Designer, artist, and author Bari J. Ackerman is anything but boring. Open her most recent book, Bloom Wild, or peruse her fabric, rug, bedding, and wallpaper offerings from her Bari J. lifestyle brand, and it’s like stepping into a secret garden filled with lush, beautiful florals, vibrant hues, and uniquely embellished creatures eager to introduce you to a fun way of using color and pattern.
When Ackerman designs her home or those of others, she brings the most she can into the space by layering colors, patterns, and a combination of old and new finishes and furnishings. “I’m a color-loving maximalist,” she says. “I often say that I’m a ‘Curated Maximalist,’ a term I coined about six years ago because while I feel more is more, I don’t think more is more just to have more. I think that color and pattern should be layered with intention, and editing is very important. I love florals—they are definitely my wheelhouse—and I also feel that mixing in geometric and other abstract patterns creates a look that has depth and warmth.”
Ackerman’s love of color and flowery prints grew in her childhood as she watched her mother, who is also an artist, fill their home with blooms. “I love color and florals,” Ackerman says. “My mom decorated in a lot of florals when I was growing up. She also painted florals as I do now and planted all kinds of flowers in her garden. I have a distinct memory of being a little girl sitting next to her as she needlepointed a huge tapestry of flowers in a brass vessel. It took months if not years to finish . . . if you look closely at my work, you’ll see that motif is an indelible memory for me.”
The seeds of the Bari J. lifestyle brand were planted in the early 2000s when Ackerman started making jewelry as a creative outlet. In 2005, she made and sold her first custom handbags. She decided to design her own fabric to make her handbags stand out, and before she knew it, she had her own fabric series, Full Bloom. In 2011, her first book, Inspired to Sew by Bari J., was published. Since then, she has created more than twenty collections of fabric.
Along the way, Ackerman picked up a paintbrush, giving her fabrics, prints, and home products an elegant, painterly feel. “Around 2010 I started painting and I couldn’t stop,” she says. “I found it was what I truly loved the most and where I thrived. Now my surface designs are a mix of digital and painted, which I think creates more depth and contrast in the collections. I also sell my painted originals and prints.”
Today, the prints that Ackerman invents look almost vintage, except for her modern use of color and juxtaposition of patterns. Her bold designs can be found on Loloi Rugs, Joybird furniture, Art Gallery Fabrics, Wallternatives Removeable Wallpaper, Makers Collective bedding, and other products.
Creating vibrant spaces
When she is not painting or designing new prints, Ackerman lends her artistic vision to interior design. She decorates clients’ homes and uses her own residence that she shares with her husband, Kevin, as her canvas. Her kitchen was one of the last spaces she decorated in her Scottsdale, Arizona, home before moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2021.
The kitchen features a deep emerald-green backsplash in a herringbone pattern made from handmade tile from Mercury Mosaics in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A patterned pink rug, black cabinets, and gold hardware provide vibrant contrasts to the green tile. The bright-white plates on the open shelves and the simple marble counters balance the space’s bold colors. A floral pattern on the bar stools, fresh flowers, and live greenery gives the kitchen its signature Bari J. look. “I wanted the kitchen to reflect our love for color and pattern, and I hoped that when you looked at it, you wouldn’t be able to pin a style or a date it might have been designed,” she says. “I wanted it to be warm and welcoming.”
While green is trending in home design, the color is more sentimental than on-trend for Ackerman. “I have always loved green, probably because there was a lot of it in my childhood home,” she says. “My mom put green leather wallpaper in the living room, and all of the woodwork was painted an evergreen color. I am guessing green fills me with nostalgia.”
The designer has been adding her unique stamp to her new home as she redesigns it room by room. “I love color and pattern, and I want all of the rooms I create to feel joyful and also timeless,” she says. She reveals the details of her life, such as her home projects and new product offerings, on her blog, Bloom Wild with Bari J. There, she enjoys sharing tips about developing your decorating style. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns,” she says. “My rule of thumb is to use similar prints that have a color in common but contrast in scale and type of print. For instance, a floral print can easily be mixed with a plaid provided they have a color that ties them together. And remember . . . leopard print rules the wild interior—it goes with everything!”
Nothing is too fierce for this designer as she continues to invent and mix bold patterns, design new textiles and wallpapers, and fill her world with a nostalgic mix of color and florals.
For more info, visit barijdesigns.com.