Betsy's office mixes trad plaid, hints of black, bamboo chandeliers, and a giant Parson's table where she spreads out her samples and gets to work.
A room scheme comes together on a board in her office. It sits beside a standing lamp with a Burnham Design signature element, a Union Jack shade.
Photo by Matthew Millman for Western Interiors
Who did you work for and where did you study to learn the trade?
I’m basically self-taught. I mean, I have a creative background: I studied fine art undergrad at Dartmouth, and after graduating, I worked in the fashion industry for about 6 years. when I moved out here, I studied for a year in the interior design program at UCLA extension, which gave me some fundamental drafting and space planning skills. but I did most of my learning (and I’m still learning) on the job, and in collaboration with contractors, architects and colleagues.
When did you know this was your calling in life?
Late-ish. As I said, I’ve always been creative and been interested in and good with color and fabric, but I honestly thought that fashion was where I’d end up. I always had fun with my own homes, and it was a guest of mine who first suggested interior design-she became my first client about 14 years ago.
Do you have a signature look and how would you define it?
Thrift and couture. A mix of patterns, layering of styles, a love of color.
Your work is full of color and fashion forward. What do you think is next regarding trends in color, material, style, influence, historical period and locale?
I definitely had a year of teal, then a summer of grassy greens. but it isn’t always bright color: on our table right now is a neutral room in the works: oatmeal, taupe, cocoa brown mixed with black wood finishes. it looks very fresh to me. also, lately I’m attracted to skirted sofas and am putting them in the same rooms as mid century painting and sculpture. I guess for me, it’s always classic with a twist.
Do you have a favorite fabric pattern or print?
I have so many, but one is “Natchez” by Kravet. It’s a cotton ikat, that comes in several really usable colors and is super reasonably priced. Regardless of trend, ethnic prints remain classic and timeless.
What other designer do you most admire?
Many designers here in LA who I consider my professional peers inspire me: Joe Nye, Peter Dunham, and Suzan Fellman to name a few.
What books do you own old and new that you constantly refer to?
Elle Décor's So Chic, Time Saving Standards for interior design and space planning, Time at Home and A Home For all Seasons.
If you could design your own product collections what would they be and in what style?
That’s easy. I’d love to do fabric and I’d love to design a few rugs. they’d be colorful, and there would have to be some offbeat plaids, some bright paisleys, some sort of variation on camouflage, and of course an animal print or two.
Who would you like most to collaborate with on a project?
The Rug Company (Chris and Suzanne, take note!)
What material do you love?
Cottons and linens. There’s nothing wrong with a soft leather or a good faux snake.
Where do you go to get inspired?
Vintage stores in other cities. My daughter and I found some great ones in Florence this past summer and spent hours poking through clothing and furniture despite some serious heat and humidity.
What stores do you shop in the most?
Weego Home, Lawson Fenning, JF Chen, Hollywood at Home, Barneys, and Ebay. Oh! And 1st dibs. What did we do before that?
What is your favorite project?
I designed a 15,000 square foot house on a private island in northern Michigan on Lake Huron. The clients (3 siblings) are probably my favorites ever: young, cool, wonderfully eccentric and lovers of all things vintage. The entire house is filled with finds from Ebay, vintage stores and auction houses and has a distinctly nautical theme. The results are below.
The view is the star, so comfortable seating areas with ethnic fabrics complement the scenic aspects.
A wall of French doors in the dining room provide easy access to the outside. For relaxed dinners, comfortable upholstered royal blue high back chairs sit around a dark wood table. Nautical art is hung around the perimeter of the room.