Charlotte Barnes Brings Light and Color to a Shingle-Style Home

With a sophisticated blend of old and new, Charlotte Barnes helps a client trade in a traditional Tudor for a new shingle-style home

Charlotte Barnes Interior Design

A simple truth in decorating: When life changes, redecorate. With children heading off to school, one Fairfield County resident took this truism a step further and traded in her traditional Tudor-style house for a shingle style in the same neighborhood. The stone-and-clapboard house built by Pagliaro Bartels Sajda Architects reminded the homeowner of summers spent in Nantucket. And the inside was perfect: lit from within with natural light, and not one architectural detail needed to be changed. “I saw this house and thought this is the house that brings family together. It’s light and happy, and every space is a place where we can all be together,” says the homeowner. When it came to the interiors, she turned to Greenwich-based decorator Charlotte Barnes. “We’ve worked together on multiple projects, and there wasn’t a question about it,” says the homeowner. “I trust her completely.”

Barnes, known for her classic sensibility with a modern edge, was charged with bringing a light touch, color and a fresh spin to some of her client’s more traditional pieces. “She was really looking to change the way she lived and the style of the house,” says Barnes. “She loves color and pattern, but her furnishings were very heavy and dark. We decided to go for something lighter and take the things she is passionate about—like her contemporary art collection—and do something different.” The result is a bright, light-filled house animated with personal objects and surprises at every turn.

One of these surprises is located in the breakfast room. “She had this massive painting, and it was so amusing and outrageous, we had to find a spot for it.” The painting—found by the client in Italy (“I call it my faux-tero,” she says)—depicts two exaggerated figures sunbathing on the beach. Barnes took color inspiration from the artwork and covered the banquette in Home Couture’s Contessa fabric, added ticking and a tangerine ikat that, with the painting, make the room sing. “This room just makes me smile. This is one of Charlotte’s great talents,” says the homeowner. “Every nook and cranny is filled with something that is personal, wonderful and surprising. I love the combination of contemporary, antique and comfort.”

Charlotte Barnes Living Room

The designer’s strategy of blending old with new is perhaps best exemplified in the dining room, where she paired the client’s antique dark mahogany table with acrylic Z chairs and a chandelier layered with glass rings. “This was the big contemporary leap,” says Barnes. “I love the idea of these acrylic chairs against this beautiful antique table and the steely blue rug that is both warm and whimsical. It’s formal and laid back at the same time, just like my client.”

The rest of the house mirrors this laid-back sophistication. In the living room, Barnes replaced a wood fireplace with a simple black slate one. A powerful Marilyn Minter photograph gives the room a contemporary edge, but not so much that antique chairs won’t be at home there. Outside the master bedroom is one more of those surprises: an antique bench with the original tapestry that Barnes juxtaposed with a Moroccan mirror. And then there’s the library, which Barnes lacquered in an orange-red glaze. “I was really afraid of that color,” says the client. “But this room was a home run.” A chocolate geometric rug mixes with paisley swivel chairs. A window seat stretches the length of the room and is loaded with pillows in a myriad of patterns and textures. “If I ever put these colors on a board, you would think I was completely crazy! But it just works,” says Barnes.

“I feel like I’ve moved into a house that is more me,” says the client. “Part of that comes with age, and part of that is the stars aligning. I love sitting outside at night with the lights on inside and seeing the different palettes of the house. It’s just wonderful.”


A version of this article appeared in the January 2014 issue of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens with the headline: A Lighter Touch.