Q&A: Greg Barker of Patina Bleu design studio

Photo by Kim Leeson
Photo by Kim Leeson

Greg Barker moved to Dallas from Baton Rouge in 1991. And in 2003, he opened Patina Bleu, a furniture rehab shop and interior design studio at Tyler and Seventh. Since then, he has decorated some of the most beautiful houses in Oak Cliff and other parts of Dallas. More recently, his business has expanded to outside of Dallas, and his little shabby-chic studio in Oak Cliff is becoming one of the most sought-after design houses around.

What is your background? Have you always been an interior designer?
I’ve always had my hand in some kind of design, whether it’s visual merchandising, or I worked in a flower shop … I’ve always dibbled and dabbled with painting and interior design.

You do a lot of furniture makeovers. How did you get into that?
I’ve always had a love for furniture. I used to go to flea markets — and I still do — and find really cool pieces of furniture and “Gregorize” it, whether it’s doing some sort of woodwork or metal or recovering or re-finishing. I just did a really cool wingback chair. I replaced the legs with wrought iron and recovered it with beautiful fabric.

Sponsored Message
“I’ve always been inspired by the Spanish and French influences of Louisiana. It took moving away and going back for me to really appreciate that. The peeling paint, and the Spanish moss and all that stuff, I love going back and seeing all of that.”

What would you say your influences have been?
I’ve always been inspired by the Spanish and French influences of Louisiana. It took moving away and going back for me to really appreciate that. The peeling paint, and the Spanish moss and all that stuff, I love going back and seeing all of that.

Sponsored Message

Are your projects mostly residential?
Yes. I’ve done a few commercial jobs. I like residential because you have more freedom. Commercial is more regimented, depending on what you’re decorating for. Most of my residential clients have a wacky sensibility like I do.

Is this your full-time job?
Yes, but I have another job. I work at American Airlines [part time]. I’ve been there 17 years as a customer service agent.

Sponsored Message

Nice. So you get flight benefits?
Yes — so I’m doing a house in Austin right now, and I’m going down on Saturday. I’m branching out of Dallas now, and that really helps. But I’ve done jobs from Preston Hollow to Oak Cliff. I’ve had a lot of presence in Oak Cliff. I’m something of a design general contractor … I’m designing and having furniture made. I can do everything in a home-design project.

How would you describe your style?
My style is eclectic, even though I know that word is overused. My philosophy is, every client is different. I try to fit the mold of my client. Who are they? How do they live? I combine my style with theirs. I figure out what they like, and it’s my job to get inside their heads and make their vision come through. But my personal style … I’m very moved by French, Italian and modern and mid-century design.

Sponsored Message

The former Patina Bleu showroom now is leased to Oil and Cotton. Is there a place where people can still shop with you?
My workshop is the building next to Oil and Cotton, and it’s basically like a holding tank for furniture and pieces I might want to use for jobs in the future. My goal is to eventually get it back to a storefront where you can come in and shop, but I am so busy with design that it hasn’t happened yet. People, if they really want to come in, they can call me.

If someone has their grandma’s sofa or something that they want to have fixed up, can they bring it to you?
Oh, yes. I do chandeliers, coffee tables, sofas, Louis XVI chairs, armoires, china cabinets … you name it.

Sponsored Message

How did you learn to do all that stuff?
A lot of it was self-taught. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some extremely creative people. But if I put my mind to it, I’ll figure it out, either through trial and error, or I will read up on it and figure it out.

How did you decide you wanted to be a designer?
Originally, I wanted to design amusement park rides. For the longest time I was fascinated with roller coasters. From there, that shifted into architecture and basically, I was taking architecture classes, and during the course of all that my mother got sick, and I took care of her. I got a job at a furniture shop in Louisiana and learned a lot there. When I got to Texas, I worked as a visual merchandiser for Foley’s and Neiman Marcus, and with each experience, it had a creative influence … it stuck with me and propelled me to now.

What are you excited about right now?
Design! Working with new clients, especially clients that are open to new ideas and are willing to let me introduce them to new things. This job I’m working on in Austin, they are away on their 30-year wedding anniversary. They gave me the keys and budget and said, “Whatever your little mind comes up with, do it.”

Wow! How did they find you?
I did a house in Kessler Park, and the owners of that house are friends with this client’s daughter. After the reveal, the client’s daughter loved it, so she told her mom. She is very quick-witted, and she gets it. She has a wacky sense of humor like I do. She’s very cool. They wanted to see my apartment, and she said, “I want my house to look like your house. Do this to my house.”

Sponsored Message

Since mid-century modern is kind of your thing, how can people incorporate mid-century design if they have a more traditional decor?
It could be something as simple as a pillow placement or a rug you choose. You can pair a traditional sofa with mid-century lamps. You can mix mid-century chairs in the dining room with more traditional ones … the old stuffy rules of yesteryear are out the window. When I flip through design magazines, I’m seeing such a marrying of new and old, mid-century with traditional. The old rules don’t apply any more. In the Austin house, I’m using an old French provincial headboard. I cut off the legs and had someone build a new frame for it. I’m using this hand-dyed velvet Hermes fabric, and it feels very modern.

You don’t have to give up all of your secrets, but where do you shop?
Oh, I find things everywhere, from trash dumpsters to Lula B’s to Antiques Moderne to Give and Take. Scout is a really good place to shop for eclectic funky things. Dulce is a great store.

What inspires you?
I drive across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge a lot. That bridge just inspires me. I see something different every time. You can see it from any point. I just love it.

Written By
More from Rachel Stone

Restaurant news: Cake Bar opens, Bocce offers lunch

Baker Tracy German launches her concept, Cake Bar, at Trinity Groves this...
Read More