Light, Livable Style
Simple is Better
Fourteen years ago, Barbara Cosgrove started a garage studio to sculpt clay and metal lamp bases that had a traditional yet artfully updated feel. Today, she still has the same garage—it’s tucked behind the 1929 Edward Tanner-designed shingle-style home she’s shared with her husband, Hal, for 25 years. But cars are parked in it now, and she’s a far cry from crafting each lamp by hand.
The “simpler is better” philosophy that guides her designs also steers her home’s interior style. “Sometimes you can get carried away with stuff,” she says. “It’s so much more pleasant to keep things minimal, clean, and easy.” But Barbara’s idea of minimal doesn’t appear cold and stark, thanks to her decorating balancing act.
Photo: Barbara enjoys time in the front yard with grandsons Chase and Quinn and daughter-in-law AJ.
Barbara created the photo montage in the entryway by copying family snapshots. Memories are on the walls and always in the making throughout the home; her three young grandchildren live close and visit often. With canvas slipcovers and plenty of floorspace, these rooms are ready to party—kid style—even while looking serene and sophisticated. No room is roped off, and rules about couch wrestling do not apply here. Barbara doesn’t just decorate to suit her style; she decorates to accommodate her life.
In the living room, rolled-arm sofas are sized up to fill the airy space. Barbara prefers fewer pieces of furniture, so she chooses items that are bigger in scale. For a coffee table, she had a Duncan Phyfe dining table cut down a few notches to a comfortable height for playing games or propping feet. The table was handed down from Hal’s grandmother, and Barbara reasoned it was better to keep it in the family with more useful dimensions rather than sell it off.
Dining for Everyday
The dining room is the most magnetic room for Barbara and Hal, thanks to the pull of the light at all hours of the day. So much so that a recent remodel of the kitchen and dining space opened up both—at the expense of the breakfast nook. “We wanted to eat in here all the time anyway,” she says. A clutch of chairs normally found in a living room, including two English wing chairs, amps up the room’s staying power. Canvas upholstery unites the mismatched vintage chairs.
Get Barbara’s Look & Lamps
Barbara’s style isn’t hard to duplicate if you stick to her three “Cs.”
Consistency: “I keep the background colors the same in every room for a less choppy look.”
Contrast: “Color is hard for me to pull off, so I go for contrast. To me, it’s easier to live with over a longer period of time.”
Casualness: “We live and entertain casually these days. Decorating is at its best when it’s personal.”
Photo: A pair of substantial lamps from Barbara’s company balances the weight of the pine table and chest. The light color of the aged finish and the raw silk shades keep the look from seeming heavy.
Lamps: Pineapple from The Collection by Barbara Cosgrove Lamps; barbaracosgrovelamps.com or 816/221-3461 for retailers.
Let the Light In
A casual woven tray holds fine crystal decanters in the kitchen’s open bar area where natural light comes in from a window. Barbara has a thing about not keeping windows shut up tight. “I just feel more alive in rooms that are filled with light and have views through the windows,” she says. Lucky for her, the couple’s house is oriented to the light. All she had to do was keep the window coverings unfussy, which she does with sheer fabric and simple drapery styles. “The strength of this house is its fabulous light quality,” she says. “Because of all the windows, every room in the house has three exposures. As long as the sun is out, you can walk into every room without turning a light on.”
Group Artwork in Similar Tones
A collection of local art illustrates Barbara’s love of contrast over color and her love of minimalism. She resists the visual clutter of too much pattern, so she makes up for it with interesting textures.