At Home Edit with Christene Barberich

Photo via Kirsten Francis

On one of the very few sunny days this winter, we had the pleasure of enjoying the hospitality and warmth of Brooklyn’s very own Christene Barberich. Greeting us with her fiery red hair, bold lip and pot of green tea brewing all day, we stepped into her captivating world. Renowned for her impeccable taste and keen eye for design, the co-founder of Refinery29 is an avid collector of antiques and vintage treasures. Barberich’s home serves as a testament to her unique aesthetic. With each corner adorned with carefully curated pieces, she effortlessly blends the old with the new, creating a space that exudes warmth and character. Her aptly named newsletter, A Tiny Apt, explores Christene’s sustainable approach to design and lifestyle. For this At Home Edit, we delve into Barberich’s journey through interior design, and how her passion for repurposed pieces has profoundly influenced her creative process.

Photos via Maggie Riordan

Q&A with Christene

Kassatex: What are some key considerations when thrift shopping for home products with sustainability in mind?
Christene Barberich: Two things: The first is go with your gut. What’s wonderful and refreshing about thrift stores is that they remind us to think for ourselves…to listen to what colors, textures, shapes we’re drawn to. If I’m ever having some writer’s block or just feel like I’m stuck/in a rut, I’ll head out for a few hours to a thrift store and it totally clears the cobwebs away and helps me think more clearly. The second is how thrifting reminds us to have empathy–both for ourselves and our homes/spaces. What I mean is that our homes are living/breathing environments that respond to love and kindness, just like we do. They aren’t just a space to store things, but a chance to express an idea that reflects how you feel and what your style is saying. I can say with 100% conviction everything in my tiny apartment has both meaning and purpose to me. If it doesn’t, I move it along.

Photos via Kirsten Francis

K: Three tips for identifying high-quality, sustainable materials when thrift shopping for home decor?
CB: I think it’s important to first think about what’s really missing from your space, what you long for. Is it art or more interesting coffee mugs or a throw blanket that catches your eye in an unexpected way. Even just changing out your front door mat can pay dividends in how your home makes you feel. In terms of high-quality, I always opt for natural materials and inspect construction carefully. If something seems like it has a weak seam or the finish is wearing/chipping, it’s not coming home with me. Unless of course it’s by a designer that I love and then I will lovingly rehab it myself.

K: How do you approach mixing thrifted items with new pieces to create a cohesive and stylish look in a home?
CB: LIFE is in the mix:). Foundational pieces like bedding, towels, things we use everyday that wear with washing over time (and are close to our bodies) I buy new. And more decorative pieces/objects like pottery, glassware, artwork, I tend to buy vintage or thrifted.

Photos via Kirsten Francis

K: Can you recommend some specific types of home products that are particularly well-suited for thrift shopping?
CB: I’ve bought at least three or four vintage Dieter Rams-designed for Braun Aromaster coffee makers. They brew the BEST coffee and they’re an excellent example of spare, functional modernism. I usually find them at thrift stores so keep your eyes open for them. I really love vintage Russel Wright dinner plates, too…the colors and the delicate rim of the plates are just beautiful.

K: How do you navigate thrift stores effectively to find the best home decor treasures?
CB: Grab a basket and head straight to the home section. Walk the aisles and scan for colors or materials you like. For me that’s primary colors like red or yellow that could be vintage Italian designer pieces from the 60s and 70s like Guzzini or Joe Colombo. Some people love silver plated candlesticks (always a win!) or great wooden salad bowls. Whatever it is you love and like to collect, pay close attention to what might be hiding out on a crowded shelf. I am also always on the lookout for quilts and any kind of embroidery or hanging textiles…wonderful pieces can be hiding in plain site wedged between lots of discarded bed sheets.

Photo via Kirsten Francis

K: Can you share a success story or memorable experience from your own thrifting adventures for home decor?
CB: My favorite has to be thrifting with my sister and finding that 16/30 signed serigraph by Allan D’Arcangelo….for $10. It still makes me scream. Also, thrifting with my mom and finding a mint black vintage Yves Saint Laurent wool cape from the Morocco-inspired collection of 1976. It was also $10 I think and is likely worth $2k today.

K: What’s a simple yet effective home organization tip you swear by for maintaining order?
CB: Honestly, it’s just not waiting until things get out of hand to do a cleaning. I am a huge fan of intermittent cleanouts. For example, if we have something delivered and it’s a bigger box, I’ll use that as an excuse to spend an hour or two going around the house and looking in all the cabinets and drawers, filling up the box with things I can leave on our stoop for locals to take. Anyone can do this and it feels AMAZING to put a free box outside leaving you some space to breathe in your kitchen cabinets.

Photos via Kirsten Francis

K: How do you infuse elements of nature or the outdoors into your home design?
CB: By not taking light and glimpses of the outdoors for granted. We have beautiful shades that are almost always up so we can have access to the sky, the sun, birds, etc. We don’t usually have a lot of cut flowers in the house, but I do have a flowering geranium plant that I treat like another kid in our house. Plants are pretty sacred over here and also offer a chance to be loving and meditative in your home and WITH your home. I think that ritual is important and really feeds us over time.

Photo via Kirsten Francis

K: What’s one home decor trend you’re currently loving, and how have you incorporated it into your space?
CB: Hmmm, I kind of feel like I’m the anti-trend lady…maybe it’s just the revival of jewel-tone greens. I guess I’m really into green lately…

K: What is one home decor trend you would love to see fade away.
CB: All beige and stone-colored everything. No thanks.

K: How do you balance functionality and aesthetics when selecting furniture for your home?
CB: First and foremost, it has to be comfortable and serve us in everyday life. I no longer have space or tolerance for anything that’s just for show. Especially with a small child, I don’t want to live in fear that something will get ruined or broken. So I really tend toward resilient materials and designs that are intended for life and living as opposed to just looking.

Photos via Kirsten Francis

Quick Fire Time

K: Cohesive and coordinated look throughout your home or embrace the eclectic: mix of styles and influences?
CB: Mix, mix, and re-mix again. It’s endless.

K: Neutral Color Palettes or Vibrant and Bold?
CB: Do you need to ask??

K: Solid colors or intricate patterns in your furnishings?
CB: Both…the balance/coordination is the MAGIC.

Photo via Maggie Riordan

K: Furniture: clean lines and modern designs or rustic, vintage pieces?
CB: Simple and timeless. I’d rather go crazy with art, pillows, jewelry:)

K: Pattern Play: geometric patterns or nature/floral-inspired motifs?
CB: Both in good measure.

K: Decor to Amor: Sleek, metallic finishes or warm, natural wood tones?
CB: Both in good measure. But they have to be REAL, not fake new stuff.

K: Statement Pieces or Understated Accents.