Knickknacks, tchotchkes, accessories—whatever you call them, everyone has some, but few really know how to show them off to the best effect. It’s a skill; indeed, it’s one that interior designer and architect Bradley Barnett, founder of architectural, design and branding firm Guild13 (guild13.com), has in spades. In his downtown Seattle apartment, Barnett has arranged a combination of quirky yet elegant artifacts (think taxidermy, ceramic sculptures and an alabaster funerary urn) with personal mementos in an immaculate tableau. A few tips from Barnett put this artful elegance within reach of the rest of us.
“Accessories don’t have to match,” says Barnett, but once you put two or more similar items together, a display becomes much more interesting. “Anything in quantity is art,” he explains. Case in point: white ceramic pieces clustered together on a bookshelf.
To create visual interest in his living-room hutch, Bradley Barnett displays items in multiples—wooden boxes, ceramic doll heads—but is careful to not overcrowd; photo credit: Hayley Young
Don’t shy away from displaying sentimental items in surprising ways; for example, placing framed family photos on the floor, instead of hanging them on walls.
All that glimmers is good. Barnett is a self-described gold-leafing addict, having applied 23K gold leaf to more than his fair share of shells, horns and feathers. A cream-colored fox skull pops, thanks to gleaming incisors, and a shimmering turtle shell sits in wonderful opposition to enormous 50-inch-long silver-leafed elk horns.
Contrast is key when planning a display at home; make sure your space is dynamic by playing with shiny and matte, dark and light. And don’t be afraid to leave blank space—another nod to the importance of contrast.
“Celebrate the mundane,” Barnett says, with special lighting and display cases. Lighting elevates, while cloches and display cases give weight to ordinary or smaller items. All help to “make something useless glamorous.”
A gold-leafed turtle shell and a bold silver-leafed elk horn are juxtaposed with the soft curvature of a ceramic sculpture and the clean lines of the cloches. Below: Barnett likes to bring nature indoors via flowers, plants or branches, often displayed in this handblown Jalisco vase from Watson Kennedy. The adjacent Curtis Jere bird sculpture was purchased on Ebay, and the painting is a charcoal and wax study by local artist Christine Chaney. Photo credit: Hayley Young