PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston September 2023

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Page 75 of 115

F or Kelly Barnhart, interior design isn't just about making rooms pretty and functional; it's a deep spiritual experience. "Design is a way to express our souls and the incredible originality we possess as humans," she says. "It's the external manifestation of who we are inside." The River Oaks house Barnhart shares with her 10-year-old daughter, Lila, is pared back, refined, and an exquisite reflection of her calm and introspective life. "There's something that frees the mind to express itself and rest for contemplation when it isn't bombarded by decoration," she says. Barnhart trained as an interior designer at The Art Institute of Houston before heading to Sotheby's in London to study art history and the decorative arts. After a stint as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, she left to rear Lila and open Vibrant, a popular restaurant i n M o n t r o s e t h a t focuses on healthful eating. She was house hunting in 2019 when a property came up for sale in River Oaks. "I fell in love with the scale and volume of the rooms, but I didn't love the architecture," she recalls. "I stripped out the country French 74

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