Barry Dixon on beach home design | Home Front

Aug 01, 2013

One of the Washington area's premier interior designers, Barry Dixon spoke about beach home interior design, his interior design inspiration and more.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Thrilled to have Barry Dixon on the chat today. Barry is the designer of that beautiful South Bethany beach house on the cover of Local Living today. Here is the link and don't miss the photo gallery. Barry is one of the most prolific designers in the Washington area and has an amazing body of work. He is published in the top shelter magazines and has designed a line of furniture for Tomlinson/Erwin-Lambeth along with many other products. His latest book is "Barry Dixon Inspirations" written by Brian D. Coleman with photos by Erik Kvalsvik. So send in your questions for Barry and lets get going. PS - Barry is in Atlanta today and I may be typing in his answers so bear with us!!!

Also don't miss the great beach house organizing tips from Barry and Roseann McGeehin, who along with her husband Pat McGeehin owns the South Bethany House. Anyone who has summer guests will get lots of ideas from this. Here is the link for the organizing ideas.

From Barry - Good morning I am so happy to be with you today. I'm thrilled with the beautiful article the Post has done and I am here to answer your questions.

I'm redoing young adult bedrooms (the birds have flown) and I'm finding that most of the bedding displays are comforters or coverlets turned down, with lots of pillows. Are bedspreads a thing of the past? They did make the bed look so neat...

Barry - On this one, I love bedspreads. Always loved them - they are nostalgic to me and remind me of going to my grandmothers house. I do think that with so many bedrooms in a modern home, you need to have different tricks in different rooms, so you are not being redundant. So are bedspreads a thing of the past? I do not think so at all.  I love when you pick a nice soft fabric or find a vintage chenille bedspread at a flea market. I use a lot of those in the summer- cotton chenille bedspreads. I love that. A lot of chenille bedspreads have fringes - you can take  lighter weight bullion fringe and you can sew that onto three sides to create a  custom bedspread that you like.

The basement apartment in my basement (occupied by 19-yr-old son) is long overdue for paint job. We are keeping the deep tan in the bathroom and kitchen. He wants pale gray in living room and a fairly deep purple (hoping to change his mind on that) in his bedroom. The hallway and stairwell are currently a good, unusual, strong deep rust color. Any ideas on what to change that to? We are sticking with a neutral (which the rust reads as) and may even keep the rust. Thank you!

Barry - We are being asked for a color for a wall that is neutral, yet strong. This is a basement apartment - well I love when I am underground to use underground colors - they seem natural to that part of the world. They are talking about a deep purple - I think that is a good color - a deep anthracite purple - on the grayish side. In my new collection for C2 Paints, there is a mineral purple that I love called Heleboros.

Jura and Barry, What is the best way to find accents that are at home in the beach setting, but yet not kitschy or overdone? Do you have any favorite sources for things nautical? Thanks....Julie Williams, (yes, that same one)

Barry - Julie is asking are there any favorite sources for things nautical? The trick with this - that is what rainy days at the beach are for. Find sources for beachy things by the water which are naturally found there in the little shops. In and around Rehoboth, Bethany and Ocean City there are lots of little stores. Everything is kitschy if you use it in a kitschy way - we don't buy glass lamps and fill them with seashells anymore - or seashell macaroni. What we might do is take that same glass lamp and fill it full of rope - just take a used rope that has a patina to it and loop it down in there. You can also buy a garden cloche like at Restoration Hardware - put some ropes or anchor chains in those. You can use things that might have been kitschy in other ways. Put a few pieces of driftwood under a dome - it looks beautiful.

Hi Barry, Can you give me some suggestions on making a dark Living Room lighter? My Living Room is painted grey/blue and composed of dark wood furniture. I have one ceiling light in the room. Thanks.

Barry - For sure, I am a big fan of adjustable floor lamps. You can put the light any where you want it - whether they are angled arm or hinged arm. You can put the light at reading level, or switched to illuminate a piece of artwork. The light is something that is very practical to use. I also am a big fan of putting picture lights on pictures - so a dark wall with a big piece of artwork that is lit can change that wall totally. And  if you have this dark room - I would do all light fabrics. I would take the same gray and blue colors and go to their lightest cousins. If walls are gray do a light gray drapery. Do an ombre of these grays and blues that distort our darkness towards the light.

So glad Mr. Dixon is here today. I'm a CA transplant, so my home is painted in grey-tinged blues and greens with big cushy furniture (I worked for Michael Taylor designs in the day and am greatly influenced still). But, I have a basement laundry room/office and I need advice. Flooring is FLOR in pale blue, cream and grey tiles, with some striped darker blue, made to be practical and hide wear. Trim is pure white. Small 12x12 room. What would you recommend for walls? I was thinking warm grey, but I want a bright warm room, as it's a basement, don't want cold feeling. Thanks.

I love the colors that you are talking about. Michael Taylor is one of my favorite design firms.  I agree with your choice of a warm gray that would tie the gray tinged blues and greens together with the cooler colors I am seeing here. Understanding that you also want the room to remain bright, I suggest you do C2 Michael's Moon, which is a bright warm moonglow gray color. This gray is perfectly between a warm and a cool.

It's wonderful to be able to ask such a talented designer my design question! I have a somewhat traditional dining room, and I'm looking to bring a more modern/current twist to the chandelier/lighting fixture to avoid having the room feel too heavy or stuffy. But nothing too crazy! What are your favorite ideas for dining room chandeliers?

Barry - This is a very good question. There are a few ways to do this, without being too crazy. A simple or more economical way to do this is to do a simple drum shade with a diffuser disc on the bottom. You don't want to see the lightbulbs underneath it from the center of your dining room. This is the traditional shape of any lamp shade in your home today, but what is non traditional is that you are hanging this over your dining room table in  lieu of a conventional chandelier. And it won't make the room feel heavy or stuffy. It will just appear novel so it is fresh and modern. For a second idea, take the shape of a chandelier you like, maybe a scroll arm - and maybe your chandelier is brass or bronze or tired looking - what if you take the same chandelier and yougive it to a auto body place and have it sprayed in metallic aqua or silvery green - all of a sudden it's not the same old chandelier.  I like colors myself.   A third idea - find a traditional shape chandelier in blown glass. Last fall, I used one in a house on Capital Hill that was featured on the cover of House Beautiful.

Good morning: we live in an older DC home with the typical large opening/archway leading from the living room to the dining room. In our living room, we have two lounge chairs on either side of this opening that face a sofa, however due to the size of the room we've had to pull the chairs forward toward the sofa a couple of feet. However this has left an awkward looking empty space directly behind our chairs. Any suggestions on how we can make this arrangement work and look a bit more elegant?

Barry - There are two things here - with this arrangement not only do you have that awkward space between two chairs, it is a little bit static with perfect symmetry. I would break up the symmetry here to relax the setting. I  suggest a small stout little round accent table that I pull to either one of the chairs, left or right, so it favors the arm of one but is not dead center. That will give a surface you can use - and it can be pulled to the other chair. It is a kinetic small addition to the room that works wherever it is needed and throws off the symmetry. The table has to be round - a square one isn't easy to navigate around. And it needs to be heavy because it is in a walkway, so then it does not tip over easily.

Hi guys - this question is a bit off topic, but I just moved into a house that has a 700 pound cast iron (I think) gate at the driveway (I live in deer country, hence the gate). The gate is the same material / color as those green Paris Metro signs, which I think are cast iron. The gate has some rust on the surface - what's the best way to remove the rust and then protect the gate in the future? Sanding? Any advice would be most appreciated!

Barry - This is something we are always doing with our clients not only for gates but for outdoor furniture. If it is cast iron, and you don't remove the rust that is there, and paint it with a rust proof paint, you will continue to have this problem. The color green of the Paris Metro signs is a wonderful color. I love that bronzey green. That needs to be matched to a powder coat paint. You need to remove the rust - sand it off with a wire brush - and spray the powder coating on it. That will protect the gate. If you are continually painting with enamel paint - water will continue to collect on the corners and it will continue to rust.

Hi... I noticed you mentioned C2 Paints. I am a huge fan of theirs. Do you think that they're the American Farrow & Ball? I also love their paints, but think that many of their colours are better suited to European light. Meg@PigtownDesign

Hi Meg: Barry here. I think that is a perfect way to describe C2 Paints. I think they are the American Farrow & Ball. I love all the colors in C2. My collection of 87 colors is debuting this month. All of our colors come from shades I found in my farm in Virginia. For example, Pond Shimmer was inspired by the color of the surface of my pond. I have seven different exotic hen breeds laying eggs every day, each of their egg colors became a paint color in my line. The C2 color Elm Bark was the color of the elm trees in my garden after a rainstorm when the bark turned darker. The C2 paint colors are less expensive than Frrow & Ball because they are not imported.

We met this couple on vacation this year and they are fabulous. Barry, you did an amazing job capturing their spirit throughout the home.

Thank you so much. I could not agree more. This is one fabulous couple.

Hoping you can give us some advice and direction- about a week and a half ago our beloved High school assisstant principal suddenly passed away.School is beginning in about 3 weeks. The school is providing counseling but that first day is going to be hard for all of us.What advice can you suggest to create a warm environment for that first day of school. The halls are the usual painted stark white cinderblock as are the classrooms. Thanks!

Barry - I would go for a rich leaf green. There is something wonderful about the colors of trees, leaves and grass. There is something healing about all of that. I think green is therapeutic, natural, serene and calming and still warm. I don't mean the  industrial green that you used to see in schools and hospitals. There is a color green I love in my C2 line - that is called Savoy Cabbage.  There is also another green from Benjamin Moore, a slightly lighter shade, Timothy Straw. I also love Farrow & Ball's Cooking Apple Green. Contrary to Muppet lore, it is easy being green!

Some people like to use their week-end beach home year round, what do you recommend on styling the home for the seasons? From: Ofra Weiss Ca.

Barry - Hello Ofra! I am in total agreement that not only  a beach house but any house should be designed for year round living. As far as styling a home for the seasons, we did a little bit of that in South Bethany. I love cashmere throws and changing the flowers and plants around. I love in the dead of summer to have branches and green leaves of whatever is outside denoting summer. I love a beach house with barren limbs  in the winter with the beautiful moody shadows that they cast. The tree limbs of the autumn with their beautiful leaves will tell you what season it is. That is an easy trick. I love fireplaces, too.  A great trick to do for a beach house is to fill those fireplaces with driftwood - it looks like the beach and the fireplace does not look like the empty black hole. I love lighting that fire when the weather turns cold and the driftwood can be the first fire of the season.

Good morning! My husband and I recently bought a historic beach cottage in New England. We have just begun to decorate, and I am trying not to be overtly beachy. Our full-time home is very colorful, so I hope for a more neutral palette here. Most of the walls are painted Benjamin Moore White Down, with some spaces painted Sailcloth. The floors are weather oak, so a mix of gray and brown. Now I would like to add some color. I guess blue and some coral accents is really obvious, but can you recommend any non-traditional versions of that combination? Or a completely different palette that still feels like the beach? Also, do you have a favorite book about beach house decorating? Thanks!

Barry - What a great start! Your mix of cool grays and browns sounds lovely. You are ready for color now. I would pick one color that I see through the window, the easiest one would be sky blue. There is a beautiful Farrow & Ball color called Skylight that would be perfect. There is also a great moody gray blue in C2 called Approaching Storm, part of our new collection. You could mix  light blue and dark blue in one room for contrast. Coral accents sound great because that would be mixing a warm tone with the cool tone. What about Benjamin Moore's Gerbera Daisy for a coral.. this could be a single accent wall or the inside of your bookcases. Use a splash of coral in your accent pillows too to bring the walls to the upholstery.

Thanks for answering. I cannot find the Michael's Moon color on the C2 website, could I just go to a retailer and have them make up a sample?

Barry -It is coming soon to the stores. They do have it locally at Potomac Paints right now. Elle Decor is doing a feature on my paint line in the October issue.

I can't wait to see your colours for C2! They sound fabulous. meg

Barry - Thank you so much.

We’re adding a sunroom to our very large deck off our living room. It’s a big space 11 x 18. Need to find a paint color for what is remaining of the walls – the addition is mostly glass with one wall that is natural stone with lots of grey tone and the back wall is the house color a light grey. The floor going in is Pergo XP Coastal Pine. Ceiling is peaked with four skylights and will be painted white. Builder suggested a yellow – I was thinking a very light grey with yellow undertone. Can you make some suggestions? Thanks.

There is no more wonderful room in the house than a sunroom. You are right to question the yellow - it would not be my first choice. Go with your instinct and go for the light gray. One of my favorite warm light grays is by Farrow & Ball and is called London Stone. In a recent showhouse room that appears on the cover of my last book - I used that color on all the walls and the ceiling. The room became neutralized - its a great warm gray color. It looked organic and natural with views of the garden.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed the article on the house and that I was able to answer some of your questions. In turn, I hope that others got some ideas from these as well. Thank you so much for being part of the chat today.

Great chat! Hope you all enjoy.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Barry Dixon
Barry Dixon is one of the Washington area's premier interior designers. Dixon's style of Southern design has led him to different homes around the world. His work has been featured in magazines such as House Beautiful, Veranda and more. He recently completed his second book, 'Barry Dixon Inspirations' with Brian D. Coleman and published by Gibbs Smith. Photographs taken by Erik Kvalsvik.
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