“A well-appointed home becomes a reflection of who lives and breathes inside of those four walls … a plan that tells a story of who inhabits the space in which we have been entrusted to define,” says interior designer Barri Thompson. And one look at her diverse portfolio is proof-positive that she maintains a laser focus on her clients’ unique personalities, style sensibilities and functional needs. We are delighted to introduce this dynamic designer — of Barri Thompson Interiors and Pepper Place home decor boutique, Atmosphere Home Essentials — as today’s Interior Designer Crush. We asked Barri to describe her design aesthetic, let us in on some tricks of the trade and give us a glimpse of her stunning portfolio. We hope you enjoy!
What is your design aesthetic and how do you translate that to a client’s home?
My personal design aesthetic is modern mixed with a bit of comfortable, not fussy, boho chic. When I’m designing for a client, it’s not totally about my personal taste but rather bringing my experience and hopefully my expertise to the table. It’s extremely important to me to listen to what my clients want and how they envision their home looking and feeling. Having said that, I do lean more to a modern, clean, nontraditional aesthetic, because that’s what I love, and it’s most likely where I am best utilized.
Tell us about your showroom at Pepper Place, Atmosphere Home Essentials.
Atmosphere has been at Pepper Place for the last 13 years, which is so hard to believe! We have seen a lot of changes through the years, and we are incredibly grateful to all of those who have supported us through the ups and downs of retail. We are a small business with big ideas — we just wanted to bring the modern vibe to a traditional city to show that being different is exciting and allows for such endless possibilities in your home.
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
The “minimalist” trend is certainly huge right now — a bit more on the West Coast than in the South. While I do love the super clean vibe, I also need to see things that bring a home to life. I’m not one for a lot of trinkets everywhere, but I do love seeing a collection of books, artwork, pottery or anything else that is important to the homeowner and makes them feel “connected” to their space.
There is no doubt that brass is back, and it’s everywhere! I must admit that I love the antiqued and weathered brass far more than the polished. I’m also having a giant crush on matte black and matte white fixtures for kitchens and baths.
There are so many timeless elements to design, and I feel strongly about incorporating them into the overall plan. I’ll most likely never tire of beautiful, exotic wood pieces, certain Calcutta marble, an antique bar cart or a beautiful, tufted ’40s-style loveseat. Trends are going to come and go, but when you sprinkle in timeless pieces, your home feels more “designed” than “contrived.”
What brings you the most professional joy?
I absolutely get the most professional joy from having a client who is thrilled with their home. Since I’ve been in business, my mantra has been to “love where you live.” If I can be a part of that love, then I have done my job and served my client to the best of my ability. One day, not too long ago, I was leaving my client’s house and she hugged me and said, “I hated this house after we bought it, and I just knew we had made a huge mistake. To see the transformation now makes me so happy, and I can’t wait to get home every day.” I thought I was going to cry when I left her house. Thank you, Mimi, for those amazing words of encouragement!
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from so many different places and people. Often, it’s brought to me by the gift of travel, which is a huge part of my life. Having the opportunity to see the world and the way that others live is incredibly inspiring to me. I’m still such a paper junkie, so my idea of a perfect lazy Sunday is to pile on the sofa with all my design magazines and look at all the beautifully talented designers out there who create spectacular spaces for their clients. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of talent in the world AND the amount of talent in Birmingham! My friends inspire me to be a better person; the outdoors inspire me to think about color in a different way; my boyfriend inspires me to be a less serious, calmer partner; and designers I love inspire me to be brave and to let go of comparison (which will destroy my contentment).
Who have been your industry mentors and role models and why?
One of my mentors is also one of my dear friends, Grant Trick. He has shown me that hard work and determination is only the beginning. Many people out there work hard and tirelessly only to feel that their dream is not being realized. There have been times in my life where I have felt just that, and Grant has reminded me about commitment to myself and what I feel my calling is — not someone else’s. I’ve watched his business skyrocket to places that I know shocks and surprises him, and that’s because of a work ethic that is relentless. Hopefully, one day I can be the rock star he is!
There are many designers that I look up to, but I’m not sure that I consider any of them role models. For me, that term has more to do with a moral compass and less to do with what you can achieve with vintage velvet. I have followed and admired Kelly Wearstler, Phillipe Stark and Patricia Urquiola for quite a while, and I think they are so talented and so vastly different from one another — I love their “edge.” Honestly, I am obsessed with mid-century design, and in my opinion, some of the greatest architects and designers are from that era. Some of my favorites are Jean Prouvé, Hans Wegner, Charles and Rae Eames, Eero Saarinen and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and that’s just a start!
How does Birmingham’s design scene differ from the rest of the country?
Birmingham’s design scene is certainly rooted in tradition, which has been a challenge throughout the years. We are a city that has a hard time letting go of the “old” or the familiar.” In the past five to seven years, I have seen some very exciting changes in our city, and I think there are some designers here that are ridiculously talented and they are pushing the envelope with their clients and more cutting-edge design. I’m so proud to be part of such an incredible community of architects and designers — it truly is an honor.
Share one designer secret with us regular folk.
I’m not sure if I really have any design “secrets” — maybe just design tips. Don’t leave your ceiling out when you’re painting a room; it’s your fifth wall. Change your pillows and throws on sofas, beds, chairs, etc. seasonally, keeping things cozy and warm during the fall and winter and light and airy for spring and summer. When selecting larger pieces of furniture, keep it neutral; let your inspirational colors be in the smaller details, which are easier to change and obviously less expensive. Let your home breathe! Don’t be afraid of negative space; everything in your home can’t be the star. Choose wisely and splurge on two or three meaningful pieces, and don’t use all of them in the same room. The very best tip I can offer is hire a designer!
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into four words, what would they be?
Love where you live!
Thank you, Barri, for sharing your insights, inspirations and impressively diverse design portfolio. To contact Barri, visit barrithompsoninteriors.com.
And stop by Atmosphere Home Essentials showroom at Pepper Place at 224 29th St. South, Ste. I, Birmingham, AL 35233 or call (205) 324-9687. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
See who else we’re crushing on in our interior design archives. Click here and enjoy a look around!