Collaborator Spotlight: Barrie Benson
Barrie Benson has an uncanny ability to incorporate different periods and styles. Her latest collection for Modern Matter continues her pursuit of integrating modern and traditional interiors. Designed with simplicity and form in mind, the Workhorse Collection effortlessly unites beauty and versatility.
Inspired by transitional spaces, Workhorse was created to lift and adapt to any design style. Its clean silhouette and honest details—hand-forged corners and hand-applied finishes evokes timeless sophistication.
Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an interior designer.
A: Although I never considered studying design when I started college, there were signs that it was a passion growing up. I was always rearranging my room or the furniture in my grandmother's beach house. I spent a lot of time pouring over design books and magazines, but never realized it was a career choice until I went to a study abroad program through the University of Georgia in Cortona. It was then I was hooked and knew that design was the career path for me. While I did finish my BA in history, I convinced my parents to let me start the UGA design program the following year. Upon graduation, I began my career at Hirsch Bedner designing large hotels all across Europe, a time during which I really sharpened my drawing and project management skills, before eventually opening my own firm.
Q: What is your creative process when designing a space for a client?
A: The initial phase is spent getting to know how the family functions and how they live. We dive into where they came from, what inspires them, their style influences, their favorite hotels and restaurants, Pinterest boards…anything that helps us to get inside their head and design a home that looks and feels like them, but at the same time pushes them out of their comfort zone so the design is unique and timeless.
The second phase is reallocating important pieces of furniture that are memorable or special to the family, even if they’re not perfect. Sometimes those pieces are what bring a little bit of soul to the house.
We then have a very intensive presentation with boards, fabrics, wallpaper, finishes, proposed furniture and then back up pieces, so by the time they leave we both have a very good sense of what this house will look and feel like. Our goal here is for the clients to leave with the faith that we understand their style and interests. When we install the furniture, we often leave about 10% so we have flexibility with the finishing touches. This is what solidifies an effortless look.
Q: How has your style evolved over the years?
A: Almost 20 years ago, my husband and I purchased a 1950s modern ranch in Charlotte. We both came with a few pieces of inherited antiques that were very important to us. It was the process of designing this house, using the things that we loved and making them work in a modern setting, that provided an outlet where I was able to really exercise my creativity and allow my style to evolve, creating the foundation for my style today. Learning to balance and mix modern with traditional has become a style we are most known for. Balance is key with everything. With platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, clients today are so exposed to trends; it’s our job to temper this, so they end up with a timeless project that feels current, but also can be easily updated with pillows and colors if they grow out of favor.
Q: What was your inspiration for the Workhorse line?
A: Many of my collections are inspired by custom pieces we are designing for our clients, which is how the Workhorse Collection came to be. We were always looking for hardware, in kitchens specifically, that worked well in multiples, that also had a hand-forged sensibility, but in a modern form—again, striking that perfect balance. So often kitchens can feel sterile and new; it’s nice to give a little rest to the newness, which is why the finishes in this collection were so important to me.
Q: How do you think of hardware when designing a space?
A: It really depends. If it’s something that needs a little dressing up, for instance, a family relic that needs a makeover, hardware is a great way to update it. Or sometimes, you need more subtle details, so we try to hide the hardware more. Seeing a little bit of metal can wake up a piece or set off a color just so and make a big difference.
Q: What do you look for when sourcing hardware for your clients?
A: Finish, size, and form
words of wisdom
Expert tip: A window into a client’s color palette is usually found in their art.
Favorite finish: Unlacquered brass, burnished bronze for those who don’t like fingerprints, and verdigris.
Favorite gemstone Moonstone, tigers eye or turquoise…I really can’t choose, it depends on the project and piece.
Describe your style in 3 words: Collected, colorful, and smart.