Evoking the Senses with Brian Paquette
With a worldly eye for detail and an unrelenting work ethic, Seattle-based interior designer Brian Paquette makes the aspirational feel effortless. Each project is approached as a living extension of art, meant to be touched, used and admired. We spoke to him about his passion for craftsmanship, why tactility is as important as visual appeal, and what drove him to write his first book.
What were you like as a child? Did you come from a creative family?
I was always creative even as a child – dreaming up stage sets in my parents’ basement, one man rock bands and cutting and sewing back together all of my clothes…not my best work. My family has always been supportive even if they didn’t quite get my direction in life. My parents are both doctors, so they leaned heavily into the practical side of things but are quite relieved things have seemed to work out for me.
Tell us a bit about your career journey – who are some of the people who have inspired and mentored you along the way?
After majoring in painting and art history in college, I found myself in need of a summer job. I bounced back and forth from art gallery to eventually working in a small design firm, quite unexpectedly. I soon realised I needed to get out of my small hometown and ventured to Portland, Oregon to be with friends and try my hand at some new creative endeavours.
I quickly needed a job and found a spot in the textile industry, working for a trade-only showroom where I learnt a ton about the industry. From there I had to yank the rug out from under myself and commit to what I knew I wanted to do – be an interior designer. It’s been 11 or so years, and with many ups and downs I have learnt many things – most importantly to keep your head down and stay humble, always. I have been inspired by many people but not all from the interiors world. Most notably, Donald Judd, Dries Van Noten, Agnes Martin, Thomas O’Brien, Martin Margiela, Charlotte Perriand and on and on.
"I want people to feel a sense agelessness to our spaces."
Has your background in art has influenced the colour, texture and material choices you are drawn to in an interior setting?
Absolutely! I am always thinking about space in a broader sense, and the theatrics of it all.
In designing for residential projects, how do you ensure a balance between function and aesthetics?
Well, function, to me, has to be first. I say that aesthetics are a given if you are worth your weight as a designer, but function and comfort – that’s where real living and successful work comes from.
We’re honoured to have some of our rugs featured in your projects. What considerations are front of mind for you, when specifying a rug for a space?
Texture, colour and wearability are important to me – but also, and I think this speaks to all of the vendors we use, we want to know their commitment to the environment and make sure we are like-minded.
You’re a real advocate for craftsmanship, which we can see in your own line of furniture and furnishings. What is it about a handmade product that you love?
In today’s world of automation and fast everything, it is a true luxury to be able to see a maker’s hand and talent in a piece of furniture. This is what sets a successfully collected room apart from one that appears in an instant. We value the talent, hard work and friendships we have in all of our craftspeople.
Tell us about your first book, At Home. Evocative and Art Forward Interiors. How did you find the process of writing and editing?
My first book was a dream to put together…I mean that. It felt completely impossible and unreal to be asked to pin these years down in a book and be able to look back in years to come at how far we have come and what we have learnt. I am not a writer, but I felt the words pour out of me as I reconnected with the projects and relationships built during them.
We love the premise of the book, namely that our interiors are living spaces meant to evolve over time. What are some ways that we can incorporate our memories and experiences into a room through decorative touches?
I think the easiest way to incorporate a true sense of memory and place in a space is through scent. While not normally associated with the interior design frame of work, an ordinary room collected over time can immediately shift its vibe and feeling through scent memory. I find that colour and scent are the most powerful tools we have.
We heard you have a beautiful collection of ceramics. Do you have any tips on building a collection, whether it be ceramics or something else?
I have quite a few collections! Fine art, and specifically ceramics, are important to me. You don’t purchase art quite like you buy furniture. You buy art because you are arrested by it and because it draws you into a place you didn’t think existed, but feels familiar. I love the tactile nature of ceramics. My most recent acquisition is a piece by Jeremy Anderson, whose work in lighting and now ceramics have always inspired and intrigued me. Buy what you love, you’ll find a place for it.
Although you’re obviously a very visual person, it sounds like you also love designing tactile spaces that are meant to be explored by touch. How do you think engaging that sense can enhance the wellbeing of the inhabitants?
I very much like to build project palettes in textures rather than, say, loud colours or prints. This is for two reasons – I find that it’s much more enjoyable to slowly experience a room over time as your eyes and feelings adjust. You get closer to things and discover something out of your original perception. I also think that, for the most part, these rooms last longer in terms of interest and style and since this is usually quite the investment for people, I want them to feel a sense agelessness to our spaces.
Your practice is based between Seattle and San Francisco. What do you love about the design scene in each city?
While we primarily work in Seattle, I love California for its different light quality. Things that react one way up here in the Pacific Northwest do a totally different thing down there, and I am so fascinated and challenged by that.
Finally, what’s keeping you creatively stimulated right now?
While travel has always been my biggest point of inspiration, I have found that this year has taught me to think outside of my ease, read more, experience my own nature more and be open to my own backyard instead of yearning for escape in another locale.
Follow Brian Paquette on Instagram.