It all started with a placemat. Created by New York-based designer Lisa Perry as a whimsical addition to her new ready-to-wear line in 2007, the series of brightly colored, saucer-shaped mats took on a life of their own, flying off the shelves of her East Hampton and New York shops at an enviable rate.
As it turns out, the vinyl placemats, embellished with words such as “Happy,” “Fun,” and “Joy,” were being purchased for more than just table protection. “I discovered that people were actually hanging them on their walls,” says Perry. “I mean, who would ever think of framing a placemat? But people were using them as art.”
Soon, friends and clients began requesting that she expand her selection of tabletop offerings, and a seed was planted. Borrowing prints and motifs from her celebrated clothing collection, Perry explored ways to bring a fresh perspective to the world of home entertaining. “I have always loved working with color,” she says. “I have a distinct point of view in the way I design, and it was actually fairly seamless to translate between categories.” In some cases, the carryover was quite literal: the fabric for several pillows came directly from the ready-to-wear cutting-room floor. “I’d been reading a lot about the growing interest in recycling fabrics, not letting the scraps go to waste,” she says. “It was the perfect way to use leftover material from our dresses.”
About a year ago, Barneys New York approached Perry with an idea: An exclusive collaboration featuring the designer’s colorful pillows, trays—and yes, placemats—to be displayed in a pop-up shop at the Madison Avenue flagship. Along side vintage furniture from Perry’s own collection, the shop also includes a curated selection of home items that Perry holds dear, including pieces by Marc Newson, Bodrum, and Heller. “I have collected Heller dinnerware for a really long time,” she says, noting the rainbow-colored mugs featured in the shop. “I absolutely love their pieces. They are so much fun!”
Fun is a big part of what makes Perry tick. “I am, by nature, an upbeat person,” she says. “I prefer to see the glass as half-full. When I launched my ready-to-wear line, the whole idea was to design clothing that would make women feel good about themselves. To me, it is the ultimate compliment when someone says, ‘Your dress makes me feel happy.’ That is a big reason as to why I do what I do.”
With blasts of color and blocks of bold geometric prints, Perry’s pop-art style is hard to describe with any word but happy—which makes her home pieces the perfect beach house accessory or an ideal gift to bring when visiting friends in the Hamptons. “I designed these to be casual items at a great price point that people could use to inject some joy into their summer rental,” she explains. Another selling point: Perry’s curated choices, such as the Marc Newson wine and highball glasses crafted out of virtually unbreakable polycarbonate, are ideal for outdoor entertaining.
Among Perry’s favorites from the Lisa Perry XO Barneys New York collection: A black-and-white throw made out of yarn spun from recycled plastic bottles and designed with her signature optic print, and a white acrylic serving tray detailed with the word “HELLO” in bold, capital letters. “Part of the joy comes from creating pieces that people haven’t seen before,” she explains.
To complete the collection, Perry enlisted the help of friend and artist Donald Robertson to create graphic images made from gaffer tape—a heavy cotton cloth adhesive used in theater, photography, and film—on canvas for the Barneys New York installation. (How the two pop-art devotees met is one of those modern-day tales: “We connected on Instagram,” she says cheerfully.) “Donald does these terrific geometric pieces,” Perry explains. “It felt like a natural fit.”
The artwork, sold under the label Donald Drawbertson, serves as a backdrop to the colorful scene on the 9th floor of the Madison store: Perry’s own vintage furniture, along with custom white ping pong tables and an ice cream truck, create reference points for the collection’s overriding theme of easy summer living—something Perry knows a thing or two about. “It’s definitely a reflection of how I like to entertain,” she says. “Nothing too formal, just simple pieces that add an element of humor and fun.” As far as where she goes from here, the designer awaits feedback on her first foray into the home category. “I know that people love the placemats, but I’ll wait and see what else they gravitate toward to inform what I do next.” But you can count on this: It will be bright, it will be bold, and it will be happy. “Everyone needs a little color in their life,” she muses, “don’t you think?”
Lisa Perry XO Barneys New York summer home collection and a curated selection of summer entertaining favorites can be found on Barneys.com and at Barneys New York Madison Avenue Memorial Day through Labor Day.