Brigette Romanek designed her own home—before it was her home. A celebrated interior designer known for working with Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé, and Misty Copeland, to name just a few, Romanek was decorating a Los Angeles residence for a family with two kids and dogs. She could easily conceive of what they needed, as she had two kids and dogs herself. When the client unexpectedly relocated to Miami though, Romanek and her family moved into the house themselves.
Her love of interiors was shaped by Romanek’s childhood, when she spent time on the road with her mother, Paulette McWilliams, a singer who worked with Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, and Aretha Franklin. “Growing up the way that I did, moving to so many places, [interior design] just was in my heart and soul. I was seeing so many different things, so many different styles, so many different environments and atmospheres. Wherever we would move to would be, my respite was my room and what I could do with that. That was my safe space,” she says.
After working in music and designing the popular handbag line B. Romanek, she spent a period living in London with her husband Marc, a filmmaker who directed the 2010 movie Never Let Me Go and music videos for artists like Beyoncé, Madonna, and Fiona Apple. When the family returned to L.A., Romanek began helping friends with their homes, which quickly grew into a full-time job. “Since I was little, I have always been creative, that was always going to be my path. Something where I could create or bring people joy—it was definitely going to live in there, and so I designed, which I really liked…that was great fun,” she explains.
Her new house has been a joy to design. “This home is from 1929, so you have to embrace some of the quirks and then change it to work for a modern family at the same time. It’s a mixture of things. I love that about homes, because you have a history to them,” she says. Romanek made relatively structural changes to the place since moving in, only moving one wall.
One of her favorite rooms is the bar, which has a landscape mural on the wall and reclaimed French tile flooring. “It’s become a favorite spot to gather with friends and have long conversations” she says, before adding, “I made the lighting there really cozy and so that you can almost feel like you’re in a private club. In your own area there, in your own little favorite spot in that club, and just sit in there for hours and talk about everything under the sun.”
Romanek used the Farrow & Ball paint color Elephant’s Breath to bring personality to the kitchen. Depending on the way the light hits it, it can appear pink, lilac, or gray. “The kitchen is really fun because people come in and they really love it, because it’s not too often where you see that type of color in the kitchen,” she explains.
The home’s previous owners built a pool where a tennis court once stood. Romanek’s children love having a place to swim with their friends, and she’s so happy with the space. “What I tried to do in that environment is make it a little bit funkier with the things around it, like the loungers. I love that mix of regal and then throwing in some funky or wild cards. It’s the good stuff. It’s used so much,” she says.
So much of Romanek’s work is inspired by the attitude of adventure that her mom had with design. As a girl, Romanek hated the frequent moves the pair made, but now she appreciates just how much her mother did.
She reflects: “I was like, ‘ugh, we’re going to a new place or we’re doing something else and everything is changing.’ She was a single mom, and so she was just going to where the work was and trying to make sure we had a roof over our heads. And I didn’t understand that necessarily. Sometimes we would live in a place where we had money coming in, and other times we didn’t, but the thing that she always did was she always made it a home.” Romanek recalls coming home from school one day and finding the apartment being painted purple. “She had friends who would come and do murals on our wall. She was always doing things to make it our own or make it interesting or fun.”
After purchasing a house in Montecito, California, Paltrow invited Romanek, who she’d known for years, to visit. By the end of a walk around the property, Romanek had signed on to design the place. “Creatively, it was really fun to work with Gwyneth because she has a love and passion for interiors as well. It was this language that we had. She’s seen so much, so surprising her and showing things that she hadn’t seen before was part of the fun and also part of the challenge. It stretched me. I told her ‘please buy some more houses’ and she told me no,” Romanek says.