If you haven’t already stalked Brian Paquette’s Instagram, do yourself a favor and get to it and get inspired. Brian is the definition of working hard to get what you want, because it certainly doesn’t come overnight or simply by sitting back with your fingers crossed. Over the years, Brian has established himself as one of the leading designers in Seattle, has dove into the retail side of the design business, and partnered with big brands like Lawson Fenning to design furniture. It’s no surprise that Brian has gotten to where he is today, and we’re forever inspired by his designs, which we know you will too. Dive into our chat with Brian and swoon over his designs.
Tell us about your journey as a designer. How did you get started and how did you get here?
I am originally from Newport, Rhode Island and I studied painting and art history in school. After school, an interior designer whom I worked with at the frame shop I worked at saw something in me, an eye for scale and color I guess, and he offered me a job. That was 2005. I spent the next few years working as designer assistants and also in showrooms getting to know materials, and from there, I just dove in and started my own thing after a few small clients. It was not easy and I was not supported by anyone but myself, but I figured it out. [I] was scrappy and made sure I was saying something through the work or my point of view that might break through the chatter. It’s been almost 10 years now…sheesh.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started, but doesn’t know where to begin?
I think being a creative is about a need to create with roadblocks in front of you, whether that’s in interior design or being a ceramicist — and when you’re that hungry to create, there should be no question as where to start. I live by the phrase BE. DO. HAVE. You must first BE what you planned for yourself, you must then DO the work to get there and work to no end…and then maybe you can HAVE what it is you set out to accomplish, but never be too crushed if the HAVE part doesn’t always show up.
When you were first getting started, what were some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome?
I am not from Seattle, so I have no family connections here at all. So, acquiring clients was 100% up to me, my work and my ability to mingle (something that DOES NOT come easy for me), so that was a big hurdle. Trust is earned for sure.
Tell us about how you decided to dive into the retail side of the business. To date, you have your own e-commerce shop and have partnered with brands like Lawson Fenning to design a line. Why did you move in this direction?
I have, since I was a little boy loved the idea of a shop, and to be honest, Seattle isn’t NY or LA, so I wanted to bring a retail version of our work to Seattle and show off all of the amazing makers and vendors that we work with on our projects, so people who weren’t retained by us could shop at their own pace. The shift to e-commerce only was not an easy one, but a needed one for my personal life and to get even more laser focused on the design side of the business and the shift towards the way people shop now a days. Designing for others has been such a blessing and an organic path. It started way back when with a line of wallpaper for our friends at Studio Four in NY to now our own line with our pals at Lawson Fenning. The key ingredients to all of this for me is trust and likemindedness. I can’t wait to grow all of these collections.
What are some of the toughest parts of running a retail operation that you don’t think people talk about enough?
I think the hardest part for a small business like me is that is it was a VERY different type of business than the interior design side, it required so much of my attention that I was not aware of, and the marketing etc. To be honest, it started to feel a bit fake for me. I have zero hold ups when it comes to marketing our firms work because of the drama of it all and the amount of work so many people put into it for months and months if not years. But when it came to marketing the shop, I just felt off, it felt a bit forced and I needed to find a way to do this organically and without obligation to meet some quota or something. That has been the real struggle for me, not the product itself, because it’s all so beautiful and storied in its own way.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Maybe not entirely professional but the best advice I’ve ever received is to “never pretend to understand anyones journey” Never jump to conclusions about someones day, someones reaction, a “bad” email etc. People are flawed, we are all flawed and we all like support, so be kind and be patient.
How do you manage work-life balance?
I honestly don’t have a big issue with this one, I have a loving supportive fiance who takes me right out of work on daily basis to our family life. I no longer feel the need to work myself to the bone as the results from that will be no good.
Where do you find your inspiration? Does living in the Pacific Northwest play a significant role in your inspiration?
Everywhere, but the best and most saturated inspiration is travel and taking yourself out of your day to day. The PNW is chock full of this. Were in ski season right now and Im at the mountain every weekend seeing the insane beauty that can be the nature around us.
What are five things you can’t live without right now?
I try to keep a handle on material things as I don’t like them to rule my life but I am not unaware of my job and the things that surround me. For me, right now:
1) Home cooked meals by my fiance Justin
2) The work of Michel Verheyden
3) Cashmere sheets from Society
4) Fresh flowers
5) Our new house and all that we are discovering in it.
What’s next for Brian Paquette Interiors?
Less and Better. We are in the phase of taking less and better work, work that completely inspires, challenges and lifts us up. We have projects in Idaho, Seattle and California right now and are excited by all of them and what they will become.