Curate a Lively Dining Room Mix

Sometimes a no-brainer is nice. Like my fit-and-flare navy cotton frock with its matching skinny belt. Or if I’m going to get the fries with my protein-style burger at In-N-Out (one glance through the window at the hypnotic potato-julienning aerobics, and it’s a given).

And even a set of matching bed linens can be just fine. Or NOT.

Maybe it’s the drummer in my head, but I think home decor is a splendid place to twirl out of one’s matchy-matchy comfort zone.

Consider seating for meals, for example. In my generation (no calculations, please) you grew up eating three squares around a sturdy wooden oval, soldiered by its chair clones. Your parents pinched pennies for said solid maple, and for its casual (and I reckon more FABULOUS) cousin—the dinette set—clad in laminate and thigh-grabbing vinyl.

Sets surrounded us. The kitchen. The dining room. All the bedrooms. Bath towels and fuzzy toilet-enveloping creatures. And then there were the matching outfits my sisters and I sported. (But that’s another tale.)

It was all perfectly coordinated for us. A no-brainer and no surprise. And while beautiful, quality sets surely still have their place, I think that’s why now, I tend to avoid the MATCHIES.

I was chatting with my friends over at Chairish, and they challenged me to put together some dining spaces that mix it up a bit. Where you can delight not only in your latest farmer’s market creation, but in the curated color and life where you sit.

And colorholic that I am, I went for it. Of course I tossed in a couple of my pillow designs. Enjoy my Style Boards below and let me know what you think in this post’s comments!

Here’s an Eclectic Dining Room that mixes the colorful fun of Mid-Century, with the cushy comfort of proper armchairs. Wood and pottery for warmth, original art and pillows for POP and life.

Colorful Eclectic Dining Room Decor
(Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Anthony Armchairs – Pair, My Bicoastal Sari Waves Pillow, Sculptural Leg Dining Table, Mid-Century Tangerine Chairs, Aldo Londi Bitossi Black And Gold Pottery Bowl, My Bicoastal Denim Trellis Pillow, 5-Foot Ficus Tree from, Moon Rising Painting by Bryan Boomershine, Vintage Oval Gold-Leaf Mirror, Zen, Blue/Lilac I. 2016 Original Oil Pastel.)

Next, I couldn’t resist this Palm Beach Look, that admittedly isn’t as much of a stretch with mixing up the furniture (same manufacturer). But it demonstrates how two chair-pairs add instant interest! Glitzy warmth in the artwork, a fun paint color, statement lighting and plants! Would Dorothy Draper approve?

Lively Tropical Style Dining Space
(Ficks Reed Colony White Rattan Armchairs, Ficks Reed Green Rattan Armchairs, Early Saarinen Knoll Round Tulip Table, Large gold rounde succulent planter from InGaConcrete on Etsy, Jo Mattison “Orange Beach” Painting, Sirmos Tropical Leaf Chandelier, Banana Plant from, Pottery Urn.)

Finally, I hope some unexpected elements in this Artsy Chic Dining Room. (And clearly I still love my chartreuse!)

Artsy Boho Mod Dining Room
(Poul Volther J110 Chair, 16-Piece Vintage Napkin & Placemat Set, Metal Dining Table With Sculptural Legs, 1960s Milo Baughman Style Upholstered Bench, Mid Century Lime Dining Chairs, Green and Black Abstract Vase, 5.5 foot Column Artificial Cactus, Sleeping Women Pastel Drawing Signed W. Gray, Dorothy Draper Style Glam Mirror.)

Many of these pieces are still available over at Chairish. Just click the links below the photos.

Chairish is a designer’s (and a design-junkie’s) dream really. An exclusive, curator-approved online marketplace for beautifully designed items, many of which are rare or one-of-a-kind. So if a piece I link to here is sold out, click to Chairish’s main page or its dining chairs, tables or artwork pages.

(And FYI, I get no compensation for Chairish items sales. Same on the artificial plants.)

So, what are your thoughts on these or your own dining spaces? How do you Mix it Up??

Or share about the coolest “mixed-up” dining space you’ve visited! Chime in with a comment.

Featured on Designer Insights @ Terrys Fabrics

I am thrilled to share this Designer Insights feature that Terrys Fabrics did on my work. It’s one big image—just click on it to zip over to Terrys and read the feature!

Terrys Fabrics, a well-known UK fabric and home decor retailer, is profiling 500 designers from around the world in this FAB part of its blog. In addition to discussing my textile work, I also got to choose some lovely picks for the season:

  1. Jackson Gears 2 photograph by Nancy Manning of Hornbeck Design Partners
  2. Silk Shadow Rug in Amethyst from NW Rugs
  3. The Side Table in Chocolate & White by TinyLionsDesigns on Etsy.
  4. My Paradise Art Deco hand-silk screened pillow in Purple on Avocado (at my Etsy shop).
  5. The Elan Chair by Nathan Anthony Furniture

Enjoy and thanks much to Terrys!!

Courtesy of: Terrys Fabrics

A Design Breakthrough

“So I want to knit beadboard,” I said to a friend in my machine knitters group. Her eyes moved up and to the side like you do when you are trying to remember that math formula from ninth grade.

“You know, that white-painted wainscoting that you see in beach cottages? I want to knit that.”

Cottage Beadboard

The look of vague recollection inched across her face. “Hmmm,” she said.

These women are marvelous artists, churning out vibrant and textural fabrics from their basements and guest rooms, but they mostly focus on knit clothing like sweaters, winter wraps and fitted knit jackets a la St. John’s and Chanel.

Without them, I’d be trapped in my studio in a tangle of yarns, needles and strange looking mechanisms, and I’d NEVER have tracked down that obscure left mounting bracket. And heck, I could now knit cables and trendy, round holes into my fabrics.

But I realized I might be alone in my quest to knit architecture.

Okay. Never stopped me before.

I had already figured out how to knit shingles, so I pressed on.

It must have been three, maybe four monthly meetings later when I ambushed our speaker during the break. “Hey, here is what I am trying to do, and it just doesn’t look like beadboard yet,” I babbled as I waved my knit sample in front of her fanciful cardigan.

This renowned goddess of machine knitting nonchalantly said, “Have you tried doing this?” Chimes went off in my head. That was the solution, I could feel it.

So that night I did it for the first time. After the careful needle set up and transfer of stitches, I pushed the carriage back and forth and began to see knit beadboard appear below. And the sheen of the silky bamboo yarn was spot on for the look of semi-gloss paint. Shouts of “woo-hoo” carried throughout the house.

My Knit Sample

“I’ve knit beadboard!” I screamed. My husband Chuck just nodded his head in his quiet-guy equivalent to “You go girl!” while likely thinking, ‘What the heck is she up to now?’

Here is the result. The Knit Beadboard & Shingles Pillow, part of my Bicoastal Collection of color- and design-coordinated artisan pillows.

The Bicoastal Beadboard and Shingles Pillow by Kathy Barlow

Bicoastal Knit Beadboard and Shingles Designer Pillow

This is just the start…lots more knit architecture in my brain and sketchbooks.


What breakthrough have you made in your latest design project? Tell your story in the comments below!

Look Up

Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective.

I remember my sister Anne, the photography teacher, telling me about the ‘worm’s eye view,’ the name for perspective I captured while lying flat across the snow, peering through the icy driftwood, and focusing across the water. The Lake looked massive, yet grounded—I still love that shot.

And as a textile designer, my eyes are always open for uncommon inspiration. In midtown Sacramento the other day, I was reminded of one of the simplest things I do to spark an idea.


Yup, I simply LOOK UP.

Especially when striding city sidewalks while enveloped in the tunnel of high-rises, we tend to see the place at our eye level. And to think about where we’ve been (that client meeting) and where we’re headed (Starbucks?!).

Granted, sometimes what we see left and right can indeed be striking. But so can the oft-overlooked world overhead. You might not believe what’s up there.

Check it out—Within one block and five minutes that day in Sacto, here’s only some of what I saw:

(Click on photos see more detail.)

The view at ground level:
Sacramento Architecture Street Level One

And when I looked up:
Look Up for Inspiration Sacramento Architecture One

Have I just been transported to a grand museum? To Florence?

Another building from the sidewalk:
Sacramento Architecture Street Level Two

And glancing skyward:
Look Up for Inspiration Sacramento ArchitectureTwo

A symphony of motif & pattern here! Click this photo and you’ll spy many starting points for designs.
So, are you a fellow looker-upper?

If not, do me a favor. The next time you’re hoofing it in the City (wherever the city may be), snap out of that ‘tunnel vision.’

Take an extra minute or two to pause…

and LOOK UP.
And tell us in the comments below, and show us (#LookUp on Twitter) what you saw…can’t wait!

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