Janine Thierry Brown, ASID, has more than 30 years of experience as an interior designer in San Diego — long enough to be working with the now-grown children of past clients. Designing in an array of styles and specializing in everything from one-hour house-call consultations on rearranging furniture to collaborating with architects on home builds and renovations, she credits her photographic memory and an intuitive ability “to get inside a client’s head” as keys to her success. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and a past president of ASID San Diego, she is a retailer whose Home Garden Imports boutique shares space with Nettle Creek Interiors in Del Mar.
Q: What’s your take on the state of San Diego design?
A: San Diego has always been a unique market. Designers will come into town from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and they see Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla and Del Mar. They think it’s a prime-target audience. But people who have means in San Diego are still conservative.
Q: What trends are you noticing?
A: What I am seeing here, and also nationally, is really more eclectic design. I’ve always designed very eclectically. But it’s difficult to do. People say, “Oh, you just throw it together and it looks good.” It’s all about scale, proportion, balance. There’s also a trend to take more heavy interiors, traditional interiors like Tuscan interiors, and lighten them up — not so much ornateness as far as all the tassels, the fringes, the cording and decorative elements. The other thing I see is people making their antiques more lively and fun, like taking a French chair and putting a white fabric on it with a pop of color: orange, teal, apple green, yellow. … A lot of people are inheriting these wonderful pieces and don’t want that stodgy grandparent look.
Q: What drives the trends?
A: Fashion drives interiors. So whatever you see in the fashion industry, that drives the interior design industry. Last year, it was hot corals and oranges and pinks. You see it every year. But I’m not into the latest trend, because the latest trend is going to come and go. I want classic interiors that are not dated and have longevity.
Q: Do you encourage people to take risks or stay in their comfort zone?
A: I don’t encourage people to go out of their comfort zone. People come to me and one of the first things I tell them to do is look in their closet, because usually what you wear and what you’re comfortable wearing is what you’re comfortable living with. And a lot of times when you go out of your comfort zone, you don’t like it, so you really have to be true to yourself.
Q: Is there a particular room with which you like to make a statement?
A: It’s so much fun to do statement powder rooms. You don’t spend that much time in them, so you can go in and say, “This is crazy, this is wild, this is fun. OK, I’m out of here.” Dining rooms are always fun to do, because you want hot colors to ignite the appetite.
Q: How do you describe what you do?
A: I read something recently that said interior design is a service business. But we’re really artists. We don’t use dance or words or canvases for our art; we use our clients’ homes as our canvases. We tell the story of our clients. Their lives are told within their homes.
Dialogue: By Mark Hiss • Portrait by Martin Mann • Produced by Phyllis Van Doren