An American in Paris
From auspicious beginnings in LA to a design firm in Paris, Elliott Barnes’ ambition knows no bounds
Written by Jenn Thornton | Photos courtesy of Elliott Barnes Interiors
Elliott Barnes, AIA, interior designer and architect, is a man of the world. Educated in Architecture and Urbanism at Cornell University, Barnes got his professional start at the offices of Arthur Erickson Architects in Los Angeles. But it was a chance encounter with French designer Andrée Putman, at West Week in LA, that put him on another path—first to Paris, then headlong into the world of interior design.
All roads eventually led to the launch of Elliott Barnes Interiors. Through the firm that bears his name, Barnes creates narrative solutions that are both thoughtful and resolutely modern for an array of projects worldwide, along with furnishings and decorative design collections available through 1stDibs. All boast the Barnes hallmark: textured and layered minimalism. “All things new drive and intrigue the work we do,” divulges the designer, who uses materials and finishes to tell a story. “We love projects that ask us to answer different questions.”
Here, answering a few questions of our own, Barnes reflects on LA as a primary influence on his work as an international designer.
What or who were the most impactful influences in your formative years?
The influences continue, as do, I hope, the formative years. Important influences were Colin Rowe, Miles Davis, Andrée Picasso, David Hammons, Michelangelo, Le Corbusier, Yves St Laurent, Paris, and Los Angeles.
How did your Los Angeles upbringing affect your aesthetic?
LA is a mixture of improbable encounters that are assembled to create a heterogeneous city composed of different centers. I like that idea of bringing differences together, and binding them together, by bringing forth an underlying common theme.
What inspiration do you pull from a sense of place, be it LA or Paris?
By looking into both places, I pull from each a sense of the ephemeral and the eternal.
What are the qualities of Paris that make it a breeding ground for the work you do there and elsewhere?
Its light, scale, desire for novelty; its casualness and seriousness. Paris is right and left at the same time. It is in this continual contradiction that I find tremendous freedom.
Are there any aesthetic similarities between LA and Paris design?
They are really two different animals. Amongst other things, LA design is influenced by the climate. As a result, there is a blurring of the boundary between inside and out.
In what ways, specifically, do you infuse your work with emotion?
I like to set things in motion and then let the people who visit the spaces I create fill in a few of the blanks. If everything is fixed and evident, then nothing is required of those who inhabit the places.
What projects are you currently working on?
Most of our work is residential. We do exceptional institutional work as well. Right now we’re in the final phase of a large tasting center for La Maison RUINART in Reims.
What drives you today?
The desire to do something I’ve never done before.
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