Aug 31, 2023

Taking on Traditional with J Kathryn Interiors

A celebration of traditional interiors, Jessica Kain Barton of J Kathryn Interiors looked to design legends such as Mario Buatta and Bunny Melon to create her Southeastern Showhouse room. We spoke to the designer about her inspiration for the space and how she infuses modernity into classic interiors.

Samuel & Sons: Can you walk us through the inspiration behind your Southeastern Showhouse room?
Jessica Kain Barton: My inspiration was the southern interiors I grew up surrounded by in Kentucky. Beautiful, exquisitely layered, and grounded in hosting. To accomplish that I revisited my favorite projects that were designed by my design icons. For example in this space, the layering of the same textile, window treatments, sofa & chairs is my nod to the late Mario Buatta, incorporating organic sweet details, textures, and art throughout honors Bunny Mellon, and the pièce de résistance, the feminine table skirt and drapery, is an ode to Deeda Blair.

S&S: How would you describe your personal style?
JKB: I am a traditionalist at my core because I am a Southern girl. However, I love the juxtaposition between a very traditional space that has a pop of contemporary through an element whether it be lighting or artwork. I love that tension in a space because it provides so much visual interest without feeling contrived or inauthentic.

S&S: What do you love about traditional interiors?
JKB: The warmth. Although they are layered with exquisitely beautiful elements such as drapery, upholstery, and wall coverings they are also centered in comfort and entertaining.

S&S: How do you make a traditional room feel fresh?
JKB: I started my design career in California, and my favorite design element from the west coast is the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Granted, only some homes have that option, but you can achieve that feeling in any space. It’s really about selecting products that bring the outdoors in, whether that be a paint color or wallcovering that envelops the scenery or textiles that mimic the foliage outside. We also love using a natural jute or sisal rug in traditional living spaces because we understand firsthand that traditional spaces get a reputation for feeling stuffy when they can actually be the most playful. To keep our spaces feeling fresh, we love to make sure that we incorporate those elements that make the space feel warm and beautiful without feeling overly serious.

S&S: What details set your work apart?
JKB: The details. I think through designing a pillow or lampshade with as much excitement as the initial plans for the kitchen, bathrooms, and floor plans. After the renovation is complete and the clients have moved into their home they will love those larger elements but it is the trim on the edge of the drapery or the pillows that will make them smile and feel completely at home.

S&S: How do you approach using passementerie in your work?
JKB: They are the finishing touch to every soft finish in the house. They bring a beautiful window treatment or cushion to life by elevating it because they are the perfect touch of bespoke that every soft furnishing needs.

S&S: What advice do you have for a designer who has never used trim before?
JKB: Do not be afraid or feel the need to follow any specific “rule”. I love that the same type of trim can be used completely differently for a different project. I have used tape trim from the classic leading edge on a roman shade, to creating a design on a pillow, to a substitute for moldings in a room with few architectural elements. The potential for creating unique and beautiful designs is endless.

Interior Design: J Kathryn Interiors
Photography: Robert Peterson

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