Barbara Lewis, principal and owner of The Lewis Design Group, has over 25 years of interior design experience under her belt. With a lifelong passion for design that dates back to her childhood (she is the daughter of a master furniture craftsman), and an eduction from The New York School of Interior Design, Barbara continues to find inspiration from art, architecture and her travels throughout Europe.
Capture Barbara’s sleek, contemporary design sense with her personally consigned pieces on Sotheby’s Home.
How did you discover your passion for design?
As a young child with a father in the furniture business, I was instilled with an appreciation and passion for great design. But it wasn’t until I became engaged and was designing interiors for my own home that I realized that interior design was more than a passion and something that I wanted to become my life’s work. Shortly after getting married, I studied at the New York School of Interior Design, and the rest is history!
What is your favorite decorative object at home?
The mid-century tables I found in Paris this time last year are my ultimate favorites. It was love at first sight. They are tooled leather, brass and Lucite — just an incredible combination that truly sets these pieces apart. I used the tables for my design at Holiday House NYC, and loved them so much I brought them home with me. I don’t think I’ll ever part with them, although I have been asked!
Can you pick your five favorite items you are consigning and tell a little bit about what makes them special?
The black caned banquette that was the foundation for my design of Holiday House NYC is a remarkable piece. This Italian antique makes such a statement and feels modern with the custom upholstery in a Zimmer & Rohde neutral with animal print Cowtan & Tout cushions. This was such a conversation piece at the show house.
The white linen sofa and swivel chairs from my design for Holiday House Hamptons are beautiful foundation pieces that work with so many décors. Seating should have form and function, and these truly do. I love the graceful lines and they are just so comfortable as well. I am a big believer in neutral seating as the foundation of a room — these are simply fabulous go-to pieces that will stand the test of time.
The Mary McDonald for Schumacher panels that I used in my Holiday House Hamptons “Spa Sanctuary” are utterly gorgeous. They completely set the tone for a serene space for relaxation. In fact, I was so smitten with these, that I bought another pair for my own bedroom.
Another favorite piece from Holiday House Hamptons is the leopard ottoman with brown and white print fabric from Cowtan & Tout and pink Samuel & Sons trim. The combination of brown and white is a favorite of mine, as it’s so interesting to see how that combo changes with a third accent color. The pink trim on this is so visually appealing.
Is design an art or a science?
Both. Art is important for the vision and aesthetic end result, but it takes the precision of science to build a successful design with layout, measurements and proportion.
Do you have any go-to color or pattern combinations?
I have several, but the mix of brown and white is a favorite. It’s a great neutral background and is versatile, as it takes on different looks depending on the third color you use with it. Some of my favorite accent colors to use with a brown and white foundation are orange for an earthy, warm and cozy vibe, or soft pink for a feminine softening that evokes spring. For a gorgeous statement, aqua pops against brown and white — I love that mix for tabletops. At the end of the day, though, my “go-to color” is influenced by my client, and it’s my job to make their color preferences work.
When do you consider a completed project a success?
When everyone is happy. My number one goal is to exceed my client’s expectation, and it’s an added success when I create a design that I am proud to share.
Share your biggest design secret.
I have a few design “secrets” that I am always happy to share. Neutral foundations are wonderfully versatile. They stand the test of time and allow for quick refreshes by changing up the accent colors with minimal expense. Every room should have a contemporary piece of art — it is so effective in breathing life into a space. My design aesthetic is “classic yet current,” and to achieve that, I use classic pieces and update them with fresh colors and textures. For example, the antique banquette from Holiday House NYC is classic yet current with traditional elements that are re-imagined in fresh custom upholstery.
What is the most common design mistake you see?
It’s sad to see when people lack confidence and they just buy everything to match, and it all looks like a furniture store vignette. The most beautiful spaces are collected and layered with pieces that tell a story about the people who live there. Sotheby’s Home is a fabulous resource for finding those collected treasures that make a home feel and look good.
How do you balance style, comfort and functionality?
It’s important that you consider all these elements when designing. If you go too far with accessories and statement pieces, a space can feel over-the-top and like a Versailles salon. Likewise, if you are hyper-focused on function, your room can lack soul and feel like an office. To balance it all, I invest in quality furnishings that are made well, so they will hold their shape and function for years to come. Every room should also have elements that are purely decorative, because your home and life should have some things that are just for fun!
Is there a specific item you typically use as a starting point? (ex: rug, artwork, statement piece, furniture)
In most cases, I don’t get to choose the starting point and instead am tasked with incorporating an existing architectural element or beloved belonging. I have to be flexible and open to finding inspiration where you might least expect it. For example, at Holiday House NYC, my assigned room had an awkward marble bar. This challenging element turned out to be the jumping-off point for a Mad Men-era Manhattan bar lounge that was one of my most fun design projects to date.
What do you think about Sotheby’s Home?
The Sotheby’s name has cache and has earned trust that these are quality, well-vetted pieces. Collecting antiques and unique one-of-a-kind pieces can be intimidating for some, but Sotheby’s Home makes it a frictionless experience. I enjoy antiquing in Paris, but I love that I can shop Sotheby’s Home anytime, anywhere.