The Inside Man: Barney's Pop Art Loft

The Inside Man: Barney's Pop Art Loft

Maxwell Ryan
Jul 1, 2010
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Name: Barney Santos
Location: Downtown Los Angeles
Style: Fun, artistic, modern loft

With the help of Valspar Paint, I'm helping five guys across the country re-do a room in their home. My third meeting was with Barney, a newlywed, who wants to spiff up his apartment now that he lives with his wife, Evelyn.

While she's already done the bedroom, the main living area has all of his furniture in it, and he wants to make it great, but preserve his style. The job involves upgrading the window side of a big loft apartment in downtown LA, which connects to the dining room and Barney's home office. The tour took about one minute, and then we got down to figuring out the overall redesign, which is going to involve adding contrast and a splash of color to wake up the big space.

I wasn't quite sure what my approach to Barney's loft was going to be and, in some ways, this was the hardest job because he has the biggest wall and any color I put on it was going to have to be really, really good.

His walls are already painted with a medium beige color (he did it himself), which works pretty well, but is a bit monotonous after awhile. It's better than white, but it really needs an accent to wake it up. It also runs through the whole apartment, so I wanted to find a way to use an accent wall to separate the main area from the back bedroom.

So, what goes well with beige in LA for a MAN? This beige is really warm, but I didn't want to do a typical warm color, like red, orange or yellow, on walls this big. It just didn't feel right. His style is pop-y and modern, and I needed something offbeat but still warm. After shuffling the deck around in front of his walls, the greens really began to speak to me. Within minutes we'd isolated a range of greens that had a really nice contemporary feeling to them, but were also warm enough to work with the beige. They're in the avocado direction, and we both loved it.

We're also going to paint over the beige wall on the opposite side in the living room, so I matched his color to a Valspar Paint color, which, I think, will look even fresher. Then we tackled the windows. The windows are HUGE and amazing and old and factory green on the outside. The white inside, however, is dirty and doesn't work very well visually, so I matched it with a new color - a grey/green that will make this feature really stand out nicely.

• 1st Green - New Avocado - 6007-6A
• 1st Grey - Clivenden Grey Morning - 6001-1B
• 1st Beige Replacement - Holmes Cream - 3004-10B

Beyond needing to inject color, Barney's room is still rough and unfinished. While he doesn't have any clutter, he desperately needs to get his television off of the floor, and add some warmth and coziness to his home. His windows, while grand, have no curtains, so that his living room and home office (where he works for at least two hours each day) are blindingly bright and hot, too!

When I walked in, I could see that it was going to be hard to confine myself to his living room, as his "office" and dining room were all connected, and ALL in need of the same TLC. But with a big, blank canvas like this, change is easy.

Barney's living area is going to get three big changes, one of which we did while I was there.

    1. Paint Job - Paint will freshen the space, and adding color and tone to the windows and the big wall that runs from living room to home office is going to warm and define this loft.

    2. Re-Organization - Open lofts need to work harder than conventional homes to define and separate their rooms because they have no walls. Barney's living area was poorly defined and wasn't working very well. It needed immediate adjustment.

    We started the same morning I visited by moving Barney's desk out of the sun to the most interior wall, where it would be hidden from view when you entered the apartment, AND where the sun wouldn't bother him. We also moved the sofa beneath the window so that both the television and the working fireplace could be enjoyed. (I'm not a fan of putting televisions over fireplaces.)

    Now the television will have one wall to itself and will be lower, raised on a media console, while the stylish Barcelona Chairs (not original) can be shown off more. The B Chairs still act as a partition so that the living room is slightly separate, but your eye can travel right through, keeping the airiness of the room.

    3. New Furniture - Barney needs some stuff as this room is too empty! A complete list is below, but the important pieces are going to be the rug, which will define the living room, the curtains, which will soften the window, and a media console, which will add a ton of storage and anchor the television in a stylish way.

  • 12x12 rug in warm, rich reds
  • Long, low media cabinet to match coffee table, 6-8' long (we're going to check Suburban LA first, to see if they have one that will match Barney's coffee table, which he purchased there)
  • 2 floor lamps on either side of sofa
  • 1 low round table between B Chairs
  • Tall curtains with at least 50% light filtering
  • 1 table lamp on end of media cabinet (this gets me my total of 3 per room that I like)
  • 1 new piece of artwork above the fireplace
  • 1 mirror to insert into Barney's black painted frame

As we wrapped up our meeting, I left Barney with some things to consider over the next couple weeks:

  • Paint up the samples I'm going to send him
  • Check with Suburban to see if they have a matching media console
  • Start looking for a piece of art (this can take time, but it's the most fun)

While he does this, I'm going to finish up my tour and research a detailed list of suggestions that will fit within our price point. AND we're going to book a painter to get started as soon as the samples are OK'd.

We've teamed up with Valspar Paint to create The Inside Man, a special feature dedicated to daily (Monday – Friday) posts from Apartment Therapy and GQ about men’s color conundrums and style questions. From sofas with cup holders to brilliant bachelor pads, we’re focusing on the décor dilemmas men often bring to us.

• See my introduction to Barney here.
• Read more about guy style at
• Check out GQ's guide to guy style at

Photos: Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan
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