There’s something I used to do when we lived in New York that would really annoy Emily. I’m sure there were actually tons of things that annoyed her, probably still do, but this one would really drive her nuts. Like, dead-eyed, “Don’t do that again” annoyance. But it was something that I kinda couldn’t control and it kinda became a problem.
Basically, anytime we got in the back of a cab whose driver had a thick New York accent, I would eventually take on the accent as if it were my own. It would start out subtle, just changing a few sounds here and there, but if I got into a back and forth conversation with the driver, it would become a full-on scene of two guys from New York chewing the fat. I couldn’t stop myself! Even after the first few awkward reactions from Emily, I couldn’t stop. Just imagine a dude from Fair Oaks, California trying to commiserate with a driver from the Bronx about midday traffic, IN AN ACCENT!
“Yeah, pshhh… I bet the Manahattan bridge is crazy right now.”
“You sure you wanna take 7th?”
The more I think about it, the more I realize that it hasn’t just been accents. I think I’ve mimicked people in other ways throughout most of my life. Maybe it’s why I became an actor. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. But it wasn’t just mannerisms, I spent much of my youth copying people’s tastes – What they wore, what music or movies they liked, how they wore their hair. I remember saying in seventh grade that I really liked Bob Dylan, just because a cool eighth-grader named Jordan Heinrich liked him. I knew nothing about Bob Dylan, but I took on their style and even went so far as buying a Bob Dylan poster without ever owning any of his CDs. I did the same with clothes. Did I like Mossimo or Stussy? Was I a surfer or skater? No! Did I wear them because it’s what Jason Currier and all the cool kids were wearing? Yes! I even got big into hacky sacks because the Regan Reynolds was big into them. I never really thought of my own taste or style, never brought anything of my own to the table.
Of course, that changed the older I got, and I began locking into my own little “likes” and “dislikes,” but I still think I have a tendency to take on the style of whoever I look up to. Or sometimes, just whoever is around. So when Emily and her team asked me to write a post about what my design style is, I started getting butt-sweat because I’m not sure I really have one! I think maybe I’ve just been taking on Emily’s thick accent of style, because I look up to her, and passing it off as my own this whole time! We’ve lived together for so long, that it’s now hard to distinguish her design taste from mine.
It would be easier if I had to write about any other aspects of my style, I’ve actually come into my own in most of them. I have a clothing style – relaxed hipster. I have a music style – Grateful Dead/Taylor Swift. I know what I like in movies and books and plays, even cars. But when it comes to design, I feel like sitting down and taking a long time out. I don’t know what my style is! I mean, I know when I’m in a space that feels cool, but I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily my style. I’d say that each of the houses we’ve lived in were super awesome, but I don’t know if any of them have been my style per se. I’m a little worried that my style changes with each space I’m in, like I’m taking on the accent of whichever house I’m currently living in.
Glendale Brian – “I’m a mid-century guy”
Los Feliz Brian – “I’m super eclectic”
Mountain House Brian – “Gimme more wood!”
Farmhouse Brian – “I’m a Shaker at heart.”
Brian writing about his actual design style – “…Hey! Look over there! (jumps out nearest window)”
I think that maybe I just don’t think about design. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it, I know great design when I see it, and I know when I like things, but it all feels so subjective to the specific house I’m in that I’m not sure how to translate that into an overall style. And if I’m being truthful, I’m not all that interested in trying to find it out. I know that sounds crazy coming from the husband of a design superstar, but it’s true. I wish it weren’t. I’ve tried to force myself to rethink it before and make it more of a priority, but it never sticks. I just don’t have the desire to go shop for furniture or art. Like, ever. I don’t know why, it’s just not in me. And sometimes the saying is true – you can’t change a tiger’s stripes to chevrons.
That’s not to say that I don’t like design. I actually do. I just admire it as something outside of me. Like, I know when I see something beautiful in a room or a picture of a pretty space, and I would even venture to say that I’ve got a better eye for that stuff than most dudes (perks of living with a star) but that doesn’t mean that it’s what speaks to me on a personal level. And it also doesn’t mean that I go out of my way to look at them. Never have I ever picked up an Elle Décor for inspo. I have opinions on how we’re designing the farmhouse, sure, but it’s in relation to the space itself, not necessarily my desire to get my style in there. I think. Maybe I’m wrong. For instance, I recently told Emily that I don’t want it to feel too modern, that I really want to keep an eye on the rustic side of the farmhouse. Maybe that means bringing in more natural wood. Now, does that mean that my style is like, rustic? Maybe? But I think it has more to do with the space in context. But maybe that is my style coming through. Like, if we were designing a super modern house or a mid-century space, would I stress about having too many modern elements? I DON’T KNOW! AHHH!!
Emily said, just imagine if you had to design a blank space, what would you put in it? Well, I actually have lived in a blank space. The one year we broke up in New York, I lived in a house in Queens with my buddy Edi from acting school. I had a whole year to decorate my room. A whole year. It was like the white room challenge from Design Star, but for dumb-dumbs. And guess what I did to it? Nothing! I put a bed and a desk in, with a chair that I found on my block. And I was fine with it! It never once bothered me that I should decorate my room more. And I’d love to say it was because I was just in my twenties and didn’t know better, or that I was trying to save money, or didn’t have the time. This is all true, but the REAL truth is, if I were to have a space without Emily’s help, I don’t think it would be that much different today. Sure I’d put some random accessories in there so that people don’t think I’m a total psychopath, but I’m just not the kind of guy who will hunt for the perfect side-table to go next to the credenza. And I know those guys exist, and they make all of us non-design guys jealous or furious when they wow all the women in the room by talking about how much they care about design. I know they’re not putting on an act, and I don’t really want to punch them in the face, they just have something in them that I don’t. They genuinely enjoy getting deep into design. Just like I enjoy getting deep into Dead concerts, finding the perfect live version of Scarlet Begonias (It’s 10/9/76, Oakland Coliseum if you’re curious). And I really wish I had that genuine enjoyment of design instead of just riding the coattails of my superstar wife’s taste.
Maybe I should just list some things I know I like and you guys can decide if it actually adds up to a style. Ready?
Wood. Clean lines. Muted colors. A mix of vintage pieces with new luxuries. Unique architectural accessories. Natural light. And a kegerator tap. Is that a style?
Look. I like design. I really do. I just think it’s ok to be an admirer of it rather than feel like I have to force myself to become an active participant. It’s like art. I know what appeals to me, it’s a wide array of styles and mediums, I love looking at all of it, but I don’t think I need to go out and buy an easel and brushes. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe I have a vague idea of what speaks to me in design and I can add some ideas here and there. But do I have a strong definition of my style writ large? “Ayyyy, forget about it!”
From Em: Stay tuned for part 2 because Brian is getting a full-on Emily Henderson “Style Diagnostic” and I can’t wait because it’s going to be SO MUCH fun. xx