By Catherine Belbin
Paris-based American architect Elliott Barnes, one of today’s high-flying, in-demand designers, will share his influential insights during the upcoming Downtown Design Forum series.
Barnes’ position as one of the world’s top designers was crowned this year when he was named in the Architectural Digest Top 100 list, and in the A-List by Elle Decor. This prestigious acknowledgement comes after over eight years on the AD France Top 100 list.
Prior to making his debut on the Downtown Design 2021 stage, the suave and sophisticated designer whose clients include fashion designers, footballers and other celebrities and hoteliers, speaks about his passion for his work, mentors and inspirations.
CB: You have often spoken about your respect for Frank Gehry. He has designed the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which is scheduled to open in 2026. What is it about his work that impresses you the most?
EB: Gehry has a vocabulary that allows him to craft structures that are true sculptures, open to individual interpretation. We both are also from the same the city, Los Angeles.
CB: Who or what has had the most significant impact on your career?
EB: Biggest impact: the academic programme at Cornell [University], Andrée Putman and Miles Davis.
CB: You have worked with Andrée Putman, designed a home for top Argentinian football player Javier Pastore, restored numerous luxuryfive-star Parisian boutique hotels, and created lighting for Invisible Collection and silver champagne accessories for Christofle. Which types of projects are the most satisfying?
EB: The most satisfying projects are the ones that allow me to tell a story about a place, a brand or a person.
CB: In a relatively short time, you have designed numerous products and interiors. Which one means the most to you?
EB: They all are meaningful because they work together to express an idea.
CB: What projects are you currently working on?
EB: A four-star luxury hotel de propriétaire in Paris, the headquarters of Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, a chalet compound in Switzerland, a manor house in Meudon [Paris], and a country house outside of Paris, a rug collection for Tai Ping, and an NFT project with Mattereum.
CB: This year, you made your debut on the AD USA Top 100 designers list. How do you feel about this recognition? And what impact is this having on your career?
EB: It’s a tremendous honour to receive national and international recognition. The awards underline what we are trying to express through our work: [that] interior design is a living thing.
CB: What is the advantage and disadvantage to being an ‘American in Paris’?
EB: The advantage of having the regard of an informed outsider. There is no such thing as a disadvantage.
CB: What's your 'go to' place for inspiration?
EB: I go to the place that is the subject of the design. Everything is there already.
CB: What item or space would you most like to design and why?
EB: The next one!
CB: What frustrates you the most about design today?
EB: The process seems too existing-image-based.
CB: What's your design philosophy?
EB: Rather than to design,
to extract, to arrange,
and ultimately to influence.
To occupy multiple positions,
To create a link between tradition and invention.
To provoke an interlude in a day, a moment of refuge.
To incite the sublime but also frequent the discreet.
To tint memory with emotion,
To dream with open eyes.
To briefly discern and describe time,
and then act as if it was never there.
To make a forum where differing styles and signatures can exist,
without limits or prejudice.
To cohabit the contemporary and the antique.
To promote the quality of the living experience,
and at all times,
to exist in between.