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Courtney Barnes is the gracious and Style Court dynamic writer of the popular design blog, Style Court (http://stylecourt.blogspot.com) one of the Internet’s best for classic designs and antiques.
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Often writing up to three posts a day, Ms. Barnes and reach out to an impressive worldwide reader base – a multi-fold achievement for Ms. Barnes, who has been wheelchair bound since childhood from cerebral palsy. It is her blog that has enabled this clever writer to overcome a handicap that only a few years ago would greatly limit her ability to “travel” and contact people the world over.
What makes Courtney Barnes so hip is that she is one of a rarer breed of young design enthusiasts who are passionate about traditional elements in the decorative arts. Her taste for the refined runs deep in her blood, as she shares her love of the classic arts with her grandfather, a completely self–taught aesthete from a rural town in Tennessee, who vicariously traveled the world through a dedication to study his two great design passions: historical architecture and antiques. Like Courtney, her grandfather gleaned a scholar’s vista of the world while never leaving his armchair — constantly researching and acquiring an amazing collection of photographs cut out from design books, magazines, and auction catalogues.
About her amazing grandfather, Barnes says, “Although he and my grandmother lived in a relatively modest house, they acquired many lovely things through their study of the fine arts. As my grandfather did, I also collect hundreds of design books and have more tear sheets of designs than I can count – and at the moment, I have over 150 design images on my iPhone. Although there are many artistic people in my family, I definitely have inherited my passion from my grandfather, and interestingly enough, I too have experienced the world without leaving home.”
An Atlanta native, Barnes is an Art History graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur – one of the “Southern Sister” colleges.
She worked as a docent for five years at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, where her favorite memories were of private evening tours. She doesn’t divulge more about that, but perhaps she could be coaxed into writing about it someday on Style Court!
A talented freelance writer who, in 2006, decided to start writing Style Court: a unique blog with links to related museum exhibitions, lectures, and books – and a forum for others who love classical design. The name of the blog is also a confluence of stylistic concepts, as “court” not only is a play on Barnes’ first name – it also means “a gathering place.”
Through her blog, Ms. Barnes evokes an appreciation for less trendy design approaches. She says, “Right now, the public is fed rooms decorated in a day; I understand why this works for TV/entertainment, but I think it can be much more gratifying to slowly build a room over time. Invest in a few great pieces that will last for decades – and collect objects you truly love.” She adds, “I grew up seeing the same reupholstered pieces re-done and successfully re-imagined over and over again. I try to inspire younger readers to do this too—recognize the strength and beauty of a well designed piece, keep it with you through time, but re-invent it to achieve today’s best look.”
Sensitive as she is dynamic, Courtney offers to us a quote by legendary designer, Mark Hampton, as words that have deeply inspired her: “At least our private worlds can reward us with peace and pleasure.”
Barnes reminds us that a physical handicap is only that: physical — never limiting us the true peace and pleasure that is created for our eyes and senses.
Taking much of it in stride too, she adds, “I don’t want to become overly conscience of the physical beauty of things, remembering that life’s real beauty is comprised of balance.”
Barnes’s eyes twinkle as she speaks about her niece and two nephews, Charlie, Bailey, and Jake – “I adore them,” she says. “A perfect day for me is to be near them—hearing them laugh and play, as I sip my favorite iced lattes in my design book filled office—all the while, I write and read emails from fantastic people with whom I share the for-um of Style Court. This blend of my private and public life that Style Court has afforded me has been so richly rewarding. I am grateful for its success.”
people: Collector Doris Duke; textile designer Carolina Irving, and designers with a youthful take on tradition: Peter Dunham, Schuyler Samperton, Mary McDonald, and Ruthie Sommers.
design trend:I try to focus on things that aren't trendy — antique or vintage pieces that will work forever. But sometimes timeless styles or specific items (chinoiserie, suzanis, Greek key) go through phases of being very hot and even overexposed; it's interesting to talk about that too.
museum exhibits: The High Museum of Art's exhibition Louvre Atlanta: The Eye of Josephine, and the Dorothy Methvin McClatchey Collection at Fernbank Museum.
fabrics: Chintz and Indian-inspired fabric
books: Lulu de Kwiatkowski's upcoming Lulu, Ruthie Sommers' The L.A. House and Rosemary Crill's Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West.
colors: Green, yellow, red
floral: Peonies are my favorite.
gifts: Books or simple glass vases; two great Atlanta sources are Providence Antiques and BD Jeffries.
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