Designer Crush: Barrie Livingstone


1. How did you get your start in the design world?

Birth….lol. No seriously when I was 17 living in South Florida, I befriended Julio Iglesias’ ex-girlfriend in a club. She was an interior designer and before I started at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale she hired me and was teaching me to draft. I was in heaven.

2. You’re both an interior designer and realtor; what inspired you to merge the two professions and how do you successfully wear both hats?

For me, becoming a realtor was the next natural progression in my career.  By offering this hugely important service to my clients I make myself even more valuable. Over the last 30 years I have been improving real estate. Whether as preparation to sell or to move into so now having the ability to market and sell and also find the right property for a client I use all of my skill sets. Both careers are all encompassing and as always it is all in the details. My days are spent flipping from selecting fabrics and lighting fixtures to scrutinizing escrow forms and big deal negotiations.

3. Tell us about the large remodel you did on Mariposa de Oro.

Mariposa de Oro. The Golden butterfly. This is a gem of a home on a spectacular ¾ acre flat lot in the heart of one Malibu’s most coveted and private areas, Serra Retreat. Once all of the land in Malibu belonged to May Ringe and this area was the very heart of her empire and sprawling 28,000-acre ranch. She chose this area because of the extreme natural beauty. Malibu canyon and the creek opens up into a spectacular lagoon at the ocean. The land the house sits on is magical and I needed literally all of the design magic I could muster up to transform the shabby brown ranch complete with low ceilings and many smaller rooms and small windows into the wide open cool chic home we see today. My friend and colleague Andrew Mc Donald knew the homeowners and we developed this design to improve the property prior to listing it for sale.

4. You’ve designed for some of the biggest international hotel brands in the world; how does hospitality design differ from residential design?

Hospitality design has a consistent theme that runs through an entire property. A thread of colours, materials and objects d’art that are the glue that hold the design together. Great residential designers realize this and model their designs on this basic strong design concept premise. Others fail miserably (and regularly).

Besides having a strong design concept, maintenance is of most importance. How a hospitality product is constructed is vastly different. How it is cared for with regular cleanings also affect its endurance performance over time. A typical example is outdoor aluminum furniture that is made for a hotel. It will have 30% more metal in the tubing than a similar residential piece does. Also, welding joins and powder coat finish will all be superior in nature, to take on the rigors of 24/7/365 use.

5. British style vs. California style: compare and contrast.

Wow, great question and I am thrilled to answer it. British style is definitely a lot about correct size, placement and proportion of a piece. British rooms are smaller as a rule and our rooms tend to be closed in not open plan thus giving each room its own specific tasks i.e. dining room eating, parlor room drinking tea and eating crumpets…lol. Windows are not as big due to the harsh wet elements so natural light becomes precious commodity, which is why London interiors often have such brightly intense hughes of colour drenched the walls.

By sharp contrast the majority of California homes are wide open, sun-filled and bright. Many homes in California have rooms with floor to ceiling French or glass doors that remain open year-round, due to our divine Mediterranean climate.

This has a profound effect on the layout of our spaces. Larger open plan rooms that are designed to be multi-functional, so your British friends can enjoy that bit of crumpet in any room they choose
Colours tend to be softer and the ubiquitous beige and white color schemes still tend to dominate California interiors. Although now lots of softer warm gray have made their way in due to what I have dubbed, the Restoration Hardware effect that we are currently experiencing.

6. Tell us about your book, Interior Design Tips Every Realtor Should Know.

The book is a list of my tips on how I as a designer sees space. I believe that if you treat a property with respect and dignity then it will likewise treat you with respect all the way to the bank. It gives me such joy to hear from readers of my book that they actually learned something when the read it.

Instead of having to explain myself and why I have two careers, I decided to write a book. I was born this way and I do see space very differently than others. Realtors are heavily focused on the task at hand, which is selling or finding a home for a buyer and making sure that their clients are well informed and protected.

7. What are some of your favorite travel destinations and why?

Rio de Janerio, the boy from Ipanema is calling. Buenos Aires, don’t cry for me Argentina. Bangkok, Jim Thompson Silk house and Ping Pong. Italy, Sardinian Sea Spray makes my skin so soft.

8 .Describe your idea of the perfect Sunday.

A very long beach walk with my beautiful Italian Greyhound Rio. No car Sunday.

Lightning round!

9. Early bird or night owl?

Early bird! Because it catches the worm!

10. Dance machine or wallflower?

A private dancer.

11. Real news or Real Housewives?


12. Beach or mountains?

Both, that’s why I live in Malibu dears.

13. Mint chocolate or cookies and cream?

Rum Raisin.

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