Style Talk With Malene Barnett

malene b

I am excited to bring you today’s Style Talk interview with carpet and rug designer Malene Barnett.  Malene talks with us about integrating culture and design, her fun photo shoot with Todd Selby and what’s next for her company.

How did malene b begin?
After studying textile design at FIT in New York City, I worked as the Design Director for Afritex designing African print fabrics.  Years later I began working for Nourison Rugs, one of the largest importers of handmade rugs in the world, as their first in-house designer.  Initially I designed their area rug collections, but soon became Design Manager for the company’s very successful accent rug division.  At Nourison, I was given the opportunity to develop fashion forward designs that changed how accent rugs were viewed.
Around 2003, I began thinking of creating my own company; however, at the time my focus was on creating innovative bedding designs for the home furnishings industry.  In the summer of 2008, I decided to focus on my passion and return to my strength “carpet design.” Shortly thereafter, malene b custom handmade carpets was born. 

malene b-papunya handtufted new zealand wool photo by lionel aurelien photography
Papunya Rug

Tell us a about your design philosophy. 
My goal as the principal of malene b is to create carpets that merge my artistic background and passion for global travel. I want to create not only great carpet designs, but also inspire people to experience the world through a unique art form.
There is pattern in everything; color makes our lives better.  Design should speak to one’s soul, inspire you to think differently, and feel good as well as serve a function. Each design makes it’s own statement.  It all depends on what inspired me to create the pattern.

I understand that you are a world traveler.  Has your work ever been inspired by your travel experiences?

I have so many favorite trips! The summer of ’96 was by far the best! As a graduation gift to myself I went to The Gambia, Ghana and India .  I was gone for the entire summer. It was the first time that I was away for such a long period of time. I really had time to immerse myself in the culture.  In Ghana I was able to witness the making of their Adinkra fabrics.  They are hand-stamped fabrics of symbols with different meanings.  That trip became the inspiration for my Adinkra carpet design. After Ghana I went to India to my girlfriends wedding and I participated in a henna hand painting ceremony called Menhdi; that experience inspired me to create the Mehndi carpet design.

Modern Interior
Adinkra Carpet

Design is increasingly becoming more global.  What do you think is the significance of integrating culture and global influences?
Global influences in design are a never ending source of inspiration. I think it is great to see so many cultural references.  It teaches people about the beauty of other cultures and allows them a glimpse into a community.  I think global cultures will encourage individuals to explore the world even more, and people will further develop their personal style.

moorea rooms

Your home was featured in The Selby!  What was that experience like?  And please tell us, how did you get The Selby to come visit your space?

The Selby experience was really cool.  Honestly I didn’t know anything about him until after the photo shoot so I wasn’t star struck.  Wendy Goodman from New York Magazine was doing a feature on me in my home and Todd Selby was the photographer on the project.  Todd talked to me throughout the shoot asking random questions about places where I like to eat in the neighborhood, where I’m traveling to next, etc. He was constantly taking pictures and you had no idea what he was really focusing on.  The questionnaire at the end was the coolest part because I was able to draw my answers and write with cool markers that he purchased in Japan . After the shoot I took the group to my local Roti shop and we sat back and ate rotis, rice and peas and sorrel.

Photo of Malene Barnett taken by Todd Selby
Image taken by Todd Selby

Many people struggle with bringing authentic cultural style into their homes.  How can people celebrate culture in their interior in an authentic way?

Anyone can incorporate culture style into there homes. You can start a collection. I collect handmade teacups from around the world to display in my home, so wherever I visit I always seek out at least one.  When you are traveling seek out the local artisans and purchase things that you really love. Take lots of photographs and frame them. If you are not able to get away then visit stores like Homegoods (one of my favorite places to shop), flea markets, and yard sales. I collected some of my favorite art pieces in a yard sale from a world traveler! I think the trend is to be as personal as possible.  It’s not about creating cookie cutter spaces.
What is next for malene b?

I’m working on four new collections and a group carpet exhibition for the Fall.  My new collections are going to show you how versatile I am as a designer. I have some other things in the works, but I don’t want to mention them until it’s all final.  Rest assured malene b is always working on what’s next!

Malene, we absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next!

{images furnished by malene b}

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