Larchmont interior designer Barrett Oswald developed her penchant for decorating homes from an early age. A native of Hilton Head, SC, Oswald moved to Florida’s Amelia Island as a young child and then to a number of other southern resort towns, because her father was a real estate developer.
“My dad built midrise oceanfront condominiums for most of his career, and my mom was very interested in interior design, in addition to having very good taste,” says Oswald. Throughout her childhood, Oswald spent time on construction sites and inside model units. “I feel like I was surrounded by design all the time and that it was all I knew. My dad would explain what worked here and what didn’t and why something looks better aesthetically. I learned to understand why things appeal more than others from an early age, not appreciating it was something I would later turn into a business.”
Oswald graduated from Vanderbilt University and then attended a one-year fashion merchandising program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which she completed in 2005. She then embarked in a career that landed her at Saks Fifth Avenue as an associate buyer in the handbags department. Unsatisfied in the fashion field, Oswald decided to move back to Florida and worked for her dad. “I was a project manager at one of his oceanfront buildings, and it gave me much more hands-on experience working in construction and development,” she says.
Oswald moved to Atlanta, Georgia and attended business school at Georgia State University, from which she graduated in 2009. She then relocated to Raleigh, NC, where she worked in commercial real estate and met her husband. (They have two boys, ages 6 and 11.)
It wasn’t until 2013 when the couple bought their first home in Larchmont and Oswald started doing some projects inside the house that she caught the design bug again. “I recognized that interior design really was a passion and something that came naturally to me because I had grown up with it as a backdrop,” she says.
Oswald partnered with friend MaryBeth Long in 2015 to start their business, Barrett Oswald Designs. “MaryBeth had seen the work I’d done at my house and had asked me to help her do some things in her own home. I worked with her, giving her some design suggestions and helping her accessorize. She kept saying let me pay you, and I said, ‘Absolutely not.’”
In the end, Long offered to set up a website for Oswald, which quickly attracted their first client. “We did it because we were having fun and enjoyed spending time together. MaryBeth understood a lot more about marketing, invoicing, and things of that nature, and I got to focus on just doing design, which was exactly what I wanted to be doing,” says Oswald.
In 2021, the duo added Martha Arndt as an interior design assistant. A graduate of George Washington University, Arndt has a degree in interior architecture. “Her expertise at computer-aided design platforms, such as AutoCAD and SketchUp, for floor plans is extremely helpful to both us and our clients,” says Oswald.
When describing her design philosophy, Oswald says, “I’m a bit of a minimalist and am particular to a monochromatic design scheme. I don’t really believe in pops of color or mixing a lot of bold patterns. I feel in my own element when I’m doing things that are natural, layered, and textured, which I think creates a real sense of warmth and ease.”
The designer says her sense of inspiration comes from each of her clients. “Even if they say they have no taste, clients usually always have opinions and know what they like and don’t like,” Oswald notes. “For us, it’s been really fun to meet different people and see the things they are driven by, the inspiration images they may choose, and, ultimately, to bring their visions to life.”
Oswald says her firm likes to take the client’s vision and move forward from there. “We are very methodical in our process of designing a space to make sure we know exactly what people like. Then we put our own spin on it, to give each room an elevated, well designed, and thoughtful feel.”
▪ understand what you are attracted to in your inspiration images and try to limit the number that you chose, so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Flip through home magazines and go online to check out Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites for ideas.
▪ know your dislikes. They are just as important as knowing what you love in a space.
▪ layer, whether it be rugs, window treatments, pillows. This is especially important in neutral spaces.
▪ give your new furnishings a chance. Especially large items, like sofas, can feel discomfiting at first. If you are hesitant about a new piece, we recommend living with it for a few days before judging it. Many people just need some time to adjust to change.
▪ be realistic. It’s helpful to see photographs on social media or in magazines for inspiration, but remember that most of those spaces are staged for a particular shot. Design your home to be exactly that – yours.
▪ give up on a space. Many people get decision fatigue toward the end of a project, but finishing a space with art and accessories truly brings a room to life.
▪ be afraid of large items. Depending on the space, an oversized light, mirror, or piece of artwork can be a perfect statement piece.
▪ ignore lighting. Lighting is one of the most impactful parts of a design. A variety of lighting options with overheads, lamps, or pendants allow a space to function while keeping the mood warm and inviting.
▪ assume you need to wait for a different stage of life to redecorate. With a thoughtful approach, lots of closed storage, and stain resistant fabrics, a space can be designed as functional and stylish for any young family.
Piaf Large Chandelier, Swedish Gray, $1,059; Visual Comfort & Co., Greenwich; visualcomfort.com
Venice Bed, Easter King, Pale, Price Available Upon Request; NOIR; noirfurniturela.com
Schumacher Betwixt Stone/ White Fabric, Price Available Upon Request; DECORATORS BEST; decoratorsbest.com
Chapman & Myers Stacked Disk Table Lamp, $1,219; CAPITAL LIGHTING; 1800lighting.com
Los Altos Hanbury Nightstand, $1,829; Tommy Bahama; tommybahamafurniture.com
Shang Extra Fine Sisal in Sky Blue, Price Available Upon Request; THIBAUT; thibautdesign.com
Larkspur Bench, $1,000; SHOPPE AMBER INTERIORS; shoppe.amberinteriordesign.com
Tranquil Sandstone, Price Available Upon Request; STANTON CARPET; stantoncarpet.com
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