A Discerning Eye with Romanek Design Studio
Brigette Romanek, the founder of Los Angeles-based Romanek Design Studio, has quickly made a name for herself. With wide-ranging interests than span from art and travel to fashion and music, her interiors are an eclectic delight, lauded for being both fresh and functional. Below, she shares who inspired her incredible work ethic and how she sees the role of design in bringing communities together.
Cover photo by Rip + Tan
Tell us a bit about your career journey – who are some of the people who have inspired and mentored you along the way?
My grandmother and my mother have been my greatest mentors and inspirations. They knew I was going to be a creative person, acknowledged my goals, and were incredibly supportive. My mother always wanted me to do something that I loved, and my grandmother bought me tons of fashion and design magazines. Looking through those images of homes, gardens, clothing and travel was like looking through a window into magical world of beauty and grandeur.
Exposure to all of the creativity and possibilities in the world fuelled my passion and drive to become a part of that conversation. Also, my grandmother, and my mother after her, both had amazing work ethics and taught me a lot about the power of dedication and commitment. I don’t think I would be where I am today without that understanding that talent and creativity can only get you so far and the rest is work – albeit work that I love doing!
Left: Brigette Romanek in her Laurel Canyon home. Right: Queens Road kitchen. Photo by Douglas Friedman.
You’re originally from Chicago but are now based in Los Angeles. What excites you about the West Coast design scene right now?
Los Angeles is a community that’s made up of these little villages where you can find people doing the most unique things – someone designing a line of rugs from their living room or another person making pottery out of their home. You can find things everywhere and that’s what I love about it. There are so many pockets and the level of creativity here elevates each year. It is only getting better!
With so many passions outside of design – fashion, music, film, travel, art – how do these influences filter into your aesthetic?
I find influences in every part of life – people, photographers, art, conversations with fellow creatives, the aesthetic of a film. I think when you are a creative person by nature and by trade, there’s no place that doesn’t teach, inspire or educate you.
Are there any colours, textures and materials that you’re constantly drawn to?
I’m constantly drawn to velvets and linens. These are my go-to, but I always make sure to mix in several patterns and textures.
The Bu dining room. Photo by Douglas Friedman.
Any tips on mixing and matching furniture and soft furnishings to create an interior that will defy trends?
Go with your gut. There are some design rules to follow that can be helpful for determining ideal proportions and measurements but following defined rules and guides can lead you to something that doesn’t feel [like] your own. My suggestion would be to follow the basic rules to make sure pieces fit and have a nice flow, but from there, leave the rule books behind, defy trends and inject yourself into every space. Something attached to a memory close to your heart will stand the test of time.
These days we’re all seeking comfort from our homes. How do you think the inclusion of tactile elements, like a rug, can affect our energy and mood?
Anything you put into your room should have an effect on you in a positive way. If a piece does not make you feel better or bring you comfort, it shouldn’t have a place in your home. And that definitely applies to rugs! Start that conversation with yourself: Do you want to lay on this rug? Is it important that it feels a certain way under your feet? Is it just for style? Make it an expression of you.
What do you do when you feel something isn’t quite working? And when do you know if a space is “finished”?
When it sticks out to you is when you know something isn’t working. It should feel harmonious, but a piece that isn’t working won’t do that. It’ll feel like you’re traveling along beautifully and then that piece will feel like a mental car wreck, or like tripping and falling. There’s a saying that goes, “When in doubt, leave it out.” I often find my first reaction is the correct one.
I know I’m done when I look around and I don’t feel I can’t add or remove anything to make it better. You sit down and exhale peacefully because everything feels natural and organic in the space. Sometimes it’s just the accessories that bring a whole design together. You’ll know.
The Bu kitchen. Photo by Douglas Friedman.
"Make your home a love letter to yourself."
A lot of us are taking this time to reassess what we really need in our lives. What have you discovered is absolutely essential in your own home?
Comfort. Blankets and pillows that make you feel cozy. Flowers have also been a huge part of making the space glow or feel pleasant because they bring such life into the home.
You’re a real advocate for craftsmanship. Why do you think it is important to invest in quality, timeless pieces?
They are pieces you can have for as long as you want and possibly pass on to other family members and friends. These will be pieces with soul – that have stories in them. In the end, it’s better value because it’s not something you’ll want to replace in a couple years. 90% of the time, something that you bought cheaply for a quick trend is the thing you’ll want to replace in a year or so. You’ll never go wrong with a beautiful, quality design.
Brigette Romanek’s Laurel Canyon home. Photos by Anson Smart.
How do you see the role of design in shaping communities going forward, especially in LA?
What I love is that more and more people seem to be open to speaking with interior designers about their homes. Your home is no longer just a place to lay your head. It’s a place to enjoy. Make it your love letter to yourself. You want to be happy to come home and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
What’s interesting is that there have been interior designers all throughout history, but in the past, it was only for the rich. Now there’re so many great designers accessible to everyone. Life is an incredible journey but can be exhausting at times, so you need a place that’s your refuge, where you feel safe and happy. That’s invaluable and I really, genuinely believe that we, as designers, bring beauty into people’s lives.
LA is a creative place filled with creative people. As designers become more accessible to everyone, then there is a possibility of educating people and broadening horizons. Design has opened up and has a voice here more than ever before. Moving forward, the more people are proud of their homes, the more they open them up for others to enjoy. It brings the community closer.
Finally, what’s keeping you creatively stimulated?
While working remotely has limited opportunities to have as many tactile experiences, a real silver lining has been all of the wonderful links art galleries have been sending to virtual viewing rooms. These amazing artists, painters and photographers are still working and showing; great design conversation is still happening!
I actually have had the opportunity to “visit” more works of art and be exposed to more new talent than I would be able to in person. So I just make sure to keep my eye open because there’s just so many things to still see and inspire – even down to the light coming through my window right now.
Queens Road bathroom Photo by Douglas Friedman.
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