“I’m a pizza-loving, matcha-obsessed cat dad,” says Andy Barlow. Interior designer for Thesis Studio by day, home cook and Netflix binge-watcher by night, Barlow attributes his career to be a fulfillment of a childhood dream. The Portland-based designer shares his 600-square-foot, one-bedroom home—which boasts an aesthetic that’s a thoughtful combination of vintage with a hint of mid-century modern—with his ragdoll cat, Cavanaugh, also known as “the boss.”
“I was the one directing all decor and remodel projects my family took on (or that I took on for them), as far back as when I was 14 years old,” recalls Barlow. “I’m also a realtor with Urban Nest Realty, and helping people buy their first home is my thing.”
Barlow’s affinity for punchy colors is clearly evident. Each of the prominent hues is intentional in form, with an inspired backstory to boot. “It basically all began with the sofa—olive green has always been my favorite color, and I definitely lean toward earthy and cool tones,” Barlow says of the piece that stands in as the focal point of the living room.
Naturally, it comes as no surprise that it also happens to be his favorite spot in the home. “I definitely spend most of my time on the sofa. The living room has great views and tons of light from the south- and west-facing windows, so it’s a super-cozy place to snuggle up with some coffee and my cat and spend the day reading.”
Graphic throw pillows and wall art bearing similar motifs invite an added dose of color to the room, further elevated with a curated array of decorative ceramics.
The sporadic splashes of blues generously integrated throughout the home all began with a gift: a cobalt blue vase made by Bobbie Specker, one of Barlow’s favorite Portland-based ceramicists. “After that, I couldn’t stop buying blue things,” he recalls. “I kept the walls white to allow all the accessories, art, and plants to pop without anything being too domineering.”
The inspired use of blue is a continuous theme, emulated by way of an eclectic array of accents and textiles throughout the home—the bathroom is a prime example. “This was one of the moments when I couldn’t help myself with a pattern, which I actually tend to avoid,” says Barlow.
The bathroom was designed around a Cold Picnic rug, one which Barlow had a long-standing obsession with. “When I finally came across one of its bath mats at a local shop here, I had to have it. I love going a bit bolder and playful in the bathroom. It’s easy and affordable to change up and make unique.”
Plants are yet another standout decorative theme—eclectic clusters of vibrant greens can be found in nearly every corner of the home. The counters framing the kitchen sink are no exception. “I spend a lot of time at that sink and love that it’s original to the apartment,” says Barlow.
“Facing directly toward a blank wall while doing dishes or watering plants is a bit of a bore, so I went a little wild with art here to give myself something to look at.”
As to how he manages to keep them all alive and thriving? “It’s all about light and water,” he says. “Just pick one day a week and remember to stick your finger in the soil. If the top couple of inches are dry, it’s time to water.”
Barlow’s intention for his space was to blend the vintage architecture style of the 1920s with his love for mid-century furniture. An emphasis on showcasing local artists was also crucial for the designer. “Most of the ceramics and art were made by friends or other creatives I’ve met in Portland,” notes Barlow. “The main goal was to just make the space to feel homey, lived-in, and timeless.” And he managed to do just that.