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Design for Living

Design for Living
COOKING A kitchen recently designed for a San Francisco client. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Design

An interview with Brook Bradbury of Lincoln Park Design

During a phone call to arrange this interview, Lincoln Park Design’s Jennifer Walker and Brook Bradbury are quick to remind that their firm’s name is spelled like the 16th president, not the alt-rock band. This naturally elicits a laugh since it’s difficult to imagine the winners of the East Bay Express’s Best of the East Bay 2021 for Best Interior Designer could ever be confused with an early-aught’s avatar of nu metal, yet it does say something about the duo’s fastidious attention to detail. In a word, their vision is fractal, which is to say it appears the same at different scales—consistently inspired and frequently genius.

What follows is a deep-dive into Lincoln Park Design’s creative process as described by partner Brook Bradbury via a recent email exchange. It will illuminate, educate and hopefully make you rethink that Tuscan kitchen. —Daedalus Howell

How does an interior design project start?

It starts with a story. Really we are trying to create a narrative for the client. There’s a lot of psychology involved in creating a space that’s livable and functional. At the end of the day we are interpreters—bringing someone’s vision to life. Our clients are putting their trust in us and we feel compelled to develop a design that’s both beautiful and practical.

It’s important that we not only understand the client’s style and taste, but also their lifestyle needs. Do they have a large family, young kids? Older family members who have special needs? Pets? Do they cook a lot? We try to get a feel for their style preferences, take lots of photos and discuss a design direction.

From there we put together a digital storyboard—focusing in on colors, textures and materials—to present to the client. If the project involves any sort of remodeling or construction, we create a 3D rendering to spec.This makes it incredibly easy to envision the space as it will appear upon completion, and it’s especially handy for those who have trouble visualizing spatial planning.

We try as much as possible to align expectations for the client. Everything in the design and budget process is presented and approved before moving forward. We keep in close collaboration with the client to ensure they are getting exactly what they anticipated.

From where do you draw inspiration?

We come from very disparate backgrounds—Jenny grew up in urban Chicago, and I grew up in bucolic Montana. However, we’ve both traveled extensively and moved to inspiring new environments. I’ve lived in Vegas, New York, Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands before moving here to the Bay Area. Jenny garners influence from her time residing in Hawaii, St. Thomas and SoCal. I think it’s this sense of wanderlust that fuels our creative juices.

So it’s TRAVEL that’s our primary inspiration. In fact, our families vacation quite often together. Jenny and I always take the opportunity to check out the local design scene wherever we may be. Munich, Barcelona, London, Todos Santos—no matter the place, we always get super excited when we discover a local artist or small boutique and discover new designs.

DESIGN SHOWS are another great resource—Salone del Mobile, in Milan; 100% Design, in London and Tokyo; ICFF, in New York; Maison de Object, in Paris. Showcasing the latest and greatest in the design world, these events are indispensable for keeping up with trends, discovering new talent and creating a catalog of resources upon which to draw ideas.

There are a number of DESIGN BLOGS which feature up-and-coming designers, trending innovators and new products emerging in the marketplace. A simple Google or Pinterest search will align you with some pioneers in the industry.

The interwebs 😂. I can’t tell you how much ETSY has changed and influenced the design market. It’s really an incredible resource for those looking for unique items—quite often at very reasonable prices. Also, sites like 1ST DIBS and CHAIRISH. Featuring a wide-ranging variety of boutique, hand-made and vintage designs—these curated forums are a boon for those looking for one-offs and unique finds.

Can you describe your creative process?

Well, it generally starts by popping open a bottle of rosé…! LOL

But in all honesty, once we get a feel for the space, things generally come together quickly. We have a mental catalog of vendors and fabricators from which we draw insight. We start pulling pictures and inspiration, hitting design centers and pulling samples. From there we pull all of our ideas together; we give the client a variety of options that fit within the design vision, and we’re off to the races!

What trends are on the horizon?

Beige is Boring:

Look for more color in the kitchen. People are getting tired of safe, white kitchens and bathrooms, and are beginning to experiment with color. Rich, dark jewel tones are coming into cabinetry; there are some gorgeous hues emerging in the appliance market. Colored sinks and even faucets are popping up. We love this new, bold direction!

Nature is Nurture:

We are seeing an abundance of plants and greenery in the home. Also, foliage-themed textiles and natural materials—like rattan and seagrass—are increasing in popularity. 

Some Concrete Solutions:

Concrete tile, concrete countertops, concrete sinks, even concrete lights! A lot of people used to think of concrete as cold and minimalistic, but today’s options are colorful, tactile and can really warm up a space and add some much-needed pizzaz.

Things Are Getting Graphic:

An incredibly effortless way to add “WOW” factor to a room is an oversized wall graphic. More customizable than wallpaper, it’s a great way to add some personality without breaking the bank.

What’s definitely OUT?

Matchy-matchy sets of anything—bedroom sets, living room sets, etc. Not only does it exhibit a lack of creativity, but it makes a room look instantly dated. I think we all remember those matching headboards and dressers our parents used to have.

Cute sayings on signs. Just because you see Joanna Gaines do it doesn’t mean you should. And on that same note, no more shiplap please! No, just no.

Tuscan kitchens. You don’t live in Tuscany; don’t pretend your kitchen resides in an Italian villa.

That being said … every rule is meant to be broken! For every design trend that is “out” or “in,” there is always a counternarrative. The bottom line is: If you REALLY love something, we can find a way to work with it.

What range of budgets do you work with?

To be honest, we can work within the confines of most budgets—sparse to limitless. For us it’s more about if the project is interesting and allows for some creative freedom. But most importantly it’s about having a good rapport with the client.

Our natural inclination is to incorporate varying price points, even for those clients with extraordinary budgets. We love creating spaces that are visually appealing, yet functional. Beautiful, but not imminently precious.

How often do—or should—people consider redesigning their home’s interior?

We don’t necessarily feel like there is an exact timeline. Clearly trends change, but it’s when your living space no longer works that it’s time to rethink the design. It can be as simple as just changing out some pillows and throwing down some new rugs. Or it could be as extensive as an entire home remodel. We always take into consideration the lifespan of a design when we are creating a space. Our aesthetic is just naturally eclectic—mixing hi and low, old and new, funky and formal. Timeless design is all about balance.

How did Covid affect people’s interest in interior design?

I think a lot of people realized that their spaces really didn’t work for them during the pandemic. All of a sudden people were working from home, schooling their kids, cooking dinner every night, etc. They needed to readjust their living spaces to meet the needs of an altered lifestyle.

For instance, ergonomic home offices with sound privacy and pretty backdrops for video conferences became a necessity almost overnight. Those with open-plan living had a need to compartmentalize and divide spaces.

And then you can’t discount the stir-crazy factor! I think we’ve all been there at some point over this past year … being stuck inside the same set of walls tends to really exacerbate things. Something that may have mildly bothered you before becomes unbearable when you have to live with it at it all day, every day.

What do you do if a client has a completely misguided taste? Or is there such a thing?

Oh for sure, there are some hot messes out there! 😆

No, in all actuality, we try to work with clients who we think are on the same page aesthetically. All things considered, it’s important to keep in mind that we are creating spaces that will bring joy to our clients. At the end of the day if they are happy with the result, then we’ve succeeded. So, while we may try to steer the design in a certain direction, if our client is thrilled with the outcome, that’s the most imperative consideration.

What are some interior design considerations that are particular to the East Bay?

In terms of working in the East Bay, Jenny and I really try to utilize local artists and craftsmen. There is a well-established design community in the Bay Area and we try to source as many products as possible from Oakland and the East Bay Area. We work with Slow Burn Glass, Niche Creative, Malder lighting, Apache Stone, Mike Farruggia Woodworks, Niche Creative, Luker Upholstery, Truck and Crane Graphics and so many others! We really believe in supporting local businesses.

Some advice for someone looking for an interior designer?

It’s not a one-size-fits-all. I think it’s essential to find a designer that fits your style—and budget, of course. It’s often a long-term relationship. Some of our projects are ongoing for months, or even years. Finding someone you have a personal synergy with is almost as important as hiring someone whose work you admire. 🙂

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