In Coffee and Tea, Jennifer delves into the mind of Interior Designer Barbara Lewis of The Lewis Design Group. While sipping coffee and tea, Jennifer learns why and how a designer does what she does through discussions of process, techniques, and tools of the trade.  

At first glance, this dining room has a traditional feel, yet contemporary at the same time.  Barbara Lewis knows and understands just how to combine the two styles. In fact, she says her signature is “classic, yet current,” exactly what this dining room evokes. 

Mix Classic and New

“I like to take very classic pieces, and mix them with updated pieces,” she says.  “New fabrics, new colors, new accessories, and a new rug and you have a whole new look.  This way it doesn’t look dated.”

For example, traditional, full length draperies feature the client’s favorite color, aqua, along with the same, soft green in the adjoining living room (which we can’t see). “This was the glue that binds the two rooms,” Barbara says.

Make a Statement

While the client was leaning towards painting the walls a Tiffany Blue with fabulous artwork, Barbara knew it just wouldn’t work.  If the room was more generous in size, maybe. However, with French doors on one wall and a bay window on another, Barbara looked to a wall covering instead.  She chose a favorite — “The Vase” by Clarence House — to make a statement.

Practical Elegance

When shopping at Niermann Weeks, Barbara and her client found a circular table and chairs that bring the whole room together. The pieces are perfectly proportioned, as if custom designed for the room. Not only does the beautiful finish, color and details on the chairs complement the draperies and rug, the Crypton fabric is durable, allowing this luxe look to function for real life.  Barbara has coined the term “practical elegance” to describe her signature style — and that is exactly what the client wanted and needed to keep up with her young grandchildren.

Harmonious Rooms

And, if the need arises, these chairs can be used in the living room too. Or, even take these precious chairs right through the French doors to the big, beautiful deck (Yep, Barbara says it’s completely okay!).  When designing, Barbara uses furniture pieces that can easily move from room-to-room, as if they were designed there.  The idea is for each room on the first floor to have a relationship to the other, creating a harmonious flow, while never feeling like they are overly matched.

Functional and Fresh

Barbara moved the client’s side console (also from Niermann Weeks) from the living room to the dining room. Since the room is used all the time, especially holidays, there needed to be a place to set things down.   Paired with a mirror that has a little whimsy, the console is both functional and fresh.  And, without room for any other furniture, the bay window offers a place for a bar.  “Given the limited space, it just felt natural to use this area,” says Barbara.  “Plus, it can easily be replaced with a beautiful dessert buffet.”

The Test of Time

Speaking of dessert, as sweet as this updated dining room looks, how do you know you won’t get tired of all of this?  I’m sure there are people that just can’t commit to “The Vase,” for example.  Yet, Barbara says that soft colors are easy to live with.  So, she steers clients to colors in nature, like blues and greens.  As much as she loves warm and rich colors, Barbara has a hunch that people may live longer in spaces with soft colors.  So, she frequently encourages her clients to go in that direction.

Photography by Neil Landino Jr.