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Firm Uses Tech to Re-Imagine Design

North Carolina designers Dara Barber and Aly Glavin of Pure Design Works are going digital to make design more approachable for a wider range of potential clients.

authors Autumn McGarr | August 6, 2019

Charlotte, NC — “For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawing and creating,” recalls Dara Barber, NCIDQ. The co-owner of Charlotte, NC design firm Pure Design Works got her start in theatrical design, working at first in San Francisco. “While I loved the creative process and the opportunity to physically build what I had come up with on paper, I felt like I wanted something a little different,” Barber explains. “Eventually I decided to go back to school for interior architecture at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco.”

This dated kitchen was transformed into an eclectic, modern space.

Although she has since moved on, Barber still credits her time in theatre with giving her a head start in the residential design industry. “Theatre is a wonderful training ground for so many things, and I know I would not be here today without that experience,” Barber notes. “The process for designing theater is actually pretty similar to designing a space in someone’s home – you have a set of parameters (the script or the home), you are designing for someone else’s vision (a director or a client) [with] a timeline and a budget. The key to success in both industries is to make all of those elements come together seamlessly.”

After attaining her degree in interior architecture, Barber began working at design/build firms in the Bay Area, then in North Carolina, where she designed and oversaw the installation of cabinetry for custom homes and remodels. It was in North Carolina that she first began to work with future business partner, and shortly thereafter, Pure Design Works began. “My partner, Aly Glavin, and I believed that it would give us the best opportunity to encompass all of our skills and offer clients beautiful design by designers who also understand the logistics, reality of installation and construction,” says Barber.

By opening up the walls between this kitchen and the adjacent living and breakfast areas, Pure Design Works created an open, airy, functional space.

Balanced Partnership

Barber credits teamwork for the success of Pure Design Works. “Our business would not be what it is today without our partnership,” she says of business partner Glavin. “Aly and I work extremely well together and are a perfect balance for each other. We constantly bounce ideas off of each other, talk through all decisions to make sure we have thought of everything as much as possible and use each other to help solve issues when they arise.”

According to Barber, much like the designer-client relationship, the designer-designer relationship is all about trust. “We fully support each other in all decisions, so compromising for each of us on anything is an easy process.”

Barber and Glavin did not meet at the same stages in their lives. “The main difference between us that often comes up is our age difference,” remarks Barber. “Even though there is almost 20 years between us, Aly is already an accomplished designer in her own right – she was selected as one of NKBA’s Thirty Under 30 this year! – and she brings a perspective to design and our business overall that is invaluable. It is essential to stay current in all aspects of business and design and be sure we are offering services and products for clients of all age groups.”

Pure Design Works focuses on creating spaces unique to their clients’ needs, including features such as spaces for the family pet.

Technological Access

This partnership has enabled Barber and Glavin to look to the future of design, and to re-imagine what the design process might look like in years to come. “We are now currently launching The Daraly, which is an online design service geared toward kitchen and bath projects,” says Barber. “It allows us to reach a much larger audience and offer accessible design for those who feel it may have been out of reach due to location, time constraints or budget.”

For Barber and Glavin, the goal is to make kitchen and bath design approachable and less intimidating. “Whether it is not having time to meet with a designer, thinking that something is not affordable or not knowing how to find someone you connect with – we feel that these should not be obstacles to being able to access great design,” declares Barber. “There is a gap between people who are comfortable making their own design selections and people who hire professional designers – we want to have the ability to work with clients who are looking for professional guidance and design who may not otherwise have that opportunity.”

The strong online presence that Barber and Glavin have cultivated since their business’ inception has been a big help in getting their vision for The Daraly off the ground. “The feedback from prospects and clients who have found us through social media has helped guide us to develop and launch The Daraly. They are asking for a different type of design experience and we are thrilled to be able to offer a product that can meet their needs and help them create beautiful spaces,” she concludes. ▪

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