This week we are giving the spotlight to Brett Foken - Founder and Creative Principal of Decorotation Interiors, a boutique interior design firm based in Oakland.
A little bit about Decorotation Interiors:
Our mission is to bring beauty and simplicity to our clients' lives through bespoke interiors. We are known for thoughtful design that strikes a balance between function and beauty while honoring a home’s unique architecture.
With an appreciation for the natural beauty of the West Coast and a grounded, effortless style of living, all of our projects have a level of cozy and comfort. We love using natural materials that embrace the beauty of age and the perfectly imperfect. Quality and craftsmanship are carried out for each of our projects through creative collaborations with our network of artisans and local makers.”
This past year, Decorotation has been working with our buyer clients to remodel their gorgeous Eichler homes. Follow along with them at More Than Meets the Eichler to see the stunning finished product!
Our Interview With Brett
What Was Your First Interior Design Project? What About It Have You Since Repeated, and What Would You Never Do Again?
After many small, “on the side” projects, my first official interior design project on my own was a remodel and furnishing project in the Outer Sunset in SF. I learned so much through that project and was able to fine-tune my design and client processes a bit more (although these are always a work in progress as I’ve come to learn). Something that has stuck with me from that project is how important the client + designer relationship is to the success of a project. Trust, collaboration, and honest communication are key.
What Inspires You - Do You Have Any Favorite Designers, Magazines, Museums, or Local Shops?
Giving myself space is what fuels my creativity the most. I love exploring and am a naturally curious person. I spend a lot of time in nature and am very inspired by the natural landscape of the West Coast. Travel is important to me when it comes to finding inspiration, and experiencing other cultures and ways of living. I try to integrate design inspiration and sourcing trips throughout the year.
Some of my favorite local places for sourcing and inspiration include Oakland Museum, MoMA, Pt. 2 Gallery, Hugomento, Sobu, Prevalent Projects, The Future Perfect, March, the SF Proper Hotel, Heath Ceramics, The Vintage Rug Shop, Antique Society in Sebastopol, and the Alameda Flea Market.
Designers and Architects I’m always inspired by: Kelly Wearstler, Commune, Ryan Leidner, Workstead, Ashe Leandro, Jake Arnold.
Some favorite publications include: Dwell, Arch Digest, Sunset, The Local Project (my newest YouTube obsession!)
What Was Memorable About Working on the Cedar Project?
In the case of this Berkeley craftsman home, it was seeing an old flame in a new light.
Our clients had lived there as a family of four for 15 years with their 2 girls, their dog, and their cats. It was a full house. Once the girls went off to college, the clients were faced with the decision to either sell the house and move or keep it and refresh completely to accommodate their newly empty nest stage of life. They decided to stay and brought us on board to revive their lived-in (and loved) home to be a place where they could start their next phase of life together and stay for many more years to come.
The craftsman architecture of the home was honored and its small footprint was embraced by intentionally creating more usable, multi-functioning spaces. Even losing a few square feet with added closets and storage pieces felt like a gain in space with the increased functionality provided. We incorporated a few of the owner’s old furniture pieces and a lot of their art into the new design creating a joyous environment to gather and a home where some of their long-loved furniture and art are part of its new look.
The value isn’t simply financial when it comes to older homes with long-standing residents. It’s easy to be guided by social media and caught up in trends so we didn’t pay attention to the “shoulds” but focused on the client's lifestyle, interests, and the house’s original bones. We kept going back to the phrase “the new heirloom” which can feel counterintuitive, but what we mean is going back to creating a home that will be cherished for generations and seeing something old and familiar in a new light.
Click here to see all of the photos from the Cedar project!
What Has Been the Hardest Part About Launching Your Own Practice? And What Has Been a Delightful Surprise?
The hardest part was trying to do everything on my own at the beginning which was obviously not sustainable! I got very burnt out very quickly and wasn’t able to spend the time focusing on what I was best at. The moment I started asking for help was the moment things started to grow with my business and I was able to put more focus on the areas that bring me joy. The best surprise that has resulted in asking for help has been crossing paths with Kathryn on my team who I officially made a partner with recently after 3 years of working together. Kathryn comes from a background in architecture so with her architectural knowledge, experience, and project management skills we are able to expand our offerings to include more architecturally involved, larger-scope projects. We’ve learned so much working alongside each other and always say how lucky we are to have found one another. She’s 100% my delightful surprise and I feel like we can accomplish anything together while still having fun (cheesy but true!).
Any Advice for Someone Considering Partnering With an Interior Designer?
Find a designer you mesh with on a personal level. Designing someone’s home is a personal (and usually long) endeavor so it’s important to feel like you can trust them and be open and transparent with them.
Working with a designer isn’t just about selecting materials + furnishings and putting together mood boards. We are developing detailed plans, construction drawings, and 3D renderings, designing custom pieces, obsessing over transitions and all the small details, managing budgets, communicating with vendors, managing deliveries and project timelines, working closely with contractors and architects, managing client expectations and communications on top of sourcing and selecting all the pretty things. There’s a lot involved with every project - our role can be quite technical and project management-focused. The creative design is only a portion.