Meet The Designer: Brigette Romanek
On Style & Luxury
My design style is probably best described as liveable luxury. It’s my driving philosophy and basically encompasses classic touches with a bit of whimsy. What I give my client is quite nuanced, but what I want more than anything else is for them to be able to exhale and relax when they enter a space. It’s about joy, it’s about being able to let go and being surrounded by pieces and objects that really mean something to you. That’s the definition of luxury in my opinion.
Supportive spaces are what luxury is all about. We live in a world that – even post-pandemic – is busier than ever, so creating a room that makes you feel secure and safe is the ultimate goal. It doesn’t have to include a £20,000 sofa or a Fabergé egg; the meaning of luxury is personal and often very private. My clients only ever want to feel at home – and that’s the most important thing.
Luxury isn’t apologetic either. Take the Gwyneth project – we went for that at-home spa because we wanted to, and there was nothing holding us back. I’ve always taken that approach in my home too – which is what led to me starting my own studio. Friends would see what I was doing in my own home and want me to replicate it for them. I was always experimenting – my husband would joke around by asking where he should expect to find the sofa when he came home from work that night!
On Her Inspiration
I only started my design studio four years ago. In many ways, I never imagined I’d end up in this career, so instead of other designers or other people’s work, I think I take a lot of my inspiration from the places I’ve lived – my mother and I moved around a lot when I was younger, so I’ve experienced many different lives. My mum was a professional singer, so we used to go to a lot of celebrity homes – that’s where it dawned on me that it was possible to have something cool and crazy like a pink sofa in your house. I find myself going back to those memories a lot.
You couldn’t call my mother a conformist. I think that’s been a big influence on my work too, because she never did what was expected. She still doesn’t. I remember coming home from school once as a child and the living room had a new mural painted on one wall. Her friend had come over to paint it that day, and I’d never seen anything like it. She always thought fridges were so plain and boring, so would spray-paint it in crazy colours. She always did what made her feel good and that’s something I’m always striving for. Experimenting is no bad thing.
My travels to Europe are another source of inspiration. I’m always taking in my surroundings and the architecture is so varied across the continent. In the early years of my career, I also found a lot of inspiration with my clients. They’re often very well travelled and have unbelievable access to so much, so it was a real treat to be able to learn so much from them.
On Her Career Highlights
A lot of my career has been very organic. But two of the biggest moments were seeing ballerina Misty Copeland’s New York home in Architectural Digest, closely followed by Gwyneth and the coverage we achieved on that project. But I never think of one project as bigger or better than the last – all of them are important, no matter whether the client is known. Even if nothing comes from it, I’m always grateful for the experience.
That said, when people respond to the work, the work lives on. Sometimes I find it hard to let go of certain projects – especially if they’ve been long – or certain clients. So having magazines or social media express their interest lets me talk about it a while longer, which I really enjoy.
On Brands, Makers & Stores
My favourite room at home is my living room. It’s so unique. It’s large, with high ceilings, and very dynamic and beautiful. I really wanted to enhance that feeling rather than fight too hard against anything. Some of the mouldings were coming off, for example, and my initial reaction was to restore them. Instead, I decided it was part of the history of the house, and that wasn’t something I wanted to take away from. Spaces should reflect what’s happened over the years – as long as they’re still structurally sound!
I also love the library. It’s laid in these incredible marble tiles and painted in ‘Elephant’s Breath’ from Farrow & Ball, which is one of my favourite colours on the planet. When the light hits it, it just looks so elegant. I live in that room – and it also houses my most prized possession, which is a bespoke rose quartz sculpture that was given to me by a friend. It sits on the windowsill and the sentimental value makes it priceless. If anything happened to it, it could never be replaced.
The den is also very special to me. People expected us to completely rip it apart, but we kept the original panelling in the original colour, and now our friends love having a drink in there before we have dinner. We also play a lot of music in there from an old-fashioned turntable.
Children and dogs mean the rooms in my house have to be functional. But that’s what good design does. I often achieve this via different vignettes within the same space so plenty of lives can co-exist in it at once. My home isn’t about constant newness either – I want to make changes that are going to last. You should be able to live with a space for at least ten or 15 years – that’s how you know you’re making good choices. If you want something to feel fresh, play around with the placement rather than the pieces.
The biggest investment in my home was probably my Hans J Wegner lounge chair. I purchased mine at auction, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve also placed at least two more in different client projects. I just know it’s going to be one of those pieces that follows me throughout the rest of my life. Another big indulgence is my artwork by Lorna Simpson. When I was made aware that it was available to purchase, I couldn’t resist. Every time I walk past it, it brings me such happiness.
My favourite accessories are seasonal flowers. I’m never without them – they really make a space sing. Lots of tall branches in low vases are a secret of mine. They elevate the room. I also bought a black olive tree and moved it inside rather than planting it in the garden. It was a $10,000 investment, but I just loved the idea of having it in the house. Now it’s one of my favourite things in my living room and some of the best money I’ve spent.
I’m also very into switching up the fabrics to bring extra life to a space. One client of mine had owned this chair for 20 years and while she loved the structure of it, the piece looked a bit tired. So, we reupholstered it in this sumptuous blue velvet fabric from Liberty, and it was completely transformed. It looked so cool and unusual.
On Gifting & Hosting
I never go anywhere empty handed. That was something my mother taught me, and I try my hardest not to be too generic with it. Sometimes it’s a beautiful cake from Lady M or a great bottle of wine if I know someone’s a collector. One of my friends collects hot sauces – so I try to find an unusual one from a different place in the world every time I go round there.
The best gift I’ve ever been given is a piece of art from my husband Mark. I’d been eyeing it up for months but knew it was going to be a big investment. Anyway, I came home one day and there it was, on the wall. I couldn’t believe it. I love it – but I love how thoughtful Mark was about getting it for me even more.
The secret to a great party is to enjoy it. If hosting isn’t your thing, it will show. Your home will only ever be warm and inviting if you yourself are welcoming. Beautiful flowers, great scents and good music certainly help as well.
Visit RomanekDesignStudio.com & follow @BrigetteRomanek on Instagram.
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