2018 Circle of Excellence: Interior Designer Barbara Glass Mullen
Principal/interior designer, Barbara Glass Inc., Aspen
This year’s Circle of Excellence recipients continue to elevate our landscape and enhance their legacies. Here, learn about winning interior designer Barbara Glass Mullen.
Growing up in Houston, Texas, Barbara Glass Mullen was surrounded by designing women. “I was always running around with my mom to antiques shops, and she had a bedroom that was a wonderful salmon color,” she says. “I loved going to my aunt’s house, too, and felt she had an amazing style. And I remember going into friends’ houses and realizing that some women just had an eye for putting things together with great taste.”
Thus inspired, by the age of 10 Mullen would regularly rearrange the furniture in her home while her parents were out. “They would come in to find I had repositioned everything,” she says. “They were pretty laid-back about it. Sometimes it was an improvement.”
So it made sense to her to hone her skills to professional level by majoring in interior design at Texas Christian University. “My dad thought it was ridiculous. And my brother said I’d wind up working at Finger Furniture,” she adds with a laugh, referring to a now-defunct local mainstream chain of home furnishings stores.
Portrait by Jennifer Olson
But there was nothing mainstream about Mullen’s career. While still an undergrad, she landed an internship at the local headquarters of the international design firm Wilson Associates, and soon after graduation she had risen to the rank of senior designer there, traveling the world as she spearheaded projects for hotel and resort clients, such as Rosewood and Four Seasons. “It was amazing, such a fun time in my life. I worked hard, and I learned a lot.”
An offer to help start Poss Interior Design, a division of Poss Architecture + Planning, as lead designer on large-scale residential and hospitality projects brought her to Aspen in 2002, and that is where, four years later, she and her then husband, Richard Mullen, launched Caroline-Edwards Inc., with her as co-owner and principal designer. She went on to launch her own design firm in 2016, focusing on upscale residences—including the bijou private ski-in, ski-out Residences at The Little Nell, downtown Aspen’s premier resort hotel—distinguished by a blend of innovative building materials, fine textiles, sophisticated lighting and quality furnishings.
One could add to those signature characteristics one more: a true sense of place. “My son George was born here 12 years ago, and I’m raising him here in the Roaring Fork Valley,” says Mullen. “I love the weather here, the environment, the people—both clients and friends. I’m definitely now a Coloradan.”
Starwood Residence, Aspen [Photo by Brent Moss]
LISTEN UP: “Getting to know my clients and how each individual lives is always interesting to me. I think the biggest thing a designer can do is to listen to people, really listen to understand what they want. A lot of times, they don’t know what they want. But by listening to them, you can help them form an idea.”
FABRICS RULE: “Everyone always asks me, ‘Where do you start an interior’s design?’ I always start with fabrics, because that’s what inspires me the most.”
EVOLVING CREATION: “At any given time, I have 10 or 15 projects. So many former clients are constantly asking me to do little things like updating the room of a child who’s growing up, or just wanting me to refresh a room. I love coming back a few years later to continue a home’s evolution.”
SCALE MATTERS: “One of the most important things when creating a space is having the right balance of scale. I love a lot of different styles: traditional, modern and everything in between. You can mix all sorts of styles, colors and finishes, and they can go together. But if the size of the sofa is too big or the light fixture is too small, it doesn’t work.”
PERSONAL SANCTUARY: “The day before Thanksgiving last year, I moved into a remodeled old late-19th-century church in Basalt. My bedroom there is very modern, with an amazing view of Mount Sopris. But my favorite room is the sanctuary, which is now my living room/dining room/kitchen, with 25-foot ceilings and a stained glass window that filters in yellowy light in the morning.”
NO KNICKKNACKS: “I don’t like a lot of knickknacks. I do collect design books and travel books. I also love art and mix all different kinds, though mostly modern art. But I do have a great traditional portrait in my front entry hall of a man with a long reddish beard, wearing a dark cloak. My son thinks it’s funny that I buy such random things. But I love the mix.”