Design School: Brynn Olson Design Group

November 27, 2017

Welcome to DESIGN SCHOOL! A monthly series into the minds of our favorite interior designers across the country (and hopefully world soon!).

This month’s interview is with the Chicago-based firm, Brynn Olson Design Group, but if you follow Brynn on Instagram you’ll know she’s often jet setting all over the world. I’ve included a few of her recent travel snaps, as I’m living vicariously through her and I think you’ll want to as well! This hard working and incredibly kind lady has been working in the interior design industry since 2008, where she started at Nate Berkus Associates (I interned for NBA in 2015 and a lot of the same folks are still there).

Brynn and I connected in Chicago, and then again at the Design Bloggers Conference in LA last year. I’m a huge fan of her refined urban style, and love watching her company grow to new heights. Enjoy the interview with Brynn!


Every home needs:

A timeless foundation to withstand the test of time, a worthy return of investment, and provide an amazing canvas to begin layering your own personal style and flair upon…

The biggest misconception about what I do:

Is that interior designers just pick out pretty things. There is a real scientific approach to the underbelly of design that often gets glossed over and the majority of our time is actually spent properly space planning floorplans and elevations for our clients to understand how the space is going to function best for their needs and lifestyle. Our mantra is “How you shape your space shapes your day” because we strongly believe that interior design directly affects one’s emotional well-being and can even influence more efficient and practical living.  Without professional planning, budget assessments, and strong attention to each client’s likes and dislikes, we can’t possibly get into the “meat and bones” of the aesthetics of a project. After we’ve created custom designs for our clients making sure it’s a product that’s uniquely them, the bulk of our efforts turn to project management in preparation for the magical turnkey final reveal we provide each client to experience the final product we’ve built together.

Good design is:


Courtesy of O’Brien Harris

My dream collaboration would include:

Oh there are so many! Our industry is filled with incredible talent with so many differing facets we admire so much that the list would go on. A sprawling estate with the genius architects of McAlpine House might just top the list.

When I’m uninspired, I turn to:

Travel. Not only for aesthetic purposes but the richness of meeting new people and sharing ideas can greatly inspire so much from a color scheme, architectural detailing or materials to even different ways of approaching the business of design. In particular, Europe has my heart.

In my childhood bedroom, you’d find: 

In the elementary days it was pink walls with Monet printed bedding and drapes surrounded by all white furniture. Into the teen years, it turned to deep taupe painted walls with a faux metal finish hand-applied by yours truly with white bedding and sheers (yikes).

You’d be surprised to know I:

Always wanted to be an Art History professor or work for Sotheby’s but moved to Scotland with a work visa right after graduating college to take a breather and figure out my true passion.

My best work comes out of:

A project where the client (residential or commercial) puts their entire trust in our professional training to do what we do best knowing we fiercely protect their best interests first and foremost in the process. These relationships allow us to take some creative risks that really pay off and are more likely to stay aligned with project deadlines.

My best bargain:

A pair of original brass Milo Baughman armchairs I found on Craigslist almost a decade ago. The seller described them as previously owned by her mother and thinking they were “old, weird and beat up” (my favorite). She happily gave the pair away for $25.

The paint color I’ve used more than any other:

Benjamin Moore Gray Owl or Smoke Embers

You can spot this in all of my projects:

A vintage or antique and a pop of black and white.

My all-time favorite clients are:

I always say no two clients are ever the same but the common characteristic we’ve been so fortunate to work with are kind, fun-loving humans – the ones you just want to give a big ole hug to every time you see them. That’s been the most rewarding part of our job outside of the final reveal.

Photo by Cynthia Lynn Kim

The brand you’ll find in all of my projects:

Noir and Schumacher

My least favorite part of the design process:

Unexpected hiccups in the project management phase we have no control over. Backorders or discontinued items long after we’ve purchased happen way more often than not and can totally affect a final installation.

I always encourage clients to get rid of:

Their pre-conceived notions about anything. Open-mindedness can result in some pretty killer creativity.

The best advice I’ve ever received about maintaining a work/life balance:

Is there is no such thing when you’re a driven entrepreneur, so don’t beat yourself up for not being able to achieve what can be virtually unattainable in today’s standards and client demands. That advice helped me breathe a little better and made me feel a less guilty about the amount of hours I do work. But there is total merit in making sure you fill your soul with what makes you happy outside of work or you’ll run the risk of emotional and physical burn-out.

I always tell clients that if you invest in one thing, it should be: 

In something you will definitely get a ROI according to their lifestyle and personal tastes. Any collectible vintage or antique, a well-made large upholstery piece that will still be relevant and functional in a decade, or starting to think about procuring a collection of art (which contrary to what people will not cost an arm and a leg!).

My favorite up-and-coming designer:

Nam Dang Mitchell out of Calgary, Canada. She is pure magic.

Many thanks to Brynn for sharing with us! You can see even more daily inspiration from BODG here:

I would LOVE to hear what other designers are your favorite to follow and who you’d like to see interviewed in the future. Leave me a comment and let me know!


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Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

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