You may be curious as to why we’re featuring books that have been out a while here on the Bruce Andrews Design Journal. The answer is quite simple: we are about timeless beauty that stands the test of time rather than flash-in-the-pan trendiness—unless what’s debuting now is something we feel will be tomorrow’s enduring design, that is. Today, I’m sharing my response to an ageless book by Barbara Barry titled Around Beauty, released in 2012 by Rizzoli.
This first book from the acclaimed interior designer illustrates why it is she has long been praised for her work’s quiet refinement, soothing palette and graceful tailoring. I enjoyed soaking in her design philosophy immensely, recognizing the resonance of her meditations on the transformative power of beauty. She takes the reader through a discussion about her principles of good design, which include simplicity, proportion, and harmony.
The morning I went through the book, I didn’t intend to sit with it for as long as I did but I was continually drawn in by the thoughts her writing inspired as I turned the pages—how beauty surrounds us and teaches us to live well; how it stimulates the shapes and the designs we at Bruce Andrews Design love. You can never truly pin beauty down, I thought; it’s only through admiration and wonder we can be guided to recognize it.
Barbara wrote, “Beauty is a positive force.” This is so true, and for me, it’s heard in a symphony; something that resonates in the soul. To her, a beautiful process equals a beautiful product. To take her concept further, I believe we could even equate preparing a well-conceived dinner as beautiful because both the meal and a finely designed product honor higher intentions. Just like designing an object, be it large or small, preparing a meal brings to its creator the treasure of getting lost in the soul of the activity.
As these realizations dawned, I was happy to be surrounded by nature, tucked into a lovely spot in the dappled shadows of trees springing up around a square in Savannah. But I could just as easily have been strolling through the alternating bright presence and dark absence of light punctuating the modern art in MoMA, or speeding through the golden hills hemmed in sea blue that rise and fall along the California coast. This is the breadth of the sensations that the exposure to such refined philosophies and the resulting elevated design has on my senses.
Barbara notes that whether it is a single piece or a collection, good design should bring its bearing upon the whole, as it’s the canopy of the entirety that leads to harmony, proportion and simplicity. I am struck by the fact that she pushes the envelope to express the special nature of unpretentiousness in the most elemental of places—the shape of an egg, for instance.
Harmony creates calm, she notes, and so it does, but only when the designs are finished to their most polished evolutions. When I’m involved in this process, I feel my soul spike with little pinpricks of excitement from the moment I begin sketching in my rough, ramshackled way, because I know a design is about to come to fruition. I’m always nervous, yet I feel confident that, like the kite surfers in Table Bay, I am conquering the waves—so much to achieve yet so heart-stopping as the activity proceeds.
As Barbara speaks of coming full circle in terms of forms—mentioning the uncomplicated plain white plate, for example—I am reminded of the precision of the artisans who first began to create their humble wares, the skills cherished as they moved forward in time and became more refined. There is no substitute for the real thing, I think to myself, in people and in the construction of things. If you read this lovely book, I’d be heartened if you would share your thoughts about it so please leave a comment below if you are so inclined.
This post, Barbara Barry Around Beauty, © Bruce Andrews Design, all rights reserved. Our furniture is now available through Nandina Home in Aiken, SC; Jalan Jalan in Miami, FL; Travis & Company in ADAC in Atlanta; and the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Dallas, TX. We will soon be showing in the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Houston and in the Michael-Cleary showroom in Chicago, IL.