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John Barnes of Lamps Plus: “Sparking more joy is all about being comfortable where you are”

Add something of your personality or personal interests. It’s your space, after all, so make it your own. Furniture pieces with a memory behind them, framed family pictures, collections of music or art — whatever it is that gives you pleasure and calm, make sure that it’s in the room. As part of my series on the “5 […]

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Add something of your personality or personal interests. It’s your space, after all, so make it your own. Furniture pieces with a memory behind them, framed family pictures, collections of music or art — whatever it is that gives you pleasure and calm, make sure that it’s in the room.


As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Barnes, Interior Design Expert at Lamps Plus. John has over 15 years of interior design experience working in the home lighting and decor industry. Lamps Plus was founded in 1976 to give consumers a winning combination of service, selection, and value. As the nation’s largest lighting retailer, they carry all the top brands alongside thousands of exclusive and patented designs in lighting, home furnishings, and décor.


Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Pure chance! I studied art and film in college, worked in the entertainment industry in LA for a decade, then pivoted to online marketing and design, which I love.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

The range of personalities you meet are quite interesting. From meeting Mark Cuban at a conference to working with design world stars like Kathy Ireland, sports personalities, bloggers and more. Doing last minute script revisions with Kathy, with dozens of video crew standing around waiting on us, was a great lesson in how to rise to the occasion and be professional.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well, the learning curve in terms of getting a grasp on all the lighting industry and home decor terminology is steeper than you might think. Take a simple conversation about a “regular” light bulb. You can call it an “Edison bulb”, a “standard” bulb, a “medium base” bulb, or all three at once. So there were a number of initial conversations I had with team members where we just talked in circles around each other until we came to an understanding. I think this is pretty common to all industries, and it takes time to understand it and then, even more importantly, time to learn how to communicate it to customers.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

It’s been very gratifying to see the emergence and mass acceptance of LED lighting, a trend that will continue in the years to come. They last a very long time and are so much more energy efficient than regular incandescent designs. That people have come around to them and see the benefits, both from an energy consumption and a design point of view, is really great.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The job is never done, ever. I once heard the story about how they paint the Golden Gate bridge: they start at one end and by the time they reach the other end it’s time to start all over again. I don’t know if that’s true (seems like it could be?), but it certainly holds true in my work and life experience. Work and life is a constant process of building and revising, and starting over again. Sounds depressing when I say it, but it’s true!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dennis Swanson, the founder and CEO of Lamps Plus, has certainly helped me get to where I am in this industry. He really sets a great work environment for the company and I admire his mix of hard-headed business sense and creativity, all backed by a steady-as-it-goes personality. I remember him sharing a story about his coming to the corporate headquarters after the big Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, which was centered near where the corporate offices are. The building was pretty shook up and there was structural damage to part of it. But he took a deep breath, looked around at all the staff pitching in to clean up, and thought, well, things are going to be OK, let’s get back to work. That’s the best lesson from him, in a way, just dig in and work the problem and you will be alright.

Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Sparking more joy is all about being comfortable where you are. Since everyone is spending more time at home these days, and the “work space” has increasingly shifted to working from home for a great many people, making the home space comfortable is what it’s all about.

The first thing we always want to remind people is that any room should make use of multiple light sources. Most of us only are using one or two sources, and we rely too much on overhead recessed lighting, which is just boring. If you use multiple sources you’ll create dramatic areas of light and dark, which is interesting. It will make any room feel more comfortable and liveable.

The second point is to create a focal point for the living space. Most areas don’t have this, so the natural feeling we get from them is one of anxiety and being uncomfortable. You want a visual point to the room that draws your eye in and lets you know what the room is for — use a sofa to anchor a living room, a desk for a home office, a decorative headboard for a bedroom.

Third is declutter. Personally, I’m not all that good at this, as I have a lot of stuff! You don’t have to go super minimal, but the point is to organize what you have in such a way so that it’s not a point of stress or conflict. Put things away you don’t need or use regularly, add storage space, add a bookshelf — whatever it is you need to do to streamline the visual look of your space.

Then, bring in the outside light. Sunlight and the colors of the outside world are the designer’s secret friend. Open up blinds or add a wall mirror to bring in outside light. You’ll be surprised at the dramatic difference this will make in a room.

And finally, add something of your personality or personal interests. It’s your space, after all, so make it your own. Furniture pieces with a memory behind them, framed family pictures, collections of music or art — whatever it is that gives you pleasure and calm, make sure that it’s in the room.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve always been a supporter of education and learning for the sheer joy of knowledge and gaining a greater understanding of ourselves. So If we are going to advance this world I think that education is going to be the key and the way we advance. Universal education free for all would be a world changer and a benefit for everyone. And if nothing else, people would be a lot more interesting to chat with!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Wow, you saved the toughest question for last! Hmmm…well, they would have to be someone you could have a conversation with, meaning that they’d have to be able to hold up their end of the talk. Frankly, I suspect that there are more than a few of the “biggest names” out there who wouldn’t be able to do this. And they know who they are! So maybe…chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver? I mean, you would at least eat well, I’d hope, and he seems like a good conversationalist. Or, to stick with an Oliver, John Oliver would be fun…remember, no pre-written script! Sports announcer Doris Burke would have some stories to tell. Designer Jonathan Adler is another person I really admire, plus he seems like he’d have a good cocktail suggestion. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, author and bookstore owner Ann Patchett…how big a table did you say I could have?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: www.instagram.com/lampsplus/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lampsplus

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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