“I cannot think of a time when I was not creating something or thinking of creating something,” says Lena Brion, who leads Brion Design, a San Diego area interior design firm she opened in 2000. In the beginning of her career, the Vancouver Island-born designer specialized in high-end corporate interiors and healthcare projects, dreaming up some surprisingly stylish hospital rooms, but in time, residential kitchens and baths emerged as her favorite projects because, she says, “they’re closer to people’s hearts.” Her first foray into residential design happened by chance when a friend called in a favor and asked her to design their kitchen. To her surprise, in 2005 that kitchen won Lena “Grand Prize Kitchen of the Year” from local magazine, San Diego Home Garden Lifestyle, signaling a new focus on her work. Today, residential projects are the scene-stealers in the Brion Design portfolio, and Lena is no stranger to awards, having most recently won “Bath of the Year” from San Diego Home & Garden.
Native Trails checks in with Lena Brion on her penchant for “urban country” kitchen design and her design philosophy.
NT: Our first interaction with Brion Design was for the Carr kitchen remodel, in which you sourced a Brushed Nickel range hood and a custom bow-front copper farmhouse sink. Tell us about the project.
LB: This home was for a young family who needed a reshuffling of their most-used space, the kitchen, and back entry, to accommodate their lifestyle. The style of this kitchen was “urban country”. It was a mixture of a contemporary sleek layout with the warmth of the casual country blended in. The client was fabulous to work with and was very trusting. I love organizing spaces so they flow better, and this project was in need of utilizing the space more efficiently. The end result made their daily life much more enjoyable.
NT: What factors led you to select Native Trails copper for this project?
LB: The Native Trails Brushed Nickel farmhouse kitchen sink was the natural ingredient to pull all the materials together. The hammered metal is so forgiving in a busy kitchen while providing the warm, grounded heirloom-type look you would find in a family’s estate property. Native Trails designs are thoughtfully respectful to the materials you work with. You design in a way that enhances the natural beauty of the material.
NT: We’re honored to be part of this beautiful space, how would you categorize your design style?
LB: I describe my signature style as “livable contemporary”—meaning that I like to change things up by showing off the beauty in juxtaposed materials, objects, etc.
NT: What is your philosophy on design?
LB: Good design is not dictated by budget, and a good budget cannot ensure good design. However, a good budget in the hands of a good designer can produce a great design.
NT: You’re very passionate about your work—what is it about design that inspires you?
LB: There are a few things. First, I love a good challenge, so I am drawn to resolving obstacles. I try to glean inspiration from the project itself, from its particular parameters and client needs. That’s where the thrill of each project comes from. The goal is to make a connection to the client and the physical aspects of the project so they are uniquely tied together. Second, I am very interested in sustainable design. I have been designing with a concern for the environmental impact since before USGBC and the LEED program came about. It makes responsible sense. Lastly, lighting is my favorite thing to design. It’s like the icing on the cake.
NT: Do you have any key advice for clients?
LB: Work with a designer you feel understands and “gets” you and your design style! Don’t be afraid to show them all your ideas and wants and then give them freedom to create something fabulous for you.
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