Barbara Cosgrove’s scenic Lake Lotawana, MO, home wasn’t always so pleasing to the eye. The lighting designer, who’s not one to mince words, says, “It was a total dump. When I took my daughter-in-law to see it, she was just horrified; the realtor couldn’t quit laughing.” But Barbara saw its potential and decided to take on lakeside living full-time, trading the “big old house in town” (town being Kansas City) that she and her husband had resided in for 30-odd years for “the fabulous light, the view, and the enormous property line.”
Redesigning and decorating the home came with a big to-do list. But Barbara firmly took the reins and kept the process as headache-free as possible. “I’m just artist enough to be a little defiant,” she says. “I just wanted things that were very straightforward, but that’s not to say that these things are trite. I didn’t want standard.”
Accordingly, Barbara masterminded a comfortable yet chic home hardy enough to withstand the shenanigans of a lively extended family, including her two grown children and three grandchildren (who love to visit and take full advantage of the water). “Everything was planned around being livable,” she says. “I have carpet that doesn’t show any pile. The kids don’t have sheets on their beds; they just have quilts, so they have to make them. We don’t have towel racks; we have hooks everywhere so everyone just hangs everything up.” Even more impressive was the fact that Barbara managed much of the process from a hotel bed where she was holed up with a shattered knee. “I was in this huge cast,” she recalls. “The contractor would come and ask me questions, and I had to make a lot of decisions through photos, but somehow it got done.”
Making it happen is a Cosgrove specialty. After all, we’re talking about a former stay-at-home mom who launched her eponymous lighting business at age 47 (“I was bored, and I don’t play tennis,” she jokes). Though she held two master’s degrees in sculpture, nothing had really prepared her to launch her own company. “I didn’t have any reference, experience, or exposure when it came to this industry. I didn’t know what I was doing,” she laughs, “which was probably a good thing.”
Perhaps the secret to Barbara’s success, as a decorator and as an entrepreneur, is trusting her gut. “I think all artists, whether they admit it or not, work on instinct,” she says. “Creative people have really messy minds; we put together pieces and draw connections that other people don’t see. Things bounce around in our heads and somehow come together.” They certainly did in this happy home.
I like simple. I like form. I don’t like piddly little statements. If you’re going to do it, do it.