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Designer Relishes the Grace of Space

* Barbara Barry, who speaks Tuesday in O.C., simplifies life with uncomplicated decor.


When was the last time you really lingered over your living room? Or paused to admire your bedroom? If it's been a while, perhaps you should take a hint from interior designer Barbara Barry.

She said stopping to enjoy your home is important in today's run-run-run world.

"'I think we're beginning to understand that time is our greatest commodity," said Barry, who will talk more about gracious living Tuesday morning in Newport Beach as part of the Decorative Arts Society's lecture series. "Some women, especially those who are working away from home, now feel that being home is a luxury."

Barry is one of those who works in an office but appreciates time at her Los Angeles home.

"Sitting here, glancing around my living room, I can enjoy the soft colors: celery, avocado, dusty green and dusty lavender with brown furniture. And there's a mixture of furniture periods too. I have things from the Art-Deco period, a piece I designed, a piece I found," Barry said. "Beyond all that, I can look out and see magnificent green trees."

A calming environment is essential for Barry, who owns an interior design company that caters to demanding celebrities and architects. In addition, she designs for Baker Knapp and Tubbs furniture, Tufenkian rugs, Baccarat crystal, Haviland china and Bagni Volpi linens.

To simplify her life, she prefers uncomplicated decor.

"I don't want to be surrounded by everything I own. I like the presence of absence--like fresh, clean tables and muted colors," she said. "To me, a bowl of polished green apples on a table can be equal to a flower arrangement."

Barry compares designing a room to accessorizing a wardrobe. She alters rooms by changing small items. In the summer, she uses linen pillows and a wooden tray to accent her living room. In winter, she displays velvet pillows and silver trays.

Even napkins change. During the week, she uses practical napkins. On Saturday night, she lays out white damask ones, and for Sunday brunch, she might use cheerful plaids.

"Simple acts done graciously are important," she said.


The Decorative Arts Society's 2000-01 lecture series begins Tuesday with Barry speaking on "Gracious Living, a Certain Sensibility."

Other speakers include:

* Nov. 14: "American Treasures in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms" by Gail F. Serfaty, director of the diplomatic reception rooms, Department of State and curator of the Blair House in Washington.

* Feb. 6: "Pioneers in American Landscape Design" by landscape and garden historian David Streatfield.

* March 13: "The ABCs of Toile de Jouy" by Murray B. Douglas of Brunschwig & Fils Inc.

* April 10: "Imitation as Inspiration: Chinese Influences in America" by William R. Sargent, curator of the Department of Asian Export Art, Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

Lectures begin with a reception at 9:30 a.m. at the Edwards Newport Cinemas, 300 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach.

Tickets may be purchased at the first lecture.

The cost for the series is $160, with the proceeds going to New Directions for Women, a nonprofit organization providing treatment services to women experiencing problems with alcohol or other chemicals.

For information, call (949) 675-2415.

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