We’re speaking with Jack Brown, Principal of Jack Brown Interiors.
Jack, how do you define interior design?
Interior Design is about finding design solutions to enhance the quality of life for my clients. There has to be a common thread that begins at the exterior and flows through the interior of the home. It’s about developing the psychology of the space and considering how people interact with materials, textures, colour palates and the architecture. There’s something that feels right when you walk into a well-designed space. The scale of the furniture and architecture is key -- it all has to work together.
How would you say that interior design has changed and evolved?
Technology has played a huge role in our industry - from access to information to advancements in material production. For example, years ago exterior fabric was your traditional, crunchy canvas. Now fabric production technology has advanced to the point that outdoor fabrics are just as comfortable as indoor fabrics. They’re rich with texture, soft to the touch and easy to care for, and clients who have small children or pets love it. We recently completed a waterfront vacation home for a client and the majority of upholstery pieces were upholstered exterior fabrics so no one felt the stress of keeping it spotless or worrying about spills, particularly with three generations running around.
How do you use social media to your benefit as a designer?
I use technology and social media apps like Instagram that allows the design community from all over the world to communicate. Instagram Stories allows me to see what’s in a showroom, so when I can’t travel I’m still able to see what a designer in London’s project looks like, what a showroom in New York just received, or when a new fabric line is launched. This has helped foster a strong sense of community within the design world and keeps me informed of the latest information.
How do you think the internet and TV have changed the interior design process?
Do-it-yourself TV programs give a bit of a false premise to people that interior design is easy. There are so many moving parts to designing a successful space -- people don’t see what happens when the cameras are off! With the internet, people see interior design as more accessible but what they’re not seeing are the relationships and troubleshooting that happens on many design projects.
How important is your network of trades and craftsman, etc.?
They’re everything! Let’s say a furniture item was damaged during shipping or something needs to be touched up onsite during an install, you need to rely on your team to ensure that challenges can be overcome efficiently. I've had to remake a sofa within 12 hours during an install, and I wouldn't be able to do that if I didn't have a great relationship with my local workroom. Everyone on my team shares the same mentality of fostering relationships, and as a result, our clients know they are in good hands.
Would you say your network is integral to your process?
Completely. The majority of pieces I use are from trades-only resources. Relationships are critical in this industry, and it's important to support local showrooms and workrooms. By using manufacturers that are trades-only I am able to give my clients unique, custom pieces that are not available to the general public. We tailor our services to best serve our client’s needs – they understand the value of our process and the time and energy it takes to create a custom interior.
What are your favourite types of projects to work on?
I have no favourite type, because it’s really about the team on each project – I love when we’re able to assemble a stellar team. It's all about communication with everyone involved: client, architect, contractor and designer. It’s especially exciting when a client lets you take them outside their comfort zone a bit and try something they might not have initially anticipated. The ultimate gratification comes when the final design that we worked together to achieve is revealed.
How would you describe your design process?
I meet with clients one-on-one and have an in-depth conversation where I learn more about them, their lifestyle and needs. I determine who is going to be living in the house, how much they entertain and if they have young kids or pets. All of these things help inform the materials we use and how I design the home. If kids are running around, it’s probably not a great idea to have a $350 per yard, mohair chair in the family room. We have a clearly defined design process that I take clients through, so they can anticipate what's next. Design is a fluid process. You have to be able to adapt and adjust as you go. Building a home is a long process that can typically be two or more years. It’s personal and can be stressful for clients. With any long-term relationship, communication is vital. At the end of the day, I'm in a client service business so it's important to me they feel taken care of.
So you’re really looking at it holistically then?
Yes, exactly. We design the house in its entirety, including all of the furniture, fabrics, rugs, lighting and materials, and of course the interior architecture, and then we present it all together—we’ve had great success with this approach because the client is able to see the big picture.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I love to travel and experience different cultures, colours, textures, and materials from all over. I always find inspiration from classic design periods as well, and have a deep respect for other designers in my profession. I also find inspiration from my clients and I like to express their personalities through the design process. None of my projects are the same because each of my clients are unique and it’s important to me to have their individuality speak through the design.
Do you have any advice for new interior designers? Or students? Or people who want to break into the industry?
Start by working for a designer whose aesthetic you identify with. Hands-on experience and being able to see the design process from start to finish is extremely valuable. One of the biggest pieces of advice that I always tell my designers is to be authentic. If there’s something that you wouldn't put in your own home then you’re not going to be able to convince a client that they need it in theirs.
Yes, I think what it really it comes down to is you have to be just as passionate about people as you are about design.
We couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sitting down with us, Jack!