Brigette Romanek believes in creating spaces that make you feel good. She manages to create an atmosphere that is both easy and elevated, with rich textures, cozy seating, lush greenery, and objects and art that inspire. Driven by a visual passion, her interior design story started at home, expanded to close friends, and has grown to include clients like Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, and Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
Her eye for design is impeccable, and she employs pieces from Faye Toogood to Pierre Paulin that spark joy and surprise, while managing to make a room feel lived in and loved. Knowing that her role is all about her relationship with her clients, she acts as visionary, creative, and interpreter. Romanek, who was recently a judge for Ellen’s Next Great Designer on HBO Max and debuted a collection with Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams last fall, spoke with Whitewall about her uncanny ability to make interiors both stunning and comfortable.
WHITEWALL: What makes you interested in taking on a project?
BRIGETTE ROMANEK: I feel that every project is an opportunity to do something new and fresh and cool and interesting. How I start is I take everything that the client is saying and try to interpret it in a way that is just what they’re saying, but elevated. I work to take all the components, the ingredients, put them all in the pot, and make a great finished meal. I look at it as a collaboration. Really hearing and understanding what’s important to my client and then interpreting it in a beautiful way.
I am thoughtful about what I take and why I take it. And that’s part of the story and the journey. What can I do to make them happy, bring beauty, and show some things they might not have chosen themselves? I love it.
WW: It must be an intimate engagement with your client—not just translating their personality into the space, but being an interpreter for them.
BR: That’s a great way to put it. Every house is going to have a sofa and a chair, but I’m going to work to make it look different and special and unique and make my client feel proud and happy—like it’s a love letter to them. It’s their own experience, it’s their own special place, it doesn’t look the same as others.
Clients will send me something that is inspiring them, or they’ll send an image, and I’ll say, “Why do you like this image? What does it make you feel?” It becomes this great exchange and relationship. It is very intimate because I am going to leave this project. I am going to walk away. And when I close that door, I want them to look to love it, exhale, enjoy it, and feel, “This is me. This is what I want.”
WW: You describe your ethos as livable luxe. How did you arrive at that?
BR: I don’t think that it has to be beautiful or comfortable. I think that those two components really work well together. And that’s my job, to be able to show my client that, yes, you can have something that’s really this beautiful, and the shape is interesting, cool, and the fabrics will wear well.
It’s my job to find out how to deliver that to them. So if it’s a case of the sofa is absolutely stunning but I don’t know if I could live with the yellow velvet, I’ll find fabrics that are equally as vibrant and beautiful but might be a performance fabric. It’s learning how to put those things together but not have a different feeling.
WW: You have such a beautiful eye for art and design pieces, and I know you collect art. I read how your first piece was by Elizabeth Peyton. Where does that interest stem from for you personally?
BR: I’m very visual, and I’m all about a feel of something. That’s what people remember more than anything—they remember the feeling of something, what it did for you inside emotionally. And that’s so much of what art is for me. I’m moved by the image in some sort of way. When I got into interior design, and even before, I would look at pieces and go into museums and say, “Wow, what was in the person’s mind when they were creating this? Why does this make me feel challenged or why does this piece make me feel happy?” The same way I feel about a room. The same way I feel about walking into a space.
Art is part of the experience, it’s part of the room, and it’s part of the story, for myself or the client. And I can’t see a room without it. Looking at art became equally as important, or in some cases more so, than looking at the furniture. If my client says, “I have this piece that I am absolutely in love with,” then I can design with that piece in mind as the hero.
It’s really a personal journey of one’s art collection. My collection stems from that from starting to learn about and respect artists, seeing more of this person’s work, the energy behind it. It’s become a real love of mine.
WW: You can see that in the rooms you design because the pieces are given space—there is an attention paid to these objects, whether photography, painting, sculpture. With your clients, do you find yourself encouraging them to learn more or make bolder choices?
BR: Yes, absolutely. It’s my job to show them things they haven’t seen before. It’s my job to work to push a little bit. It’s my job to have a continued conversation all the time about what’s available to them. Because if I’m not doing that, then I shouldn’t be a designer. They’ve brought me on for a reason, and I’m going to honor and respect that and give them everything I’ve got. I would never show my clients something I don’t love and think is amazing. I’m brought in for a reason, and I want to honor them and give it everything I’ve got, and that would be less than if I didn’t try to push the conversation forward.
WW: Are there any artists or designers at the moment that you have just been totally enthralled by?
BR: Pierre Paulin—his voice, you put the pieces next to anything else and they just make me giggle with happiness and joy. I think, “What kind of mind was that?” And there’s Pierre Augustin Rose—I think that work is stunning and stands the test of time. I love it when you can look at a piece in a collection and know, “I could use this one piece in a room and that would be such a statement.” There are lots that I love. I love Fernando Mastrangelo, I mean, Faye Toogood—a genius, that’s for sure! These are artists have voices in their fields and arenas. You look forward to what they’re going to do because you know it’s going to spark something in you.