Interior designer Barry Dixon is known for his sophisticated Southern design blended with global influences. Born in Tennessee, Barry spent his childhood abroad in countries including India, Pakistan, Korea, New Caledonia, and South Africa. The experience ingrained within Barry the ability to find inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Of particular inspiration is Barry’s 1907 Edwardian home, Elway Hall, located on over 300 picturesque acres of farmland in the heart of Fauquier County, Virginia’s horse country. Elway Hall also serves as headquarters for Barry’s world-renowned design firm, Barry Dixon, Inc.
In addition to being a design superstar, Barry is known for his warmth, charm, and hospitality. “I have found that there are pretty much only two camps of people when it comes to Barry: those who love him and those who have not yet met him,” said Mickey Riad of Fortuny in his foreword of Barry Dixon Inspirations. Barry’s work has been so popular that he has established exclusive collections with companies such as Fortuny, Arteriors, Avrett, Vervain, Tomlinson, C2 Paint, and more. He has been named one of House Beautiful’s Top 100 Designers, an “A-list designer” by the Washington Post, and a Master of Design by Veranda. I am honored to welcome Barry here today for a Q&A and a look at his portfolio! Photography by Ed Addeo, Gordon Beall, and Erik Kvalsvik.
Q: Please tell me about your childhood and how your global experiences helped shape your design aesthetic.
A: My father worked for a foreign metals corporation, and his work took him to disparate foreign lands, from India and Pakistan to Germany and Korea. We’d find ourselves setting up house in a Cape Dutch home with a thatched roof in South Africa or a modern glass and stucco home in New Caledonia…forever trading one cultural lifestyle and aesthetic for another dramatically different one. This cross-cultural pollination combined with an innate southern sensibility inspired by deep Tennessee roots colored and shaped my particular design aesthetic.
Q: What brought you to Virginia? I would love to hear more about Elway Hall.
A: After graduating from the University of Mississippi in the early 1980s, I spent a year working in Jackson. Some fraternity brothers of mine were making an adventurous move to Washington, DC and I joined them, taking a design position with an international firm based in Georgetown. Years later, while working on additions to the famed ‘Inn at Little Washington’ in Virginia’s Rappahannock County, I found myself falling in love with the Virginia countryside, especially Fauquier County and the hamlet of Warrenton, VA, which I’d pass through on my sojourn’s to the Inn. Discovering the fairy tale “Elway Hall” there, and finding it for sale, I was smitten. I’ve lived and worked here now for almost 20 years…
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: Truly…everywhere. On walks across the fields and streams of our Virginia farm. On trips through foreign lands and cities where I’m working or playing. In museums, art exhibitions, fashion shows and magazines. Deep in the woods and in the grittiest parts of the city. Even old films via the magic of Hollywood…I’ve paused the TV more than once to photograph a chair or cabinet that I’ve reproduced for a project. Inspiration is everywhere!
Q: You have collaborated to create a full range of exclusive collections with companies such as Fortuny, Arteriors, Avrett, Vervain, Tomlinson, and C2 Paint. What is next on the horizon?
A: More of the same. We’ll be adding new upholstery pieces to our line with Tomlinson soon…as well as new designs with Peyton Avrett and our collection there. I’m also working with Nina Butkin at Fabricut on new patterns and fabrics to add to those we already have with Vervain.
Q: Do you have any favorite go-to staples when it comes to paint colors, fabrics, wallpapers etc.?
A: I think all designers do. For me, my favorite ‘go to’ whites right now are 2 of my colors for C2 Paint: Drabware for a cool white tone and Goatsmilk for a warmer white. These work every time. I’m using lots of unlined sheer fabrics at the windows these days, often layering different sheer textures one over the other at windows for effect. I especially love our Foret wool sheer and Gawain textured casement fabrics for Vervain for this purpose. And our new Grotto Strie wallcovering, also for Vervain, is my new go to wall texture, available in 3 neutral colors, light, medium and dark. Instant drama!
Q: What is the first thing you do when embarking upon a new project with a client?
A: Get to know my client well. I can serve them best if I really understand who they are, what they love, how they live, what excited them the most! The client, along with the architecture of the home and its situation, serves as my muse for ever project.
Q: When it comes to details, you are a master… how do you go about creating the perfect finishing touch to a beautiful room?
A: Really, I think the best designers employ a 6th sense in this process…a skill that is honed and cultivated over time. The trick is that these finishing touches need to be unexpected but perfect. You know them when you see them.
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting from scratch with their interiors?
A: Ally yourself with the best designer you can find…one that will listen to you, understand you, and, in the end, transcend your wildest expectation. Follow your heart and buy the best pieces you can afford.
Q: How do you create interiors that stand the test of time?
A: Pull from the vast pantheon of aesthetic history and mix things up. Forget formulae in favor of taking measure chances. Forgo fads and trends and concentrate on classic pieces you love used in unconventional ways. Be original…
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Have fun!
Thank you Barry for joining us! What an inspiration, I could study these interiors all day! To learn more, please visit Barry Dixon, Inc. and follow @barrydarrdixon on Instagram for daily inspiration. I also highly recommend his books Barry Dixon Inspirations and Barry Dixon Interiors. Barry’s work can also be found in Farrow & Ball: The Art of Color, one of my favorite design books.