AT Interviews: Housing Works' Designer Barclay Butera

AT Interviews: Housing Works' Designer Barclay Butera

Jill Slater
Jun 6, 2007

Barclay Butera is inspired by the Hollywood Regency era which emphasizes clean, classic, tailored lines and fabrics. . He likes to express the concept of casual elegant living in his clients' homes.

Most recently, he applied his approach to interiors at Housing Works' Design-on-a-Dime Benefit.

Barclay agreed to answer some questions for us about how and why he designs, and about his vignette for the event...

What drew you to design as a career/interest?
I grew up in the business, working with my mother as she designed the interiors of model homes and private clients worldwide. I earned my degree in political science and economics, then leaned towards law but I returned to interior design within a year, and found myself with the business opportunity to create and run – from design to marketing and sales - my own high-end casegoods company in Los Angeles. About 14 years ago I launched my company with a retail showroom in Newport Beach, CA, doing a great deal of interior design in the area. My clients grew with me – I really believe in a "client for life" philosophy, because you never know when the person with a one-bedroom apartment will suddenly own a major home. That's a lot of fun to build that relationship and I often become friends with my clients.

Tell us where you're from and where you do most of your work.
I grew up in Northern California, but my company has been based for 15 years in Newport Beach, CA, which I love. I have showrooms in Newport; two in Los Angeles including one at the Pacific Design Center; in Park City, UT; and in New York City at the D&D Building. I do a lot of work in the Western US and in NYC, and a lot of my upholstery is also found in Florida. My company has 20 active ASID designers on staff.

What do you call your vignette?
South Seas Asian

Where (and how) do you start shopping for an event like this?
I went to Asian import shops for the art; found close-out paint; silk draperies were on clearance. I also mixed fun designs that were coral plates, mixing them with bamboo feel painting and flanked by framed seaweed. Everything was daily materials treated in a fresh way.

What made your Design on a Dime room the best?
Everyone had creative ideas, but we were the only ones to focus on the Asian theme with coral reds and mossy greens and subtle blues. It was a fresh, soothing, spa-like feeling.

What was your favorite piece you used?
The main piece of art in the vignette, which was a last-minute find. It displays a washed Asian forest feel done with trees and bamboo with a lady on canoe. It's like an Asian river scene.

Is the design process for this kind of event much different from how you work on a client project?
Absolutely. Everything we did was thinking about the practicality of Real Simple. Didn't think of using expensive product, but instead re-used product from past seasons, and using things that are accessible for people to make themselves.

What was your best thrift shop find?
I love finding old English silver boxes in unexpected places. I've found them at Santa Monica Flea Market and at Portobello Road in England.

What advice do you have for people looking to "design on a dime"?
Be creative. Mixing resources is sometimes a nice surprise.

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