LA’s most beautiful homes are taking notice of Betsy Burnham’s layered multicultural style
Written by Brian Patrick Flynn with photography courtesy of Burnham Design
Betsey Johnson may have written the book on layering frocks, but Betsy Burnham holds the reigns to its’ use in interior design. Each of the LA-based designer’s spaces has a multifaceted look rich in texture, pattern, ethnicity and shape. Equally stimulating is her tailoring of curtains, upholstery and accessories — a skill that most likely stems from her formal background in menswear design [one she is totally over talking about]. Design enthusiasts rarely associate tailor-made or glamorous with bohemian, but the expressive trio is well-suited in Betsy’s case. There’s a sophisticated eclecticism in each of her designs that defies age, gender and geographical boundaries.
Aside from objects, Ms. Burnham is an authority on the layering of patterns. Ikat and floral with zebra? Well, of course! Leopard paired with snake and chinoiserie? Why not? Variations in sheen and scale allow multicultural materials to play quite nicely together. From Uzbek textiles to Spanish woodwork, this top American designer garnishes worldly aesthetic with a splash of Hollywood glamour.
Forget the fine wine. The intoxicating guest experience in Betsy’s own dining room is brought on by the design itself. From the leopard print chandelier shades to the snakeskin upholstery, the Burnham-Stern dining room offers an organic buzz without the hangover.
Black, white and red all over
Red asian floral wallpaper, ikat, oushak, union jack, red leather upholstery, zebra and blue-white ceramic work well together? Duh. This happy marriage of patterns officiated by Ms. Burnham is the perfect combination of layered prints.
Best all around
Who needs a trip to Epcot when a global trek can be experienced in the dining room? The aesthetic seen here contrasts Asian inspiration with island touches. If invited over for dinner, I’d be quick to request Polynesian chicken and hot sake followed up with fortune cookies.
The big finish
Burnham’s spaces often include mixed finishes which enhance one another. Here the ebony tone of the arm chair contrasts gorgeously with the taupe-ish fretwork console. Finishing touches don’t end with paint and stain. Betsy’s unique accessories work as the missing link between her larger not-meant-to-go-together pieces.
Less is more
When color is concerned, Burnham knows when to turn the dial to the right or, as in the two examples above, to the left. Her muted palettes pack a good punch yet fade just enough into the background to let textures and patterns take center stage.
Change is good BUT but when windows are concerned, I’ve stuck to a window treatment routine of fan pleats and flat roman shades. But Betsy opened my eyes and my black-out lined drapes to new options. A powder blue living room design shed a gender-neutral light on the traditional London shade [seen in the three windows]. While working with Betsy on a shoot in the Hollywood Hills, she turned me on to her dearly beloved tailored box pleat. Moving forward — when it comes to tailoring – I’ll have what Betsy’s having.