This Furniture Designer Is Making Waves with Her Barbiecore Pieces

With her hand-crafted furniture and decor items, 26-year-old Sophie Collé believes everyone should be able to have their own custom pieces—and just have fun.

Sophie Collé's barbie house kitchen and a wavy, Memphis style stand

Sophie Collé | Design: Better Homes & Gardens

In the throes of 2020, Sophie Collé got laid off from her first interior design job out of college—but it didn’t shake her too much. After about a year in a position that didn’t give her much inspiration, she accepted the news without much concern and jumped headfirst into what is now Sophie Collé Design.

Her design studio started with a human interest incentive—a way to raise money for causes she cared about in the midst of COVID-19—and has grown into a business complete with custom-made pieces, from squiggle key chains and shelves to cloud-printed stools. At the center of everything? The color pink. 

During her senior year studying industrial design at Virginia Tech, Collé found herself becoming bored with her classes, which didn’t allow her to venture much outside of scientific and medical designs. She felt more drawn to art and took a job working at a museum in Washington, D.C. There, she spent her time reading and learning about the excess and patterns of the ’80s and radical Italian design, women and queer designers, and discovering there were people out there who were her age (she just turned 26) and in their 30s doing really cool things. 

The Start of Sophie Collé Design

“I kind of took that COVID opportunity of [getting laid off] and I was like, ‘Sure,’ and I started my own studio,” Collé says. “I just started building in my parents’ backyard. I never made full-scale furniture when I was in college, which was surprising to a lot of people I’ve talked to, but they just didn't really set up that opportunity in a way that I could explore.”

After getting laid off, Collé worked in a few part-time corporate positions, turning on Slack in the morning and then going out to build all day. She went from having limited experience to creating a massive bookshelf in her apartment—woodworking, cutting, and painting, all in one room. She barely had enough space to flip the bookshelf over to get the dust out, she says, and cried approximately 10 times during the process—but it gave her the confidence to know she was capable of turning carpentry into her career.

Before the wavy furniture trend took off (prominently in the form of statement mirrors that have been all over Pinterest), Collé was influenced by the Memphis designs she was surrounded by at the art museum, and it became a signature part of her work—perhaps only second to her love of Barbie pink. When she moved into her loft in Brooklyn in 2021, Collé decided to challenge herself by decorating it all monochromatically, ultimately turning it into Barbie’s Dream House. It worked out that a couple years later, Barbiecore became the ultimate interior design trend.

“When I first started designing, a lot of my style was very Memphis-inspired, but it was all primary color, and when I was in college, I would only wear black,” Collé says. “And then for senior year, I did my thesis in all red and I was like, ‘Oh right. It's kind of a sexy color.’”

After getting the idea for designing her own space in monochrome, Collé wasn’t initially settled on pink—she toyed with doing retro and cloud print, but ultimately decided that waking up surrounded by pink would automatically put her in a good mood. Once she decided on the Barbie theme, everything came together pretty easily. From the lights in her bathroom to the kitchen counter, she layered different shades of pink in unique pieces (like a seashell chair and cow print pillows) to create a cohesive look that was entirely her own. 

A Newfound Focus on Fun

Collé has loved seeing the shift in the design world from the minimalism of the last few years to people wanting to make their homes as eclectic as possible—getting decor solely because it looks good.

“I think people are realizing now that that's an option, that their home can be artful,” she says. “I think the internet always really helps with that. Especially with all these vintage resellers and book dealers who are standing on all of these old reference images from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, people who have just the most insane homes again—like conversation pits and carpeted spiral staircases, and all these things that you don't see anymore.”

With borderline ironic, playhouse-esque designs popping up more and more across the Internet (think Emma Chamberlain’s Architectural Digest home tour), custom-made furniture, specifically secondhand furniture, has made its way into the mainstream. While Collé recognizes vintage resellers market their pieces for sometimes thousands of dollars, she swears by scrolling through Facebook Marketplace and digging through your local Goodwill for unique, quality items. That difficulty of obtaining unique furniture on a budget is also what she’s trying to change with her own work—one of her main goals with her studio is to make custom furniture more accessible to everyone.

“When I started this, it led to the idea that anyone could get custom-made furniture, and that was my whole ethos,” she says. “Everyone deserves a special piece. Obviously, you know, that's not a sustainable business model, and I've had to get realistic with how I'm not going to be furthering that myself. But that's why there should be range.”

To make your space more playful and personalized but still sophisticated, Collé recommends starting out with small projects, like painting a door frame in a playful or unexpected color. It’s not as much of a commitment as painting a whole wall, and it only requires buying paint samples rather than a whole bucket. If you’re interested in trying out the monochrome look, make sure you’re completely set on the color—put swatches up on the wall and think about whether you want to look at it every day. Once you’re confident in your choice, slowly add in decor, like lamps and dishware, and eventually your bigger furniture pieces. 

Wall decorated with white bookshelves, hanging plant, red dresser, pink door

Sophie Collé

Along with running her studio, Collé is currently working on designing a hotel room complete with all vintage pieces—in her classic Barbie style. As for her own home, she’s actually considering making the transition to red.

“A lot of my work has just come from me doing what I want to do,” she says. “From my house to building a chair because I want to build it, and then people end up liking it. Obviously I design for people, and I design to make people smile. But a lot of this has just been an experimentation based on what I'm interested in, in hopes that people find it fun.”

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