Dressed for Success: Wardrobe By Burnham DesignAuthor:Abigail Stone
Interior designer Betsy Burnham is so firmly entrenched in Los Angeles’s top-tier design community that it’s easy to forget that she’s originally from the east coast. But it’s there if you look closely: the classicism of her Connecticut upbringing softened by California’s casual vibe, imbuing her interiors with equal parts old school elegance and Left coast irreverence or, as she puts it, “a little bit country club and a little bit rock-and-roll.” Now she’s bringing that same sensibility to her first-ever product line, a furniture collection she’s christened Wardrobe by Burnham Design. We sat down with Burnham recently to talk about her new venture. [this interview has been edited and condensed]
California Home + Design: I think of you as being everywhere so I was surprised to learn that this is your first product line!
Betsy Burnham: I’ve gotten a little attention for Instant/Space, an internet-based room consultation service, but never a product line. It’s funny because your reaction has been universal across the board but no, it’s my first ever product line.
CHD: So why now?
BB: I do custom furniture for every client so I have a file full of ideas — things I’ve designed, photos and dimensions of vintage pieces that I’ve found for clients — that I’ve been keeping for years. The tipping point came when I did the Coastal Living Showhouse on Coronado Island in 2014 and a lot of people asked me when I was going to start designing products. I decided to start with upholstery because it’s something I know well.
CHD: Where are the shapes coming from? That GoLightly dining chair is so unique.
BB: I can’t take full credit for it because I bought a lot of similar chairs over the years but I did a lot of research, changing it and rescaling it to make it comfortable and modern enough to fit into a contemporary setting. A lot of the shapes are classic but, for example, you’ve never seen a wing chair quite so pared down and slim so that it’s able to slip into almost any room without being cumbersome or theme-y. They’re versatile pieces that can anchor a room and, depending on the fabric, they can be dressed up or down. The dining chair is definitely the most whimsical piece of collection but even there, depending on the color — and I’m offering it in paint colors — it can slip in almost anywhere.
CHD: It also looks comfortable! And you’ve thought of all the details: little things, like the sofas have arms that are at the perfect height for having your head propped up during a Netflix binge
BB: That’s so important! My clients are people who really live in their homes so comfort is always important, especially with upholstery, I’m glad it looks comfortable because we worked really hard on that. Comfort is very important to me. It’s why it was so important to me that I named the pieces after my comfort movies. There’s the Bridget sofa, the Golightly dining chair, the Ripley wing chair and ottoman.
CHD: Yet, you’ve called it Wardrobe. Tell us about that.
BB: I used to work in the fashion industry and I’ve always been in love with style and I thought ‘Why don’t I offer the collection in some fabrics that I love?’. Fabric and textile are such a big part of what I do. So there’s denim, there’s chambray, there’s a heather grey wool, there’s that perfect Chamois leather that you want in a jacket. It’s all the fabrics I like to wear. I don’t think you see these fabrics used on furniture everywhere. And then, of course, we can do it in customer’s own material. Because everything we’re doing is custom-made and hand-crafted.
CHD: Where can people find the collection?
BB: Right now it’s available on my website under the “goods” tab or at Wardrobe by Burnham Design. Everything is made in Los Angeles at a factory I’ve been working with for years — that was very important to me — and it’s all made to order in under two months. It’s all craftsman-constructed and everything’s eight-way hand-tied with down-wrapped foam and hardwood frames and the legs are an off-black with a rubbed finish.
CHD: Well, it’s certainly gorgeous! And worth the wait! Congratulations Betsy!
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