I am positively giddy to share with you this month's "Mission: Design" installment featuring Brooke Giannetti from the blog Velvet & Linen. For those not familiar with Brooke, you are in for a treat! She is an absolute force of nature for all things design.
In addition to running Giannetti Home, a design firm and furniture storefront that provides clients with Architectural, Interior Design and Landscape services with her husband Steve, she is also a busy mother of three. Despite a full "To Do" list, Brooke still makes time to regale her readers with adventures in personal and professional design projects, flea market excursions and family fun events. All are chronicled in her blog which delivers a healthy dose of design 3 to 4 times a week at Velvet & Linen.
After discovering Velvet & Linen a few months ago I became an instant fan. I found myself lingering through all of Brooke's old blogs, perusing the gorgeous portfolio of homes that Giannetti Home has created. I also read through every one of the shelter magazine articles that profiled Brooke's gorgeous home in Santa Monica as well as her family retreat in Oxnard, CA.
I decided I must ask Brooke to share her design insights with DC Metro Mommy readers. Thankfully Brooke agreed and gave me an interview laced with not only fabulous design ideas but also advice on how to juggle work and family. Brooke was also gracious enough to share her favorite online stores and design blogs.
Claudine: What guided you to the world of interior design?
Brooke: My mother first introduced me to the importance of creating a beautiful home. She was always decorating our family home and filling it with flowers and unique accessories.
My first decorating experience was decorating my own room when I was a teenager. It was lavender with white accents. I'm not sure if it would hold up today, but I loved it at the time!
It wasn't until I married Steve that I realized that I wanted to focus on interior design as a profession. I first started helping friends with their homes. As my children got older and were in school for more hours, I started helping Steve's clients. My career evolved slowly as my family life allowed.
Claudine: You have a thriving business, Giannetti Home, which offers a host of services including: architectural design, interior design as well as a fabulous retail space. What inspired you to bring all these elements together to start a business?
Brooke: I've always wanted to have a store, but I could never figure out how to incorporate that dream into our lives. With the interior design and architecture business and three children, it seemed too crazy to open a separate retail store. Then a few years ago, Steve needed to find a bigger office, and I decided it was time to move my office out of my home. When we were looking for offices, we found a space that required us to open a retail store as well. It seemed like destiny! The combined store and design studio has such a wonderful energy. It is so much more alive than just a shop or a separate office because we always have models of furniture or drawings of the homes that we are working on scattered about our office.
Claudine: I would imagine managing, staffing as well procuring inventory for a retail business are all very time consuming and stressful. How have you grown to embrace the storefront?
Brooke: Having a storefront has been such a wonderful experience. It gives me an excuse to go on wonderful buying trips. I can fill the store with all of the things I love! Having such wonderful inventory makes it easy to add the finishing touches to our clients' homes. I'm also so fortunate to have Kelly who runs the shop so smoothly. I just love her.
Claudine: Did you have any reservations about working with your husband? Is it hard to step away from work during family time?
Brooke: I've always worked with Steve, so I can't imagine not having that connection with him. It is different when your work is also your art and your passion. We do talk about our projects during family time, but I think it's important for our children to understand what we do and how much we love our work. We've always told our children that they need to figure out a way to make a living doing what they love. I think having that creative energy around our home has fostered our children's artistic interests.
Claudine: Many would agree that most working and stay-at-home mothers constantly struggle to keep all the balls in the air. How do you run a successful business and manage a busy household with three active kids?
Brooke: Writing many lists! In all seriousness, I think organization is key. Plus it's important that everyone helps out. I just can't do it all. Everyone needs to clean their own rooms, and pitch in with dinner and the dogs. I actually think my children are better off because I don't have the time to micro manage their lives! I can be quite a control freak, and I know that trying to control a child's life is the worst thing to do to her.
Claudine: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Brooke: It seems to be changing all of the time! Lately Steve and I have been combining our design aesthetics to create a fresh look. My tastes lean towards French and Swedish antiques with a little rustic thrown in. Steve has a passion for all things made of aged leather or Industrial steel. Combining my more feminine design taste and his masculine design energy seems to create rooms that appeal to everyone, including us!
Claudine: When designing for a client with children, how do you marry design with family functionality?
Brooke: I truly believe that any family can live happily in a beautiful and functional home. When we built our own home, we designed large spaces where we could each be involved in different activities while sharing the same space. Our kitchen/family room is the perfect example. In the family room, we created a computer nook where one of us can be working while someone else is watching television. Because the kitchen is open to the family room, I feel like I'm included in all of the activity.
In our projects as well as in our own home, we use materials that wear and age beautifully over time. Nothing is too precious. Our pine floors look better today with their aged patina than they did when we first moved in! Our Carrera marble and butcher block counter tops in the kitchen have also aged wonderfully. Our stone washed linen slip covers just keep getting softer with each washing. Our lives are crazy enough as it is. As a mom and a designer, creating a home where family and friends feel relaxed and comfortable is the main priority!
Claudine: We have a lot of folks that relocate to the Metro DC area annually. Many people are moving into a new space and are quickly faced with decorating challenges. How do you start the process of decorating an entire home?
Brooke: It's important to think about how you are going to live in the home, even before moving in. Do you like a more open floor plan or a more traditional floor plan? Will this home work for the way your family lives?
I have a list of questions that I ask my clients that looks at each room and how they are going to use it. What activities do they need to do? Are they more casual or formal? The activities dictate how rooms will be laid out. I also ask them about the types of fabrics they like, the types of furniture. Inspiration images are also very helpful. Before you start decorating your home collect images. Visit blogs and online magazines. Buy design books and magazines. Gather images that make you smile. You can even make an inspiration board. Put post-its on the images describing what you like about that particular room.
Claudine: Your Santa Monica cottage is stunning! You and your husband did an amazing job designing and decorating the space. Equally notable is your beach home in Channel Islands Harbor. Where do you find all the treasures that are used in both interiors?
Brooke: Thank you! Steve and I love shopping for unique pieces to fill our homes. We go to local flea markets and antique shops. Now that we have the store, we also love going on buying trips around the country. Sometimes special items end up visiting one of our homes for a while.
We've also started designing furniture pieces that we haven't been able to find but wanted for our homes. We have several Courtney Sofas and Leila chairs in both homes. Our new Clive chair is now my favorite. I'm "borrowing" it for my office! Steve also designed a fantastic sectional for our Santa Monica house where we love to hang out as a family. Its only design flaw is that it's so comfortable that no one wants to get up!
Claudine The virtual design process is really gaining momentum in the design world. Can you tell me more about your online design services and what convinced you to design from a distance?
Brooke: I never thought of offering virtual design services until I started my blog. Readers started emailing me asking if I could help them with one or two rooms in their home. After a lot of brainstorming with my friend, interior designer Angela Williams, we created Giannetti Home Design Online. Angela is our Online Project Manager. She oversees all of the projects, but Steve and I review each project several times during the design process. I did a post about our online design services in January, and it's been more successful than I ever imagined.
Having a store has been a real plus because we can offer our Design Online clients below retail pricing for many items. The savings on furnishings often pay for the price of our design services! Giannetti Home Design Online has been a wonderful addition to our services.
Claudine: With the creation of Velvet & Linen, you have become a wildly successful blogger. What motivated you to start blogging?
Brooke: A couple of years ago my friend Mary suggested that I start writing a blog about my own projects. I didn't even know what a blog was, but I loved the idea of keeping an online journal to document my projects as well as anything else that influences my design style. I really didn't think that anyone would read it! The design blogging community has been a wonderful gift in my life. Meeting other design obsessed people has really enriched my life and my work!
Claudine: I noticed that your husband Steve has some local roots by way of Annapolis, MD. Do East Coast sensibilities ever inspire his architectural designs?
Brooke: Definitely! Steve's designs are based in classical architectural principals that Jefferson used to design Monticello. No matter what style of home he is designing, his homes always have classical proportions, which are much more pleasing to the human eye.
Claudine: It is wonderful to see not only the love you have for Steve but also the respect and admiration that you have for his many talents including architectural design, furniture making, painting and more! What is your recipe for a successful marriage?
Brooke: Steve is an amazing man. I'm blessed to have him as a partner in life. He makes marriage pretty easy! We always make sure that our relationship is our top priority. No matter how busy we are, we try to have date night at least once or twice a week. It's important to stay connected, which isn't always easy with three kids.
We are also very fortunate to have the same passion and interests. We love designing homes together as well as spending time shopping for the store.
Claudine: What are some of your favorite design blogs?
Brooke: There are so many great ones now! I have a number of blogs that I adore. The list would go on forever. The best place to point you to is my blog roll.
(Note, Brooke was not kidding. Her list of inspirational blogs is very lengthy. It is also endless fun to look through. To find, go to the Velvet & Linen Home Page and scroll down deep on the site. The blog lists are featured on the left side under "Inspiration".)
Claudine: Other than your online 1stdibs Store, what are some of your other favorite online stores for furniture and décor?
Brooke: Yes, 1stdibs is a great resource. We are so honored to be a part of such an amazing website. Many of the online sites that I have found have been through 1stdibs.
Here are several of my favorite 1stdibs Stores:
Because we own a store, many of our resources are wholesale, but here are some of my favorite retail sites:
For Furniture and Accessories:
Claudine: Last question, with the winter holidays right around the corner can you give readers your version of "Holiday Decorating" at home and in your store?
Brooke: Because I'm Jewish, we don't decorate a great deal for the holidays at our home. We hang tons of white twinkle lights outside (Chanukah is the festival of lights!).
At the store, I like to do simple untraditional decorating. For example, we just bought several large metal spheres made of wine barrel rings that we are going to hang in the windows like oversized industrial ornaments. We also add more mercury glass pieces, and hotel silver to the displays which give the shop more sparkle.
Instead of a traditional tree, we bought some tall willow branches that we'll decorate with interesting ornaments (some great Junk Girls charms made from vintage silver mixed in with some other wonderful finds!) as well as white lights.
Of course we'll include some narcissus bulbs in our garden area mixed in with succulent wreaths. Our Linnea's Lights Candles in their holiday scents give the store and our home a holiday aroma that's just wonderful!
So many thanks to Brooke Giannetti from Giannetti Homes and the blog Velvet & Linen. I was beyond elated to do this interview. In addition to being a gifted designer, she is a lovely and generous woman. I can't thank her enough for taking the time to share her thoughts and advice with DC Metro Mommy.com. For those who haven't discovered Velvet & Linen, you must, must immediately go to your computer and experience this fabulous blog, business and family! Velvet & Linen
All Image Credit: http://brookegiannetti.typepad.com/.
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