‘Southern Boy’ – Barry Dixon
I think it was about five years ago when I had the pleasure of personally meeting Barry Dixon. He was a guest panelist with Ronda Rice Carmen for her book Designers At Home at High Point Market. While I followed Barry’s work and licensed products, I hadn’t a glimpse of who he was personally. I truly enjoyed the afternoon filled with insight and of course humor. The day included a brief meet-and-greet which led to Barry and me becoming Facebook friends. This in turn led to … I’m almost embarrassed to say, a ‘designer crush’.
Seriously though, how can you not just love Barry? He’s real, he’s wildly talented, he’s brilliant and well … have you seen Elway Hall? The man has created an exquisite, charming, and dreamy estate layered with details and accouterments, but somehow it is not overwhelming or overdone …. and he lives there.
And lives is what Barry does. I often skip over to Barry’s Facebook & Instagram pages not only for his latest designs, but also for his appreciation of life and the gifts he’s been given. He finds great pleasure in the simple things in life, like gratitude for fresh eggs, the beauty of new born babes on the farm, or just taking in the beauty of a morning mist rolling across the countryside of the Elway Hall Estate.
Earlier this month I asked Barry if he’d grant me an interview. He graciously accepted and I found the man I expected … and more.
LD: Barry, I was recently reviewing an article where you shared that your dad encouraged you to change directions from law school to design. Obviously, your father had incredible insight and knew his son well, but there had to be something that triggered your father to do this. What do you think your father observed in you, was it a hobby, a passion, or just a gut instinct?
BD: My dad gave this sage advice as I was preparing to go to law school. He said that the arts…specifically architecture and interior design…had always, in his opinion, been my “passion”. He said that he felt I’d be much happier and have a far better chance of career success if I was doing something I “loved”. Boy, was he right!
LD: Why did you choose Virginia and Elway Hall to settle and build your empire?
BD: I was living in Washington DC, where I had followed college friends to rent a “group house” and work in the city. After multiple sojourns to the Virginia countryside working on the famed “Inn at Little Washington”, I fell in love with Virginia hunt country, specifically the Warrenton area, which I passed through on my way to the job site. Then on my way back from an install in NYC, I found, on the seat of my shuttle flight, a real estate brochure open to an image of this glorious estate, “Elway Hall”. I muttered to my associate, “If this was in Warrenton, VA I’d buy it and move there.” To my amazement, as I read the text, the home was indeed in Warrenton. Kisemet! Elway Hall found me and, I’ve been its steward now for 17 years.
LD: …. and an amazing steward you are! As a designer, I have to admit there are times when I hit a wall, you know that ‘designer’s block’. It is so frustrating, isn’t it?! Although I do know that when this happens it’s the universe telling me there’s a better design or solution out there for me to find. All designers experience this blockage at some point, how do you handle them?
BD: I take a walk to the barn, or a stroll to the pond, or alongside the stream that runs through our farm. By the time I get back, the designer’s block is gone. It’s the constant inspiration of the natural world around me that keeps ideas flowing.
LD: Your portfolio is inspiring … your attention to detail is unsurpassed. What do you think your signature detail is?
BD: Layers of layers! Complex layering of elements and details in ways I hope are thoughtful and original…and appropriate for each client and project. We love to mix.
LD: Within your amazing portfolio do you have a favorite project?
BD: It always seems to be the one I’m working on. Right now I’m especially excited about a home I’m working on at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. Also, a vaulted open area in a home we’re designing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming!
LD: Some of my most demanding jobs yielded to be my favorite. What was one of your most challenging and why?
BD: A far away project we designed a few years ago in Beijing. Not only were there language and logistics barriers, but also the sheer size of the project was daunting as well. This was the largest non-imperial private residence ever built in the city…. and the deadline was crazy, but we made it!
LD: Wow, that must have been exciting as well as nerve wracking! Your talent has taken you to so many places including into the branding and licensing of your own products. Do you have a favorite product designed to date?
BD: I have a ‘favorite’ product with almost every collection. I love our “Oeuf” pendant for Avrett…so clean and simple. And our “Aramis sconce for Arteriors…out of the box and couture. And I use our “Albemarle” dining chair for Tomlinson over and over again, as I do our “Dromedary” woven textile fabric for Vervain. Right now, our new wall covering collection for Vervain is just hitting the market … and I’m obsessed with our “Lorrain” mural!
LD: Personal life…who are you? Family? Hobbies? Can we have a glimpse of who the man is behind this design empire?
BD: I’m a southern ‘country boy’ that grew up all over the world, in both urban and remote areas, who came home to settle in the American South because there is, to me, no place more beautiful, more inspiring. This is Home.
LD: Barry, you’ve spent so much time with me … thank you. I’ve mentioned that I find quotes very inspiring. Traditionally I end my interviews with this question …’Do you have a favorite quote?’
BD: “Everything happens for a reason.” This quote, this belief, is very close to my heart.
LD: Well Barry, if we can go through life truly believing that, then maybe life would make a little more sense, wouldn’t it? Thank you again. I can’t wait to see what life brings you next!