentioned in This Episode: 

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Happy Decorating!

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Abbey Nolte

Abbey is a homegrown Georgia peach who loves a fresh take on Southern design. When she’s not working behind the scenes of the How to Decorate blog and podcast, you can find her cheering on the Appalachian State Mountaineers and spending time with her wheaten terrier, Charlie.


  1. Reply

    Margo Arel

    March 10, 2021

    Very surprised to hear the commentary on people with big houses as well as people having too much stuff.
    Is this how Ballard Design sees its customers. If it wasn’t for people with large houses and those that like “stuff” I don’t thin BD would be in business.
    It’s tiresome to hear people speak nasty about anyone they see as wealthy. And truly discourage as one of your customers.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      March 10, 2021

      My apologies if this interview rubbed you the wrong way. There’s nothing wrong with stuff! Karen and myself love beautiful things and spaces as much as anyone, but I think it’s a great question to ask ourselves. What are the challenges in your home and can you solve them in the space you have? Not every challenge requires space as a solution, and that’s the point we wanted to make.
      Thank you for the feedback and for taking the time to leave a comment.
      I hope you’ll keep listening to the show.