FROM LORI SIEBERT
I have been a huge fan of the work by artist/designer Bari Ackerman for years! I first fell in love with the gorgeous patterns she created for Art Gallery Fabrics (some worn by Jane Fonda on “Grace and Frankie”!). I also adore her colorful floral paintings that are so lively and full of energy. Watching her apply her artistic talents to her home has been very inspiring! Being a maximalist myself, I adore how she layers pattern, texture, shape and color in every room.
It would not be hard to pinpoint where my style comes from if you saw the home I grew up in.
Ours was a traditional home in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. It was a center-entry colonial with very classic bones. My mom, however, is an artist and a lover of both traditional decor and modern decor. When I was around 10 years old, my mom’s cousin’s husband (we called him our cousin), Bernie, who was an interior designer, redecorated the house.
I was enamored with everything he did, even as a small child. First, thinking back on that house, he clearly liked to play with the tension of opposites as I do today. For instance, in the dining room, he used a sleek Milo Baughman brass and smoked glass table matched with fussy upholstered Queen Anne chairs. He reused the existing buffet, which had a mid-century flair as well. Meanwhile, the walls were covered in a floral chintz, and the windows were draped in a heavy moire fabric with pink on one side and green on the other. These were billowing curtains. When pulled back, the green from the flip side accented the pink. The room was lit with a brass chandelier, and the traditional millwork of the house carried into the dining room.
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful.” — William Morris
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my lesson in interior decorating. I loved that room in particular, though I could describe the rest of the home similarly. It was flowery maximalist ’80s decor that played with the polar opposite, a tip of the hat to the modern furniture of that day, which was more minimalistic.
Fast-forward to 2021, when my husband and I moved from a desert-style home in Scottsdale, Arizona, to our current home — a very traditional home in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a 100-year-old neighborhood — with classic millwork throughout.
The house, upon moving in, was gray. It was screaming for wallpaper. It was crying out for some color. I used the colors I am naturally drawn to, which are pink, green and orange, with a touch of orangey red thrown in for good measure. Here and there, you will find some blue as well.
My main apprehension about buying this house was it lacked the charm of the neighborhood around it. While the neighborhood is older, this house was built in 2010. We couldn’t find an older home, however, as the market was so tight at the time. So, we settled on a home — in the perfect neighborhood — that I felt I could give the necessary character to.
I knew the second I walked in the house that I was going to cover the front hall in William Morris’ Pimpernel wallpaper while hanging a minimal light fixture. Which is the first thing we did upon moving in.
Next, we changed the exterior from a dingy early aughts (tract home) green to Sherwin-Williams’ Greek Villa, which is a lovely white. We continued inside by painting most of the walls a bright white as well and accented ceilings and woodwork with color. The dining room, for example, has a pink ceiling and woodwork (Sherwin-Williams’ Malted Milk). I then hand-painted a scenic floral on one wall. To contrast the traditional elements, we have a simple, though chunky in scale, burl wood table with plinth legs and a very modern chandelier from Corbett in the space.
After painting, we took on a bigger project. There was a laundry room behind the kitchen. We didn’t want a first-floor laundry room, and since the kitchen and closet pantry that were attached to the laundry room were so small, we decided to turn that space into a butler’s pantry instead. We used William Morris wallpaper and floor tile, soapstone counters and a marble backsplash for the elements of nostalgia that I so love and then put in modern flat-front cabinetry with really modern lighting from Mitzi and Hudson Valley Lighting. The flat slab cabinetry actually serves a purpose beyond being a modern touch. It is also neutral enough that when we do finally change the kitchen cabinetry, we will be able to change it to whatever style we’d like, and it won’t look odd with the pantry cabinets.
Speaking of the kitchen, when we moved in, it had gray subway tile and upper cabinetry that looked clunky. In the far-left corner by the stove, for reasons unbeknownst to us, there was a dead corner. Meaning, they’d drywalled it off. That meant that there were 4 square feet of space that were unusable. We’d planned on removing the uppers and replacing them with open shelving, which we love for the convenience, but we hadn’t planned on taking out that corner because we’d have to also replace counters. However, after cooking there for months, we realized that if we were going to start pulling out tile and cabinets, we’d better go ahead, bite the bullet and get rid of that corner.
When we did the demo, we discovered there really was nothing in the 24-inch-by-24-inch space that was walled off up to the ceiling … and also nothing in the lower cabinet space. We took advantage of the space by replacing the counter with soapstone and extending it across. To take advantage of the lower space, we put in a dog feeding area on the opposite side of the wall, which is in the pantry space.
We added gorgeous green Mercury Mosaics tile in a herringbone pattern (the color is called “Patina”), which has a terracotta ground that shows through. This gave us the opportunity to put in a pop of terracotta with the grout treatment as well. More green and orange! The William Morris wallpaper was continued into the kitchen and then the dining nook as well. Our sweet goldendoodle, Ruthie, is seen hanging out here often!
Always working with opposites and contrasts, the family room features a traditional gallery wall with a fussy gilded mirror and a super-modern chandelier in terracotta.
“I must have flowers, always and always.” — Claude Monet
Upstairs are the primary bedroom, a guest room and an office (as well as a studio yet to be finished as I have an out-of-home studio in Charlotte). I wanted the guest room to feel special because we had left one of our grown daughters all the way across the country in Los Angeles. We wanted her to feel like this is her home when she visits, so I created a little oasis. The walls, ceiling and all the millwork were painted in Clare’s Rosé Season, which is a super fun pink. A bed I designed for Joybird is the centerpiece of the room, with vintage floral paintings, cross-stitch and some original art I made myself filling the wall behind the bed. To play with that tension of opposites, I added a vintage brass Hershey’s “Kiss” pendant above the bed. The bathroom got a slight makeover with a pedestal sink and striped walls.
In the primary bedroom, a major renovation is pending, so I painted the walls bright white for the meantime and hung an extra-large painting I made above the modern bed. You’ll notice again that I played with opposites, the bed being modern and the painting a scenic traditional floral.
My husband, Kevin, has an office on this floor as well. Here we did a kind of “Mad Men” look with mid-century furniture and lighting and a bright green ceiling and millwork as well. You might note, the credenza has a vintage decanter set and glasses, which are really there just for the look of it.
We have a walk-out basement that is also a space awaiting a major renovation; but for the meantime, I painted it all black with glossy millwork. There’s a cigar-type leather couch there and accents of bright color with a cute vintage phone and bright art.
There are many projects that we still plan to do in this house, including turning the existing porch into a vestibule that would be a pre-entry to the house with room for coats and shoes, adding a new front porch to the house, and wallpapering more rooms with Bari J. floral wallpapers. Ideas keep coming, but one thing is certain: I will always be playing with the tensions of opposites — and maximalism (especially florals) is in my blood.