Creative Mind: Elliott Barnes
The Paris-based architect has conceived inspired residential and hospitality spaces as well as forward-thinking furniture for the Invisible Company and a new collection of lighting
An American living in Paris with ties to Japan, architect Elliott Barnes combines all of his international influences in the sophisticated interiors he conceives for private and corporate clients such as Tai Ping and Champagne Billecart-Salmon. Always inventing, he sourced all the materials for Ruinart’s Les Crayères in Reims on site, even creating a new wallcovering from grape skins mixed with linen and hemp for the project. Next up, a residence in the 16th arrondissement for a family of classical pianists and a collection of sterling-silver Champagne accessories for Christofle.
International approach: “Even though I’ve lived in Paris for more than half my life, there are certain things that are very American that stay,” says Barnes, who studied architecture at Cornell University before starting his career with Arthur Erickson Architects in Los Angeles. He launched his own firm in Paris in 2004. “One is this notion of practicality and making sure that design functions, looking for things that are very efficient.”
Building blocks: “My thing about materials is what you see is not necessarily what you get,” says Barnes, whose furniture designs for the Invisible Collection include the striking Endless Summer bench, made from a tight coil of undulating waves of leather. The piece’s unique design was inspired in part by a classic surfer film of the 60s, Endless Summer, followed by experiments in materiality. “By flipping standard readings on materials, it opens new paths to objects and furniture and finishes.”
"When you’re working on these projects that fall out of the scope of the normal stuff, it allows you the chance to do exceptional things”Elliott Barnes
Light the way: Barnes’s new Iqanda collection for Tisserant Art & Style transforms ostrich eggshells into textural lampshades that can be incorporated into four different types of fixtures, with more styles coming this summer. “As designers we’re always trained to solve the problem and design the chair or light; what I’m doing here is designing the possibility. When you’re working on these projects that fall out of the scope of the normal stuff, it allows you the chance to do exceptional kinds of things.”
Design pioneer: “One of my favorites is Frank Gehry and the work that he was doing with cardboard in the early to mid 70s informs this idea of being able to let go and think about things differently. His process is very liberating. You’re always influenced by things you’ve seen and things you know and I grew up in L.A., looking at Frank’s work a lot.”
Recipe for a residence: “You can design a house or you can design a home and designing a home is a much more complicated procedure because you have to also let go. You can’t design everything. You have to design these spaces for people to inhabit and for people to bring their own things into them, which then takes them to that other level and gives it longevity and durability, life and personality. What I find really fun to do is set up projects so it’s more a portrait of the people living there. I find that the fun part, but that’s also the more challenging part.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2021 Spring Issue under the headline “Creative Minds.” Subscribe to the magazine.