How designer Hayley Brown brings stories to life in interiors - People NZ
How designer Hayley Brown brings stories to life in interiors

How designer Hayley Brown brings stories to life in interiors

Hayley Brown knew she was going to be one of either three things growing up – a fashion designer, a chef, or an interior designer. All require bringing together different elements to create something beautiful at the end, but ultimately it was crafting homes with heart that she was most passionate about.

Words by Cassie Birrer

“I was always creative and had an eye for detail. I remember one of my first summer jobs actually being helping friends' parents with the colours for their home,” shares Hayley, who then later went on to study interior architecture at Unitec.

“The year that I graduated the recession hit and there were no jobs in New Zealand, so I thought I’d try my luck in Melbourne and ended up working for a commercial company doing retail design throughout Australia. Some days I could be flying out in the morning to Brisbane, have a few hours to run to the mall and measure up shops, and then jump back on the plane. It was a really good experience to hone my skills.”

After a couple of years, Hayley returned to New Zealand and worked as the lead designer for the new MIT business school designed by Warren & Mahoney. After the project’s completion, which took approximately two years, Hayley then decided it was time to return to what started her love for interior design: residential homes.

“I’ve always loved residential design. That’s where I feel my heart is, so I created Lou Brown Design and went from there.”

Interior designer Hayley Brown.
Hayley considers her client's past, present and future when bringing interiors together.
I show people how to experience a deeper, more meaningful way of living by creating a home that expresses their unique story throughout each space in exciting and authentic ways.
Originally from the South Island, the client of this Queenstown home had a strong connection with the landscape and wanted the interiors to reflect the outdoors.

Creating homes with heart

“Your home is your sanctuary and should be a place you love to be. I show people how to experience a deeper, more meaningful way of living by creating a home that expresses their unique story throughout each space in exciting and authentic ways,” shares Hayley.

When Hayley starts work with a new client, she gives them an exercise that helps them to start thinking about their story and their style: “I believe there’s not just one cookie-cutter style for one person – it’s bringing together elements that you love from various different styles, which creates your own unique style.”

The information gathered in this process is what the interior designer calls her “toolbox”.

“There are three parts to that: their past, present and future. Where have they been, where have they travelled, what kind of plants did they grow up around, what are some of their fond memories growing up? For their present, it’s about what they love now, their hobbies, the artists and fashion designers that they love – all of those sorts of elements that get us into their brain. They might have a favourite handbag and that can quite often give a snippet into how they think and what they love.”

And the future is just as important, explains Hayley: “They might want to travel somewhere or pick up a hobby later in life. It’s bringing in those elements that remind them of where they want to go in the future – of their dreams, their goals and their aspirations.”

"Your home is your sanctuary and should be a place you love to be," shares Hayley.
It’s bringing in those elements that remind them of where they want to go in the future – of their dreams, their goals and their aspirations.
"By knowing their favourite plant, it doesn't necessarily mean that we have a vase with that in there," says Hayley. "The foliage might be a silhouette of that plant somehow – such as a custom light shade or a pattern that’s used on fabric."
Hayley's designs go beyond selecting colours and textures – it's about creating a space that is special to the homeowner and tells their unique story.
There are so many ways you can use that toolbox to influence the design of the home.

Using this toolbox of information, Hayley starts creating a space that is unique to her client.

“We use it all in different ways. By knowing their favourite plant, it doesn't necessarily mean that we have a vase with that in there. The foliage might be a silhouette of that plant somehow – such as a custom light shade or a pattern that’s used on fabric. There are so many ways you can use that toolbox to influence the design of the home.”

A recent Lou Brown Design project was for a well-travelled family that had been to Tuscany. Using a photograph of the client’s children walking hand-in-hand in a quaint village with their backs to the camera, Hayley used editing software to enlarge the shot and transform it into a pixelated piece of art.

“We framed it and put it above the stairwell. It’s quite artistic – almost like a painting. For the living room, we took the hues and tones from another photo the family had taken at a holiday spot they love.”

"For the living room, we took the hues and tones from another photo the family had taken at a holiday spot they love.”
Hayley's designs go beyond selecting colours and textures – it's about creating a space that is special to the homeowner and tells their unique story.
When it all comes together, it’s so worth it.

Bringing such special stories and individuality to each project is special to Hayley.

“We might spend months designing and ordering all of the product, and then we do a reveal where the client leaves the house and our team goes in and transforms it. We unpack all of the boxes, steam the bedding, hang all of the artwork, and do everything that needs to be.

“Then, with champagne in hand, we welcome the client back to their incredibly beautiful new home. That’s the best part, I always get emotional and I’m always a blubbering mess.

“When it all comes together, it’s so worth it.”

Recommended reading