Laura Barnett

Laura was born and raised in Chicago's Beverly Hills neighborhood, the eldest of five children. Her father is a retired restaurateur, while her mother was a successful model and couture buyer for Gucci and several other designer salons. Laura graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where she majored in interior design and after several years of owning and managing a retail operation, Laura opened her own design firm in 1981. She presently lives in the Chicago's Gold Coast with her husband, while having vacation residences in both Palm Desert, California and Aspen, Colorado. Her daughter is a professional photographer living in San Francisco. Laura is a member of the prestigious Women's Athletic Club (WAC), where, in addition to daily workouts, she serves on several committees and enjoys singing in their chorus. She is an avid movie fan and attends the opera and theater on a regular basis. One of her many passions is ballroom dancing, Latin styles in particular.

Laura on Interiors:

As an award-winning designer and professional member of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Laura often lectures and writes on various aspects of remodeling, interior design and fashion. Her media appearances include several radio and cable television programs in addition to being a featured designer on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and on WLS-TV's "Chicagoing" with Bill Campbell. Her "Style-At Home" column is a regular feature in Today's Chicago Woman Magazine. Both local newspapers and national magazines have published Laura's interior design projects. Laura helped develop and design the first ever DreamRoom at the Merchandise Mart, the precursor to the successful DreamHome project, where she designed another room in 2008. 

Laura on Fashion:

Along with interior design, Laura has always been involved with fashion. Laura is the former president and currently sits on the board of the Costume Council at the Chicago Historical Society, an organization at the Chicago History Museum that focuses on the historic and cultural aspect of clothing and their preservation. Laura has chaired two galas for them, the second honoring designer Bill Blass the year that he retired. Laura is also a long time board member of the Fashion Group International, a professional organization consisting of fashion industry executives. She had the wonderful opportunity to chair their gala honoring designer Marie Grey of St. John, funding scholarships for students in the fashion industry. 

Laura on Philanthropy:

Charitable pursuits have always been important to Laura. As the former president of the Parkways Foundation, Laura led their initiative to acquire private funding for many park programs and capital projects that beautify the city and enrich its inhabitants. The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Chicago Park District and is best known for the Garden Party, celebrating each year in a different park with 700 guests, and the Lollapalooza music festival which brings tens of thousands to Grant Park every August. Her many years of service on the Women's Board of United Cerebral Palsy yielded the development of the Christmas in July Benefit, which was underwritten by her firm, and spear headed their Holiday Drive. She donates on a smaller scale to many other charitable foundations.