“You know how Justin Timberlake brought ‘sexy’ back to music? Well I want to bring ‘sexy and intimate’ back to interior design.” So says Jeffrey Brooks of Jeffrey Brooks Interior Design. And then he laughs. And throughout the interview we keep finding things to laugh and to smile about.
Jeffrey Brooks is a man who understands emotions and the role of art and, indeed, interior design in eliciting emotions. It is, perhaps, no surprise that Jeffrey is a practiced artist. He comes from an artsy family with a father who worked as a designer for an ornamental hardware company and an aunt who worked for Balenciaga and who would take the young Jeffrey to see, and appreciate, their fabric collections. He was happiest at school when he had the opportunity to use his hands to make something. Indeed as a child every empty box presented a challenge to transform into whatever his fertile imagination demanded.
Interior design found Jeffrey rather than being sought out as a career. He was introduced to an interior designer in his final year at college and a summer job became a three-year stint. Jeffrey described his interior design education as “Learning by doing”. Taking classes as needed he went to work for a furniture retailer and was tasked with arranging and styling the company’s nine showrooms. Aside from a fair amount of driving, this is where Jeffrey learned the skill of, as he says, “stretching every dollar”. He had stumbled into interior design and found that he loved it.
I suggest to Jeffrey that there is a theatrical side to his work. “There is an element of theater in interior design” he says. He also agrees that his background as a painter is clearly a big influence “Its all about color and detail,” he says, “it’s about emotion, my gut drives me, it’s all about the emotion the work elicits”.
We talk a little about his entry for the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS Dining by Design installations at last year’s AD Home Design Show, where designers were given a small space to construct a dining room. Jeffrey’s space was all Hollywood glamour, featuring a memorable set of wings by Iszguierdo Studios in NYC, Kravet spun pewter sheer drapery panels, sheepskin pillows from West Elm, a polished aluminum Dining Table by Paul Evans courtesy of Newel Gallery and 1940″s vintage dining chairs with ivory painted frames from Claridge’s Hotel in London.
“I wanted to do something that spoke about what we were there for, I wanted to do something that meant something” and his nod to Angels in America beautifully interprets DIFFA’s efforts in fighting AIDS. Jeffrey’s approach to the Designing by Design piece reflects how he approaches all of his interior design work. “Utility is important, of course,” he says “but there are lots of other things, I do feel like people are paying me to do something that goes beyond that”. And he does. When you hire Jeffrey, you hire someone who cares about how you are going to feel when you step into the room, what it will do to your emotions. “It is less about a look, more about an approach, a point of view. It all happens in terms of who the client is, where they are and what their needs are.”
Talking about inspiration, Jeffrey’s artistic grounding shows through again. “I look at anything and everything, nothing gets old. I even just stand in my backyard and look up at the mountain and feel inspired.” Yes that’s right, Jeffrey has a mountain at the bottom of his garden, Schooley’s Mountain, in fact. His own house was built in 1887 in an historic area. There are hot springs at the top of mountain and the area is laced with lakes and ponds.
This is a man who cares about his environment and has chosen carefully, even in terms of his commute to the heart of Manhattan in less than 45 minutes. We discuss a shared enthusiasm for the city and he tells me how he successfully conspired to give the British Queen’s Equerry a break from their routine of official functions by whisking them away to Manhattan in a van so that they could fulfill an ambition of experiencing breakfast at a proper self service diner.
And that says a lot about Jeffrey, a sense of class, a sense of humor and a determination to get people the experience they want.
A glance at his portfolio reveals European influences. He studied fashion and design in Milan and has recently returned from a trip to Lille and Paris where he had met several manufacturers. It shows in his inclination to mix old and new. “You bring a sense of authenticity”, he says. “a feeling of connoisseurship. It’s about having a back story, I get excited about the uniqueness.” But then we are straight back to emotions. “I create a place that is unique to you, somewhere comfortable with quietness and intimacy.”
Regular readers will know that we have a minor obsession with designers and their dogs. Meet Rockefeller, or ‘Rocky‘ to his friends, Jeffery’s Jack Russell. After two years of obedience training he is, according to his proud owner, a real gentleman.
And our thanks to Jeffrey Brooks who, as well as bringing ‘sexy’ back to interior design, is a thoughtful and sensitive master of creating environments to elicit emotional responses. And, of course, fun.