Ryan Brown became a familiar face as one of the stars on the Bravo hit show “Flipping Out.” But, for interior design aficionados, Brown’s true claim to fame is in the drama he brings to clients’ living rooms, not their TV screens. As Founder and Director of Design of Brown Design Group, a leading residential and commercial interior design firm based out of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Brown is known for his California cool designs, which offer a blend of modern style, clean lines, rustic details, and high-end luxury.
The Hollywood Hills home he shares with partner, principal designer Diego Monchamp, and their eight-year-old daughter, Chloe, is “a true escape,” he said, serving both as a home base and a source of constantly renewed inspiration. This mid-century modern home that the pair reimagined during a whirlwind, five-month, top-to-bottom renovation, now boasts an open plan with details that pay homage to the home’s lineage and showcase the design maven’s revered style.
To create unique separation between the kitchen and dining spaces while still maintaining sightlines for watching after Chloe and entertaining, the designer fashioned a chic divider using a pair of vintage glass-and-steel factory windows. Metal shelving soldered to the windows creates floating storage on either side, holding books and knickknacks over the dining room’s banquette, and spirits, barware, and family photos over a long expanse of kitchen counters.
It’s the same ingenuity Brown applies to his designs (Check out how the slatted wood paneling that graces the ceiling of his home also helps transform this L.A. property; how mid-mod details were woven into modern interiors in this distinctive home; how geometric tile brings depth and interest to a kitchen—Brown’s in a 3-D motif along the work wall, and in this Brown-designed Santa Barbara home with a small but potent, Spanish-style accent backing the double commercial stove—or how the warm, natural materials and rich details provide a sumptuous backdrop at Q, a hot downtown L.A. sushi spot Brown designed).
We caught up Brown during this year’s LEGENDS event in the La Cienega Design Quarter (LCDQ), where he was a featured designer, to hear him muse about creating the right balance between comfort and sophistication, how his designs are influenced by California living, and his latest design inspirations.
Previews Inside Out Your interiors feel very California cool, yet you’ve also said that your travels often inspire your design sensibility. How have you managed to balance a relaxed ambiance with international style?
Ryan Brown California is a beautiful blend of southern European sensibilities. From tile roofs and interesting architecture, to wine country and temperate climates, there is a common thread that links the cultural stylings together. We get a lot of inspiration from travels in Europe because it’s easy to transplant some of those ideas to California. The casual nature of Mediterranean lifestyles is very appealing these days. We incorporate this mentality and lifestyle in almost all of our projects.
Previews Inside Out What are some simple ways to keep a room sophisticated without feeling stuffy?
Ryan Brown Keep the pieces you love first. There is value in that, and even common items can feel sophisticated if there is a story behind them. Layering them naturally will give them a luxe look. Trying too hard often cheapens the final outcome.
Previews Inside Out How would you approach a homeowner who has a more traditional aesthetic, but wants to change things up?
Ryan Brown There can be a gradual transition that can start to mix other genres into a more straight-laced style. A modern chair paired with an antique table or a new color on a traditional wall or molding can make things unexpected, yet appropriate. There are a lot of fabric lines coming out now with updated versions of classic patterns.
Previews Inside Out Matte black stainless steel appliances are trending right now. Any advice for homeowners who are afraid to take the plunge?
Ryan Brown Black is an under-appreciated color when it comes to interiors. It can provide a very simple, yet sophisticated, accent to any room—even a kitchen. Looking to dark hardware or lighting fixtures and finishes can help balance the appliances as well.
Previews Inside Out Tell us a little bit more about your home. What was your design palette or inspiration taken from?
Ryan Brown Our home offers a sense of privacy, but you can still see the energy of the city lights. We entertain a lot and our mid-century home has (after our renovation) a very open floor plan with a big kitchen. Almost every wall is white, which allows our vintage Danish furniture and colorful contemporary artwork to really stand out. We certainly wanted to keep a simple, very light palette to make the place feel clean and fresh. The back is all glass so it feels like you always have a blend between the interior and outside.
Previews Inside Out For you, what ultimately sold you on your home? Was it a feeling you had? Or were you looking for something in particular in terms of style, features or space?
Ryan Brown Location, location, location. It has a wonderful street where we can walk to our daughter’s school and get to our office in 10 minutes. The house was a 1960s family home, but had really never been updated. We loved that it had mid-century bones that we could work with and make more modern.
Previews Inside Out What is inspiring you most right now, in terms of design?
Ryan Brown There is a shift in design towards a contemporary nature that proves that most architecture can be adapted to reflect our current way of living. There will always be a place for restorations, but we love that some architects and designers are using classic lines while simultaneously blurring those lines to make them a bit more modern.
The urbanization of neighborhoods in Los Angeles is really interesting. Creating living units above retail spaces that have public areas and are near public transportation is changing the landscape of some areas. The city is becoming more dense, and these are the ways we’re adapting to it architecturally.
Previews Inside Out What’s your best advice for someone who is designing or decorating a new home?
Ryan Brown You need to have a plan. If you do not, you will not have a successful outcome. Building palettes in advance and really getting a handle on the consistent features of a home will naturally create harmony and avoid impulse decisions in construction and design. If you want to make a personal mark, make it with your furnishings, love what you buy and avoid trends that will tire.