Friday, May 14, 2010

Barbara Moore

Interior designer Barbara Moore told us that she was kicked out of dance classes when she was little girl because she wanted to do her own thing—perhaps that dance teacher should have let her stick around because this is one organized, directed and disciplined individual. She’d probably have ended up running the class—not that she’s bossy—just focused and level-headed, and obviously very independent. She plays the piano, takes yoga classes, sails, plays chess and sews—we fear, all of it accomplished by paying the same attention to detail with which she runs her Brooklyn-based design business.

We wanted to ask if it’s a problem when friends and family ask for your decorating advice?

Well, everyone has a home they want to decorate. You have to really use your resources. If they have existing things, maybe it’s really re-arranging, painting and buying one key item.
A low antique table from Asia is topped with stacks of art books and lacquer objects from southeast Asia.
In the living room a piano stool and an antique Chinese jewelry box stand under glass console table from Ercole. The dining room table and chairs are from Swaim.
Looking across the second floor living/dining room.
A mirror from Christopher Guy hangs above the fireplace mantel.
So leading on from that, how you work with clients who don’t necessarily have a great deal of money.

You have to be flexible. We have people come in and say, listen I have a budget of
$10 000 and I want to re-do my living room. So we charge a minimal fee—sometimes if it’s one room and it’s very specific, I’ll give a flat fee. Then I detail the number of meetings and presentations, so if someone has a limited budget, I tell them what is included in this flat fee to maintain your budget.

Did you find that difficult in the beginning, to be clear about the money?

I’m clear but every client is so different, and they all have different ways about them, so it’s really reading and understanding [them]. I started out in psychology, so it’s been a huge help—because you really listen.
A velvet sofa and pair of upholstered sofas from Swaim provide comfortable seating in the living room corner.
An often-used chess set stands atop a white side table from Hickory Chair. (She plays chess with her father. “Who wins?” – “I do.”) A reproduction elephant side table provides a whimsical touch to the living room.
Barbara designed an open plan kitchen for easy access and entertaining. The hanging fixture is from Arteriors.
Ready to cook.
A secretary from Emerson et Cie anchors the windowed south wall of the living room.
The X-shaped legs of a desk chair from Christopher Guy provide an interesting design twist to an otherwise traditional chair.
A glass bird perches atop a small side table from Oly Studio.
What have you learned about people then?

I think it’s really important to look at how the person holds themselves, how they speak. Are they distinguished? Or are they more humble, casual or relaxed? Do they wear cologne? Is it person who doesn’t like to wear makeup? If we have a client that comes in and she’s very detailed, like her bag matches her shoes and her hair is perfect and her makeup is astounding—I mean I don’t have time for this but there are people that do—when you see that, you have to react to their being and what they represent.

But people must surprise you too?

Oh they do. But ninety percent: what you see is what you get. That’s life’s long story.

You look very orderly, the way you’re dressed.

I am. I’m very organized.
In the master bedroom a headboard from Century is dressed up with linens from Ann Gish.
Original photograms of vintage slips by artist Madeline Longstreet flank the master bedroom window.
Linens from Ann Gish dress up the bed. The wallpaper is from Arteriors. A cable box is ingeniously tucked behind the flat screen TV.
Barbara’s sister Carla and her new niece Molly.
A Murano glass chandelier from Dorian Webb illuminates the bedroom.
You can see it in your posture—were you ever a dancer?

I did [take dance classes] when I was a little girl but I got kicked out of dance classes because I wanted to do my own thing. The teacher had to have a discussion with my mother.

So you have a rebellious side. You look like very good girl to me.

I try … I grew up in Pittsburgh …

Ah … I knew you weren’t from New York. You’re so wholesome-looking!

That’s what I’ll get. People think I’m from the mid-West … I’ll take that as compliment … [laughs] that’s funny!
An iron bookcase from Thomas O’Brien is used as a stand for the flat screen TV. The large simulated fossil is from Phoenix Art Galleries.
A pleated ‘Morning Glory’ floor lamp from Aqua Creations illuminates a corner of the living room.
Clockwise from above: A series of metal wall art pieces by Douglas came from Phoenix Art Galleries; A photo of Barbara and her sister Carla leans against colored aluminum vessels by Babette Holland; A grouping of 19th century Chinese tea stools is a practical solution to a coffee table.
Why did move from psychology to design?

I think I recognized that I was creative and I wanted to be in field where I could utilize those resources … just be in a whole different world and not to take on the burdens of so many people that need psychological treatment. I kind of had a change of heart. I was at the University of Pittsburgh and I took [design] classes at a [smaller school] in tandem so that I could make sure. When I felt comfortable I made the transfer and switched all my credits.

So how would you describe your aesthetic?


I have to say I can really appreciate being eclectic. Because if you have a nice balance and a mix, you tend to create a more timeless environment, one that you don’t get tired of—and textures. A lot of my clients are like: “You’re the texture girl.”

Are there any real differences between your Brooklyn clients and your Manhattan clients?

I think sometimes what’s challenging about answering that question is that often the Brooklyn clients own the entire brownstone and so they’ll have casual rooms and formal rooms. In the city you may have a smaller space, so you’re really trying to key in on exactly what it is they want.
The southern view across Atlantic Avenue from the top floor of Barbara’s house.
Barbara’s outdoor terrace is perfect for entertaining in warmer weather.
A carefully arranged group of prints and mirror hang above a small bench from Barbara’s grandfather. A Chinese wedding bed dominates the third floor guest bedroom.
Peeking into the Chinese wedding bed.
Clockwise from above: A waterfall chandelier from Zia Priven hangs from the ceiling of the guest bedroom; A wing chair from Century sits next to a whimsical lamp from Luna Bella; Barbara designed the hand-sewn coverlet to give it an Asian feel.
A now-vintage watercolor of the twin towers stands atop an old radio cabinet from India.
So tell us what you like about Brooklyn.

Just how gentrified it is … and how many different types of people you meet, and how open people are to life and living and experiencing new things.

You’re one of these people that when you’re Googled, a Playboy Playmate of the Year, also called Barbara Moore, comes up … has that helped or hindered?

[Laughs] It’s funny! Most of our male clients notice it the most and comment on it the most. It takes a while for the female clients to then say, oh by the way I Googled you … but the men right away, no matter what nationality, what religion, it doesn’t matter … I’ve often thought of calling her and saying like, do you want to host a party together?

• Sian Ballen • photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch