At the Helm of Home

Barry Wooley Designs elevated a home’s decor with nautical, elegant and practical details


By Liz Bingham
Photos by Tim Furlong and Kathryn Harrington


Inspired by an evening spent on the beautiful boat of the homeowners, the Owings, Barry Wooley transformed their home into a remarkable, yet functional sanctuary that can serve as their forever home. We had the chance to speak with Barry about his design choices and hear his advice for the best approach when redesigning a home. 

What was your initial inspiration for the design of the home?

We were invited to dinner on the Owings’ Boat. It is one of the most beautifully designed boats I have ever been on. When I got a chance to see their home, I determined we should use the boat, along with their inspiration images and the completed BW Client Questionnaires, to design their new home, using their boat as a jumping-off point. 

Are there any specific details you would like to highlight?

I am probably most proud of the functional storage solutions we created to bring needed lifestyle storage to the main living areas. For example, we built a large china cabinet/buffet in the dining room. We also created a large entertainment wardrobe in their primary bedroom suite to accommodate off-season clothing, saving trips to other storage spots. We did all of this while being mindful of the homeowners’ desire to live in the home as they grow older. We worked to create everything they could ever need on the main level and made the home very livable. 

How does the home reflect the tastes of the homeowners? Were they very involved in the design process?

The Owings love to travel and entertain. I asked them both to tell me their favorite hotels they have ever stayed in and then took inspiration from those to create a boutique hotel look and feel. Yes, they started out heavily involved, but after the first round of storyboards, they allowed me to steer the boat, so to speak.  

Keeping with the dual theme of “philanthropy” for this issue, we hear the homeowners are quite the philanthropists themselves. Can you tell us more about what they do to give back?

Bob recently chaired the Capital Campaign, “Hail Mary Full of Grace” for the Cathedral of the Assumption. The fund was wildly successful and created an endowment that provides funds to maintain the Cathedral Buildings and bring modern technology and other needs to create ongoing access for parishioners and beyond to enjoy. 

Michelle has been heavily involved in multiple cancer-related initiatives, as a survivor herself. She also co-chairs the Let’s Dance Louisville event benefiting the Sandefur Dining Hall and Feed My Neighbor Program. 

The Owings also work to raise awareness for technical education for careers in manufacturing. 

What do you love most about this home?

The Owings family. They truly are some of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and working with. There is no room that I designed that I love more than any other. In each room, we retained something from their past including the original bar and study cabinetry that Bob’s father built. We up-styled the heirloom pieces a bit, all while paying homage to their strong desire to keep them original. 

I also love how liveable we created the space to be. While elegant, everything is very comfortable, durable and built to last. It’s also designed to be young adult and dog friendly. 

What advice would you give others wanting to redesign their homes, such as, what’s a good place to start?

Don’t rush, create a plan and prioritize, and think about function first. Clients often bring us in to do their main living spaces but we strongly believe every project should start in the primary bedroom, bath and closet area. We find that, if you start by creating a respite or sanctuary space, it helps you become more organized and productive. It proves that, if you get your home right, it helps make your life fall into place!

Barry Wooley Designs
116 S. 10th Street
Louisville, KY 40202