Special Nonexistent Furniture

by Gail Barley Interiors

Gail Barley is a Certified Interior Decorator and a member of the Designer Society of America. Her mix of antiques and new pieces gives her a unique style and avoids the “showroom look.” She artfully creates rooms using a combination of your favorite furniture, and new and vintage pieces. She can design a room in a number of styles, from traditional and sophisticated, to comfy and cozy, to clean and modern. Gail has an extensive knowledge of antiques and collectibles that she uses to enhance her designs. Her rooms all have a unique, yet welcoming feel.

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  • We asked the designer of these traditional and timeless rooms to reveal how she brought the whole look together. Lucky for us Gail Barley, the founder of Gail Barley Interiors in Orlando, Fla., didn't stop there. Keep reading to find her pro tips on how to use family heirlooms and antiques to create this cheerful look in your own home.
  • 1. What were you trying to accomplish with the design of this space/project? 

    ​This is actually my own home. These two rooms are the more formal living spaces. I am old fashioned in that I like homes with defined spaces. These rooms are always used on special occasions because they are large enough to accommodate my big extended family. At other times, the living room is a nice quiet space to read or have a conversation. The dining room is where I keep all of my heirloom china that I enjoy using when I entertain. Some of it has been passed down through family and some collected over the years.

    2. What was the inspiration for the project?

    These rooms started out with items I've inherited. I am sentimental about many of the pieces I own so I was determined to make the antique and vintage pieces work. The dining table and chairs belonged to my maternal grandparents and the gold chairs in the living room once belonged to my paternal grandparents. I had the chairs reupholstered to work in the room. They are a little small for the space, but I think these little imperfections make a home unique.

  • 3. How did you choose the color palette? 

    The color palette came from the large red and blue rug in the living room that I also inherited from my grandmother. The smaller rug in the room was also hers. The larger rug wasn't big enough for both seating areas, so I was able to use the smaller rug in the secondary seating area. I think these traditional rugs and color palettes give the room a timeless quality.
    4. What element did you start with?

    Aside from the rugs I mentioned earlier, the drapery was another big element. The window treatment design in the dining room was inspired by a quirky piece of scalloped wood trim across the top of the bay window.  I didn't want to remove this original feature but I felt like it was a little informal so I covered it up with a valance.

    5. The rug in the living room appears to be the same as the one in the dining room. Any reason why you decided to repeat this element?  

    Actually, the rugs are quite different in pattern, though the color palette is the same. The dining room opens into the living room and I feel like the use of similar rugs in similar palettes ties the rooms together.
  • 6. How did you begin the design process? 

    In the large living room, it was definitely the floor plan that was a big factor. This room has very little wall space. The blue sofa sits against the only long wall in the room. The built-in bookcases, large fireplace and the large window overlooking the lake were features I had to design around. It was also important for me to have a space for my antique Steinway baby grand which I play frequently, but badly!  

    7. What is your favorite part of the project and why?

    ​The best part of these spaces is that they are so personal! As I've mentioned, the family heirlooms were of great importance, but I also love to read, so the bookcases and all the books represent that passion. The piano shows my love of music and singing and, of course, I can't leave out decorating! Most of the pieces were collected over years from family, antique jaunts and travels. In addition to family furniture and china, the dining room contains a piece of needlework done by one of my ancestors in 1850. 

  • 8. What are your tips for someone trying to recreate the look of this project?

    Don't be afraid to mix old and new. If you are lucky enough to have inherited special things, use them! A mix of old and new gives a home character. When I have clients who balk at buying vintage furniture, I tell them that they are bound to scratch the furniture so why worry about buying it pre-scratched? I would also say, don't worry about following trends, they come and go, set your goal on something timeless. I have had some of these furnishings for 20 years or more and I still love them.
    9. What is your favorite designer trick?

    Reupholstering furniture! It is amazing what a little imagination, beautiful fabric and my fabulous upholsterer can do to transform a dated piece of furniture into a gem.
    10. Finish the sentence: Every room needs something ______.

    Personal and meaningful. 

    11. What is your best piece of advice for someone who is redecorating their home?

    Other than call me? Don't decorate based on what everyone else is doing. Choose colors and pieces that you really love; after all you are the one who has to live there! Select carefully, admit when you are wrong, and replace anything that doesn't work for you anymore.

    See more from Gail Barley Interiors in our Inspiration Gallery.
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