Home Decorating Claire Brody’s House Rules: 11 Rule-Breaking Lessons to Live By

Claire Brody’s House Rules: 11 Rule-Breaking Lessons to Live By

The journey to Claire Brody’s Spanish-style home in Austin, TX was years in the making. “I’m constantly looking at the MLS, just dreaming about taking on these big projects,” Brody says. “And so this house had been on and off the market for three to five years, a long time. The sellers just couldn’t sell it because no one wanted to take on such a crazy project.” The house, which was built in the 1980s but feels 100-years old, is set up on a very high cliff in Austin with panoramic views. But—there was no driveway. “You had to walk up 150 stairs to get up to the house, so no one wanted to take that on,” Brody explains. “It’s a great house, but it just sat on the market.” Brody ended up buying the house off-market, and the renovations began in early 2020 when she and her husband gutted the entire house—without a driveway. “Everyone was just hauling up all the materials. It was a doozy!” 
Brody admits the renovations were a big undertaking, but with the best outcome. “Once you buy a house, you’re committed to it,” she says. “Like, “okay, we have to finish.” Interior renovations wrapped in summer of 2020, and the driveway just finished, a year and a half later. Brody, who runs her own design firm and shop, is never one to shy away from the unexpected. “I do a lot of experimenting with my own house versus my clients because I have a lot more confidence when I’m the one who is going to live with it.” 

Use your “Decorating Adrenaline” to make design decisions.

When designing a room, it’s not always about a cut-and-dry formula. Sometimes the most noteworthy rooms are the ones based on a feeling, and that’s exactly how Brody designed her unexpected-yet-amazing home—she trusted her gut. “I get a ton of adrenaline from making risky, unheard of design decisions,” Brody explains. “It doesn’t always work out, and I have made so many mistakes. But when it does work out, it makes me so happy and the experience is that much better.”

Be Bold with a rich color palette.

If you’re looking to make a statement—whether it be one room or your whole home—be bold, and use a palette of rich colors. For Brody, her palette is a combination of all of her favorite colors and takes inspiration from the style and exterior of her Spanish-style home. “I love colors that are just very rich and that play off of each other,” she says. “So terracotta, mustard, olive, a deep navy—that’s my favorite palette. And so I wanted to consistently use all those crazy colors throughout the house.”

Take it room-by-room.

In using her “crazy” color palette throughout her home successfully, she started small and took it one room at a time. “I started with the kitchen, and generally I just love color,” she says. “So I put together that larger color scheme that I would carry out over the full house and then went bedroom to bedroom and tried to incorporate those colors that I wanted in the house.”

In creating each scheme, it was her mood boards full of physical samples that were her saving grace. “That’s always how I start, just with fabric samples and rug samples, tile samples,” she says. “I think colors online get a bit distorted. So it’s always nice to have an in-person sample so that you can put colors and patterns next to each other to see how they play off of each other.”

When it comes to animal print, go all out.

Brody’s entire upstairs is covered in a custom Annie Selke’s Panthera Brown Rug. “Truly, the Annie Selke Panthera Cheetah Custom rugs that I used were the starting point for all of the three bedrooms,” Brody says. “It was the base for each of the bedrooms.”

The decision to do a custom rug in wool—a natural fiber—is a winning combination in Brody’s book. “I like a consistent area rug, and I like to hit a natural fiber in every room if that’s possible,” she says. “Wool is not the cheapest option, but it’s definitely the best option. Plus, it’s just so soft underfoot and the material means the rug will last a lifetime.”

Yes, you can mix animal prints.

Building upon the base of a cheetah rug took time, patience, and a lot of layers. “I just started layering and layering until I felt like I couldn’t lay anymore!” In Brody’s guest bedroom, the Panthera rug is touching the custom bedskirts of tiger print—and it works! “One day I thought, ‘I wonder if I can put these in here,’” she remembers. “And I was like, “Shoot, there’s no way that this is not going to look ridiculous!” She tried using a white bedskirt as a neutral solid. “But it ended up being an absolute eyesore!” So, she went back to her gut, and used the tiger print. “It needed to be in competition with the cheetah. I tried it out, and ended up liking it!”

Her No-Fail Pillow Formula.

Brody’s guest room is an explosion of color and pattern, in the best way. The matching guest beds, with Annie Selke’s Cascade Stripe Flannel duvet cover, are covered in pillows. “I like bringing in colors and patterns through pillows,” says Brody, of the six pillows on each bed. “My typical go-to is to do, on a king bed, three euros and then three 22 inch square pillows, and throw pillows in front of that,” she says of her pillow formula. “Then some either a bolster or a lumbar in front of that.”

The same goes for her bedding formula. “​​For the actual bedding, I like doing a duvet and a quilt,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll do the quilts on the bed with the duvet folded at the end or the other way around. It’s just another opportunity to use more color and pattern!”

Use a solid, natural fiber rug to mellow out patterns.

As the queen of mixing vibrant prints, even Brody knew when to tone it down. “When a room has too much going on elsewhere, it needs a calming, solid color. So that would be when I use a solid, natural fiber rug whenever I feel like the room can’t handle more prints.”

Grasscloth instantly elevates any room.

Brody used Annie Selke’s Saoma Terracotta Grasscloth wallpaper in not one, but two rooms because she loves it so much. “It’s one thing to paint your walls a terracotta or your favorite color, but something that has that texture too, like a grasscloth is just so much better,” says Brody. “I was obsessed with doing a grasscloth in a rich color. So I have it in our kids’ bathroom and my bedroom. I used it in two rooms, I loved it so much! The texture just instantly elevates the whole room.”

As for putting grasscloth in a bathroom setting, Brody advises that it can absolutely be done. “I’ve never had an issue with a wallpapered bathroom,” she says. “As long as the bathroom is properly vented, it’s not an issue.”

Design a nursery that doesn’t scream “kid.”

Brody’s oldest daughter’s room, which she says is her favorite room of the house, definitely doesn’t look like your typical nursery. That’s because Brody believes you shouldn’t design a nursery with the word “nursery” in mind. “I like a room that the child can grow into and certainly not anything cheesy themed,” she says. “I’ve just designed another bedroom and not really had a nursery in mind and then made it functional for a nursery, so that the crib and the changing table and all the supplies that you need for a baby. I’ve just had the mindset of, until they’re old enough to have a say in their rooms, I’m going to design a room that I think they’ll like, which is any other bedroom.”

That being said, it is all about compromise! “I will admit that we just moved her into a toddler bed and we do have Mickey Mouse sheets underneath the duvet,” she says. “I would never do a Mickey Mouse something on top, where you can see it, but it’s like hidden underneath the pretty bedding!”

Go For It with paint.

It’s no question that Brody isn’t afraid of color, and uses trial-and-error to get the color and texture combinations right. For people who are hesitant of bold, unexpected colors, Brody recommends using paint. “Paint is my favorite way to just go for it because I feel like there’s just not much risk there,” she says. “If you paint something that doesn’t turn out well, you can always repaint it. I just have this motto of like, why not? Why stay safe within your house? If you mess up, you can likely go back and start over.”

Case and point: Brody used mustard yellow in her daughter’s nursery. “Her room is my favorite room because of the bay windows—she has these floor to ceiling, beautifully divided windows,” she explains. “I wanted to play off of all the natural light she gets in that room, and I wanted the room to feel happy and warm. I think mustard yellow is a good color for that.” Brody even went a step further, and painted ticking stripes on the wall herself! “I had the trim and the doors painted in that mustard color,” she says. “I was deciding between painting the whole room mustard or doing wallpaper. And we just have so much wallpaper in the house. So that’s how I landed on painting the stripes.”

Vintage + modern = how NOT to look like your grandma’s house.

Along with her design services, Brody also has a shop where she sells collected, curated vintage and antique pieces. “Truly, I’m never not vintage shopping!” Her love of vintage shopping stemmed from moving into her first home with her husband, and ever since has trained her eye.

Brody believes that every single room in your home should have vintage in it, but with balance. “Mixing vintage pieces with some more modern pieces helps it from looking like your grandma’s house where everything just looks old and granny-like,” she says. “Typically, a vintage piece is going to feel just rich and soulful. And so I think bringing in like some straighter lines with other pieces in the room helps to balance it all out.”

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