CORINNE BROWN, ASID
Brown Design Group
The Home Trust International (HTI): What first compelled you to enter design?
Corinne Brown (CB): I found the architecture department in college and I knew I had found my direction. No more English major for me.
HTI: Who or what has been the strongest influence on your career and why?
CB: My grandmother’s home in Beverly Hills had a profound effect on my design sensibilities. Designed by Wallace Neff, it had a timeless and substantial feel. It was large, but cozy with charm and classic details. It was furnished with items from her travels, mainly from France and China in the 1920’s and there were lots and lots of down cushions. I bring those memories to every project. I feel strongly that every home should feel inevitable – it should feel like the place we were always meant to be and where we are completely comfortable. It should never be just an assemblage of furniture or the result of quick shopping to “make-do”.
HTI: If you could have told your 20-year-old self one thing, what would it have been?
CB: You are never trapped by circumstance – you have the power to shift energy and your fortunes.
HTI: Please tell us about your family and your personal life.
CB: I live in the mountains. It is an inspirational lifestyle, seeing so much beauty every day. My husband, Allen, and I met on Mammoth Mountain. I was taking winter quarters off from UCLA and working as a ticket puncher and he was a ski patrolman. Once I left school, I moved to Mammoth permanently and shortly thereafter was married. We lived the ski bum life, working nights and skiing all day – a part of me misses that still – but, eventually, I knew I needed to do what I loved – at least as much as skiing.
I found my way to working in an architectural firm and then had an opportunity to work for an interior designer. The work felt more personal and to be a better fit. We have a daughter who, funny enough, became an architect. She resonates with the strict organizational part of architecture and construction, so, she is very happy to have me as her interior designer. We are currently putting together a new apartment for her in San Francisco, having moved back to California from New York City. It is nice to have her closer and we all still ski as much as possible. I did get in a little over one hundred days last year – of course that was because we skied into August.
HTI: What is the best advice you have received and who was it from?
CB: I’ve heard it from many places over the years, and it is absolutely valid, but I have no idea where it came from:
TIME, QUALITY, COST: YOU CAN HAVE TWO OF THESE, BUT, NEVER ALL THREE. I plan to have a large painting of this done on a triangle to put in my studio.
HTI: Is there a common thread that runs through all great products?
CB: Quality and craftsmanship. The touch, the detail the materials, the weight of furniture, ironwork, hardware, fabrics, cabinetry, rugs. The online and big box stores serve a true need – I avail myself of them for items now and then, but, so much of what they offer feels like landfill – it cannot stand the test of time.
HTI: Do you prefer the country or the city?
CB: Obviously, I prefer the country, but, as a designer, I am able to enjoy the best of many cities for short periods when shopping for clients or meeting with other designers that are great friends. I have been so fortunate to develop relationships with designers from all across the country.
HTI: What recent project or transaction are you most proud of?
CB: I finished three projects for one client in the last several years: An apartment in the Time Warner building in NYC, a house in Martis Camp/Lake Tahoe that was a five-year project and a house in McCall/Idaho that was also a five-year project (all concurrently). The McCall house was published in Luxe magazine in November of 2017, but all three of the projects gave us the opportunity to use the very best craftsmen and products. The team effort required for each project was complex and very gratifying. There are good people doing fine work and it is enriching to find and connect with them.
HTI: In what ways has your company or your industry changed over the years?
CB: My earliest clients are many of my best clients today and my firm has grown up with them. Better quality, better design, more complexity. Growth is truly a beautiful thing and has made our work more beautiful.
HTI: The one thing you’ve had forever is:
CB: My mother’s hot pink cashmere coat. It’s style and quality has stood the test of time
HTI: What do you miss the most?
CB: For some reason Helms Bakery just popped into my head. The smell in those trucks that drove around handing out fresh baked cakes and goodies, like ice cream trucks do, was heavenly.
HTI: What makes a room sing?
CB: Patterns; not as in fabric patterns, or on wallpaper, but in how thoughts come together, form concepts, split and then reform; how thought perceives space and explains emotion; expressing the thoughts and emotions with design.
HTI: What place most inspires you?
CB: Nature. There is a quiet assurance that everything is just as it should be.
HTI: Please tell us about your taste in books.
CB: I am a crazy reader, I always have piles by my bed. I love Tolstoy and re-read his books over and over. There is such heart, such depth. The descriptions of the homes in his stories has always captivated me and the beginning of War and Peace, with the sleigh ride? It lives in my imagination always. That may be one reason I love the snow so much.
HTI: Do you have a favorite museum?
CB: It changes, but I always come back to The Guggenheim. The building itself is a work of art and it makes each piece inside feel even more momentous.
HTI: What is your favorite brand and why?
CB: I am going to answer this from the interior design perspective and say Kravet. They are a strong resource offering mighty support to designers and they have the deepest line in the business in terms of fabric and furniture. Their lines include Lee Jofa and Brunschwig and Fils and they protect the archives of their historic patterns and respect the past. I also love that they are a family business and are very proud of their 100-year history.
HTI:We couldn’t agree more.
HTI:What makes a great organization?
CB: People who care deeply and authentically.
HTI: Why The Home Trust?
CB: I appreciate the alignment with QUALITY. Quality is harder to find these days and a company that cares enough to gather the best and be the best is rare. I want to be a part of that.
HTI: Thank you. We’re grateful you share the same commitment to quality and craftsmanship as a non-negotiable standard.
HTI: If you could be granted one wish. What would it be?
CB: To be able to be a ski bum and designer full-time while living with the very best of everything. That may be three things, but it is my one wish.
HTI: Corinne, thank you for being a ‘Leader in Luxury + Design.’
As the owner and Principle Designer of The Brown Design Group, Brown has found a way to combine her passion for design with a mountain lifestyle. Born and raised in Southern California, Corinne studied architecture at UCLA, then following her passion for skiing, she relocated to Mammoth Lakes almost 30 years ago. She found her way into the architectural firm of O’Connor Design Group, and later to The Finishing Touch Interior Design Studio, which she purchased in 1998. Corinne now works from The Big Red Building, a spectacular design studio which she designed and built to house the largest sample library within a hundred-mile radius.