Brooklyn-based Malene Barnett views rugs as large canvases that marry her fine arts background with a passion for global travel. “I love that with carpet design, I am able to paint and draw, yet create a functional product,” she says. As a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, Barnett traversed five continents to absorb local cultures around the world, including visits to Thailand, India and Gambia. “My favorite thing is to hang out and learn who these people are and how their environment is reflected in their homes,” she says. “It’s something we often take for granted.” Not surprisingly, cultural patterns define Barnett’s work. Each of her handcrafted rugs, made from natural fibers like hemp and silk, has a story. She’ll reinterpret Jamaica’s native sugar cane as abstract lines, while the intricacy of a henna ceremony in India inspired her hand-printed Mehndi carpet. By working with GoodWeave, a child-labor prevention watchdog, Barnett prides herself on supporting artisans on a global scale. “My goal is to inspire a sense of community through innovative design.”
LX: Work approach:
MB: I want my rugs to speak to your soul and move you in a way that you’re excited to come home to it every day.
LX: Greatest indulgence:
MB: Sweets! La Maison du Macaron in Chelsea has the best caramel de sel.
LX: Describe your home:
MB: I have teal-stained wood floors, which makes me feel as if I am walking on water. My dream is to have a house in the Caribbean.
LX: Personal style:
MB: Modern, bold, colorful and globally inspired. Otherwise known as global glamour.
LX: Dream collaboration:
MB: I would love to design rugs with architect David Adjaye, designer Yabu Pushelberg and hospitality design architecture firm WATG. Everything they do is on a global scale.
LX: Treasured item:
MB: There’s a buffet cabinet in my home that was given to me by my mother. It was one of her first furniture pieces.