Barbara Ann Ruth, interior designer and architect


Barbara Ann Ruth, a former Chestnut Hill resident, died peacefully at her home in Philadelphia, Jan. 20 at the age of 81.

Barbara blazed her own trail in life. While her family was well known for the Jacob Fisher Ruth Funeral Home in Chestnut Hill, the adage from Benjamin Franklin: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” would not apply to her. She received her creative side from her grandmother Sarah Fisher Ruth, a painter who was exhibited at the Woodmere Art Museum in the 1930s, and Barbara enjoyed defying convention at every turn.

Barbara was a graduate of the Stevens School in Philadelphia and Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and eventually received a graduate degree from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. She studied Fine and Applied Arts, designed sportswear and textiles in New York City, ventured a professional sojourn as a textile designer in Paris, France before returning to Philadelphia to work in an architectural firm where she designed interiors, lighting and selected furnishing for their clients.

After 11 years of gaining experience, she opened her own firm, creating interiors for Bryn Mawr College, countless restaurants, Derby’s Wheel House in Erdenheim, The Restaurant School, Teamsters Local 115 Teamsters Joint Council 53, Swathmore-Rutledge School Library, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Moorestown Friends School Library, NJ, Stockton College, NJ, Rutgers University, NJ, Washington College, MD, and many private residential estates.

In addition to applying her craft, she was an instructor and lecturer at Temple University, Drexel University and Skidmore College, an exhibitor at the American Institute of Architects and Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a professor at King Mongkut Institute of Technology in Thailand.

Barabara said of herself: “I have been a lifelong innovator and advocate in transforming architectural values to include not just the skin, but the building’s interiors and was an early and skilled female in a male dominated profession.”

Her work received awards and was featured in several publications, including The Pennsylvania Society of Architects’ Silver Medal, and was awarded by Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode in 1988 for the Philadelphia Design Award. She has been featured in The Restaurant Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Interiors Magazine and The Builders Magazine.

Barbara was a member of Philadelphia's Design Advocacy Group, widely known as “DAG,” a group of architects, planners and designers, creating an independent and powerful voice for excellent design and planning in Philadelphia. She was a member of the American Institute of Architects, Interior Design Council and Foundation for Architecture.

She was most proud of her work for Bryn Mawr College on the Dorothy Vernon Room and her urban renewal efforts in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood in the 1980s. She combined three small residences into one for her personal home; including, a courtyard garden, with fountain, and, a paradise for her two cats. Barabara’s bespoke home was featured in the HGTV series, “Design Basics” in 1999. After retiring she continued to design, draw, paint and refine her collection of beautiful interior objects, to enhance her home.

Barbara was also known for her independent and sometimes fierce spirit. Her niece recounts walking with Barbara in her neighborhood and being accosted from behind by a mugger with a baseball bat, “My Aunt turned around and yelled at him, with such fury, getting ‘into his face’ -he ran away!” she recounts with a smile.

Barbara is survived by her sister Diana, her niece Holly, nephew-in-law Phillip and cat Busybody

Due to the pandemic, the family is planning a memorial service for May, 2021 and will place an announcement in the Chestnut Hill Local at that time. In lieu of flowers donations in Barbara’s name can be made to the Morris Arboretum or the Woodmere Museum.


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