She's Taken Her Timeless Style to the White House and Beyond
Nancy Hoff Barsotti has a love of historic preservation and educating clients about design that carries through her many varying projects.
Nancy Hoff Barsotti has tackled everything from designing her own 100-year-old home to pediatric emergency rooms to the White House.
A graduate of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and a fellow of the American Society of Interior Designers, she owns Nancy Hoff Barsotti Interior Design (nancybarsotti.com) on the South Side and splits her time between New York City and Pittsburgh. Barsotti says she strives to bring together historic preservation and new, innovative design as well as educate her clients on options for their homes.
“A room [shouldn’t] just be bought. It has to really be — as I think of it — curated and collected. And that sometimes needs to take time,” she says. “I especially encourage people … to live in a space for a while. Because then you find out how you use that room [and] how it functions.”
Barsotti takes her own advice seriously, especially when it comes to the century-old house in Rosslyn Farms she has made into a home. She says she didn’t paint the walls until she was positive she was making the right choice. “Many people may think [designer are] always redoing their [homes], but I tend to really think about it [and] plan it,” she says.
When designing for a client, Barsotti loves mixing the old with the new. “I’ll say, ‘Show me what you have in your closet, what you haven’t figured out how to use.’ It could be a family heirloom, it could be a painting, it could be an antique … anything.”
After her online application to decorate part of the White House for Christmas in December was accepted, Barsotti once again combined her love of history and innovative design. “[The White House] asked me why I wanted to be a volunteer,” she says. ”I just wrote about my love of history and historic preservation and antiques.”
This love made her time in the White House a memorable experience — she designed several aspects of the Blue Room, as well as wreaths for the East Landing, the Chief Usher’s Office and the Queen’s sitting room.
Do you bring a specific design aesthetic to each project you do? I’m very good at what I call being a mix-master. I think now you can do such a mixture of high-end, low-end, new, old, but you need an eye to really put that together. And I think that’s what a good designer really brings to the project.
What was the time commitment for decorating in the White House? It was a week … starting on Thanksgiving day. We [designers] had a meeting that evening with our event team, and we got our assignments. I was assigned to the Blue Room. Then we worked for two days in the warehouse starting to put together the decorations we would use for the room that we were assigned to, and then we worked three days in the White House.
How would you describe your time there? [It was] one of the most exciting experiences I’ll ever have … What was really nice was how warm and inviting the space felt. … It really is the people’s house, as they often say. Walking the hallways and sitting and having your lunch in the state dining room … and then going to the big beautiful reception they prepared for us … it just made you feel very welcome.