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Ask the Experts: The Architects

Rory and Lindsay Brown—Founders, the Brown Studio design-build firm


Photos by Kevin Walsh Photography, Jennie Cortie

Trick of the Trade
“Edit, edit, edit...a simpler home is a happier home.”

When starting a new project, what are typically some of the biggest challenges?

Site constraints and allocating enough budget for the structure. When it is a couple’s forever home, there can be challenges in finding and agreeing on balance between their styles. We really love when people have two different styles that mesh together in the design process. It makes for a more dynamic home.

What are some of the biggest cost discrepancies? Where do you typically encourage people to splurge and where is it okay to scrimp?

We lean toward a less-is-more concept when it comes to square footage, in favor of achieving a higher level of finish. We always want to leave budget to spend a little more on the material finishes like windows, doors, floors, and surfaces that express each client’s individual style and ultimately make the house a home.


Where do you draw inspiration from?

Things as small as our individual experiences with our kids at home that help us to create more efficient living for families. We get larger-scale inspiration from trips to our hometowns and abroad, touring buildings, museums, hotels, and gardens. We’re always finding inspiration in the things we see and do. 

You lean modern. How do you create a clean, modern space and still keep it warm and inviting?

Scale is very important when designing a modern home. Keeping the modern lines approachable and appropriately sized to their surroundings is important.

What about decor?

With our interiors, we’re always trying to edit a space to its simplest form and then add in all the textural elements that make it a home.

Lighting plays a big role. So does incorporating old, vintage, or handcrafted furnishings, and objects that have a story or history that add to the fabric of a home. When possible, we strongly believe in sourcing things locally that we hope add to each home’s sense of place in San Diego.

What are some easy, inexpensive changes people can make that can have a big impact of their home’s overall look?

Updated color palette, simple textiles. Replacing small touches like sink faucets and light fixtures can go a long way toward freshening up a space. 


Do you flip for joy or cringe when a client shows up with a Pinterest board of inspiration?

We love when a client shows up with a Pinterest or Houzz file. It offers us a window into what our client loves. 

One design trend you are loving right now?

Brass! And also the blending of different styles, making for spaces that have a greater sense of history. 

One trend that’s on its way out and rightfully so?

Designer Black Book

Casework, cabinetry, and architectural detailing:
Sean Peterson at
Trueline Woodworks
in Oceanside

Oil paintings and Venetian plaster walls:
Kareem Ralph Amin
in Los Angeles

Furniture, built-ins,
and sculpture:

Miki Iwasaki
at mi-workshop
in Barrio Logan

Although we are guilty of partaking in this, reclaimed horizontal wood siding. Pretty ready for the next restaurant to not be full of it!

How do you know if an architect or designer is the right fit for you? 

Find someone whom you trust and can be friends with. You are going to be with them for the long haul. Sit down for a cup of coffee. If the conversation seems light and the personalities seem amicable, then discuss design style and professional responsibility. 

What are some good questions to ask?

Ask real questions about how much time they can dedicate to your project so that you can set realistic expectations. Everyone seems busy these days!

Tips for small spaces?

Keep it white! Benjamin Moore White Dove is a very easy, warm white. Add pops of color with furniture and art. Use mirrors to bounce light. We love using barn doors or sliding doors when space gets tight. 

Tips for people on a budget?

No budget is too small if you can be disciplined about allocating money for each category and stick to it. Get the bones of the space right and then let the interior details complete themselves as money provides.

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