Time for Change

One local decorator makes time to change her own environment.

Written and Photographed by Graham Yelton


When we heard that local decorater Barri Thompson might be trading in her mediterranean tudor for a mid-century rancher, we asked her to give us a peak inside. Thompson was reluctant, testifying that her own home tends to be at the bottom of her priority list. “It’s like the cobbler’s kids with no shoes! I put so much energy into my clients’ homes that I tend to neglect my own,” she says. Despite her insistence, she finally caved and gave us an all-access pass to her personal pad.

Thompson may be best known for her modern style, so the 1929 historic brick exterior set in Crestwood suburbia is an unexpected surprise (the first of many), and it gives little indication of what’s to come. The home opens up to a mix of all things fabulous. Using an array of styles and genres, Thompson reconciles the old, traditional structure with her flair for modern design. Classic mid-century pieces mingle with traditional shapes, pops of bold color are balanced by airy whites and soothing grays, and Hollywood glam mixes with clean, modern lines. Even with the eclectic mix of styles, Thompson stays true to her roots and creates an atmosphere of calming minimalism throughout the home. “It doesn’t matter what style of home you live in; modern can work,” she says. “It just depends on how you blend it.”

This cocktail of decor appears to be the perfect setting for an elegant dinner party or conducive to casual lounging and loafing. So how does a person create such a balanced and seemingly finished space with little effort? “Buy what you love,” says Thompson. “A home should be more about expressing yourself and less about impressing your neighbor. Where’s the fun in that?” Thompson’s approach to her own home has been a blend of forethought and fate. “I knew I wanted a white dining room table,” she says. “I just had to wait for the right one. When I saw the traditional lines and modern lacquer finish of this one, I knew that I had to have it. That was a no brainer.” Similar experiences happened with the gray, open-back sofa in the living room and the turquoise velvet sofa in the den. Her love-at-first-sight approach to decorating, combined with her natural eye for design, has certainly made up for the fact that she hasn’t been able to treat her own home like she would the one of a client.

Something else stood out in the home: the ceilings. “Your ceiling is your fifth wall. I’m not sure why we neglect them,” Thompson says. “It can add such drama!” The den, with its white walls and vibrant pops of turquoise, yellow, and orange, has a soft green anchoring the room from the top down. The guest bedroom not only has a single wall of whimsical wallpaper, but a silver painted ceiling. “Every room should have a little bit of surprise in it,” Thompson advises. She recognizes that not everyone is cut out for this much drama. “Clearly, bright yellow cowhide isn’t for everyone, but it makes me really happy!” She often encourages clients to start small by using lively fabrics or colors in small doses, like a single chair, wall, or pillow.

“In the last few years, people in Birmingham are really coming around to the modern aesthetic. Since the recession, there’s a real desire to get rid of things that were representative of excess,” Thompson says. “Modern is about simplicity. It makes your head not feel clogged. Our lives are so busy! For me, personally, if you walk into a home that is clean and simple, it creates a sense of peace and calm.”

The concept of creating spaces that truly reflect their inhabitants’ personalities and lifestyles is at the heart of Thompson’s mission. Despite her initial concern with the unfinished state of her home, Thompson admits that it’s a process. “I’m less concerned with perfection than I am with the concept,” she says. “You get downed by rules, and suddenly, your house is like a catalog and not a representation of yourself. I think Birmingham is beginning to loosen up quite a bit!”

Leave a Reply