Brittany Allen is an interior designer at McDermott Remodeling. Recently, we sat down with her to find out more about where she comes from and to pick her brain about her creative process. This is what we learned:
What school did you go to?
I went to Merrimack. It’s a community college here in St. Louis, but I basically went there in between schools to just to try to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I took some art classes and really enjoyed them. I’m not super great with computers, so that kind of ruled out graphic design. Based on that, interior design was really the only thing I could see myself doing without being relegated to the ranks of “starving artist.”
Why did you rule out graphic design?
I don’t like Apple computers. I took Photoshop classes, and I wasn’t bad at it, but other people were just amazing. You could tell that was their calling, and I knew it wasn’t mine. I guess I wasn’t interested enough to put the time in it to really learn it properly and care about it; but the other stuff, like architecture, and drafting classes, and all that – that, to me, was really fun.
Was it as much about the tools as it was about the art itself?
No, I think it was really more about the result. I guess I cared more about creating a pretty room or something like that as opposed to brochures and CD booklets.
What in particular made the most sense to you?
Christopher Lowell had a design show on PBS. He taught people all kinds of really goofy DIY house projects. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I had a hula hoop and mosquito netting over my bed because he did it. I had 3D butterfly decals all over my room, and I actually wanted to send him pictures of it. I was nine. My mom thought it was strange because no other child was watching this. I was riveted.
That was the catalyst, right? So, then what happened?
Well, I only have a two-year degree because I went to school and then I started working immediately. A lot of people who went to school with me went on to university in St. Louis and got a four-year degree in interior design. Those girls were going out for the same jobs, even some that had six-year degrees were ending up selling furniture. Not for me.
That’s when I started getting into more of a kitchen and bath niche and exploring that side of the business. It’s practical, but there’s still a lot of room for creativity.
How would you describe your particular style?
I really just listen to what the client wants while trying to step outside the box a little in terms of design. If people are really committed to traditional design, I try to strike a balance that’s somewhere in the middle. Not that everything has to be modern, but it doesn’t have to be old-time traditional either. I usually lean away from all white and try to mix in different colors and styles. Ultimately, I try to make sure it’s a design the client isn’t going to grow out of anytime soon. Something timeless. My personal style is more modern. Neutral. Black and white. Natural wood, clean, simple lines.
Most of the time, though, it’s about helping the client define their vision. But then it’s also about expanding on that vision because they don’t know what they don’t know. We can usually tell what colors they’re drawn to, what style they like, and go from there.
Is there anyone or anything else that may have inspired you, that makes you who you are today in terms of your style?
One class I took in school was History of Cultural Environment, where you basically learn the different styles of furniture and designs that were popular throughout history. That, to me, was really interesting because it really got to a point around the mid-century where the designers themselves started to become really well-known. In other words, it wasn’t just about what they were making anymore. At that point, we started looking at them as artists, while before that, most of them were unknown.
Architectural styles were named after whoever was king at the time. But, when it got to that time of Florence Knoll, for example, the most famous designers were actually just architects and artists who went into designing furniture, and they became famous for that. Those designs are still iconic now, even though it’s more than 60 – 70 years later. They still look fresh and new.
Classic and timeless. That’s what I strive for.
Is there anything else you want to add?
The one thing I learned from Christopher Lowell, and I still think it is true, is that he said, “every room needs a touch of black.” I ascribe to this. It’s an exciting idea – that something dark like a black or dark brown could really make everything else pop.
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