Designer Anne-Marie Barton transforms a cold, contemporary home in Holladay into a chic statement of warmth and comfort for owners Rick and Amy White.

By Brad Mee

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For homeowners Rick and Amy White, the decision of whether to purchase a contemporary house in Holladay came down to one simple question: Can we make this home warm and comfortable? “Absolutely,” Anne-Marie Barton responded without hesitation. As the principle of AMB Design in Salt Lake City, she relished the challenge.

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Living Room

Barton deftly created a cozy sitting area from the expansive step-down living room by anchoring it with walnut floors and a large-scale modern sectional that fills the space with abundant seating while allowing light and views to move freely across the space. Layered art on the asymmetric mantel draws the eye without detracting from garden views framed by broad windows. Photo by Brian Twede.

When Barton first approached the property, she encountered a 16,775-square-foot home defined by horizontal lines, curved forms and glass block walls common to Streamlined Modeme architecture. Inside, she discovered few surprises. “It was the expected tour of glass, steel and shapes alluding to the future,” she recalls. Her clients warmed to the structure, but the interiors left them cold.

To remedy this, Barton conceived an organic take on modem design, for which she devised a keenly edited palette of soothing colors, natural materials, compelling treatments, and quality furnishings and fixtures. Her integration of these features into the expansive interior balanced its open space with striking focal points that simultaneously comfort and captivate.

If a single space can be said to exemplify the designer’s skill at balancing quiet space and eye-catching treatments, it is likely the entry. Once through the curved glass-and-steel front door, visitors step into the foyer where the serene, light-washed area is punctuated by key focal points-a stunning, tiered chandelier, a serene oil painting and a curved walnut and white bronze wall backing a modern sculpture.

Negative space focuses the eye on the best things, Barton explains. “Every room deserves a ‘moment’ but not everything in it needs to speak.” Memorable “moments” enrich the entire home, as do organic elements throughout.

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In the dining room, Barton hung an Ironies chandelier above a table and leather chairs by Baker. A custom Tai Ping rug adds subtle texture to the space, as does Maya Romanoff organic wall covering. Buffet by Ironies.

“Relating modern design to living matter makes a home feel more comfortable,” says Barton, who rejected overtly shiny and slick elements for those engendering a natural look and feel. On the floors, for example, honed greenstone pairs with natural walnut anchoring the step-down living room, Amy’s office, the master suite and its round vestibule.

Barton gray-stained, wire brushed and oiled the walnut and arranged it in herringbone, chevron and square patterns that accentuate its distinctive beauty. “The rhythm of the wood speaks quietly, while grounding the rooms with a tactile platform and organic warmth,” Barton explains. The designer’s textile palette furthers the effect. Pure wools, silks, cottons, linens and shagreen leathers dress room after room. “Natural fabrics raise the level of quality and richness.”

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Barton succumbed to sheen only where she desired contrast between similarly colored elements. For example, she wrapped the kitchen’s lacquered cabinets with white oak, adorned the office’s studded leather doors with polished marble pulls and surrounded the powder bath’s back wall of dimensional stone with sparkling glass tile. With each, the contrast reveals itself with shifts of light, contour and tonality.

“I rely on texture rather than color to do the heavy lifting,” Barton says. She painted the walls Benjamin Moore’s Sheep’s Wool to create a museum-like backdrop and introduced soft hues of aubergine, turquoise and warm gray using rugs, pillows and artwork that subtly tint the muted décor, while allowing the rooms to remain serene and calming. “Tonal isn’t monochromatic, it’s a soothing combination,” Barton explains.

Master Bedroom

Diagonal walnut flooring visually expands the master bedroom space. Porta Romana sconces illuminate a custom bed and nightstands by Bradshaw Design.Photo by Brian Twede.

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Barton created a rug of mosaic tiles as a stage for the master bath’s freestanding tub and McEwen light fixture above. A spacious glass-enclosed shower and separate vanities backed with dimensional Ann Sacks tile foster the room’s spa-like allure.

In truth, much of the design’s success emanates from Barton’s reverence for simplicity, which she demonstrated through strong editing and restraint, as well as clean lines that flow throughout. “I count on less to make a bigger impact,” she says. This less-is-more approach by no means makes Barton a strident minimalist.

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“I love layers—they put people at ease,” she says. The main living room best proves her point. There, Barton warmed the contemporary architecture teaming carefully chosen pieces: a stunning silk rug lies beneath a clean-lined sectional accented with plush pillows that complement the hushed colors of overlapping art displayed on the asymmetric mantel.

“The look is completely modern, approachable and livable,” she says. In the end, that’s exactly the result Barton intended for the home and one she masterfully delivered to clients now captivated by a sanctuary that’s as comfortable as it is contemporary.