A conversation with Bria Hammel, interior designer and owner of Brooke & Lou.
Edina native Bria Hammel believes there shouldn’t be a barrier to designing a home and life you love. The founder of Bria Hammel Interiors (BHI)—a nationally-recognized interior design firm based in the Twin Cities—has built her career on classic, livable designs that stand the test of time.
And at BHI’s sister company and home décor line, Brooke & Lou, passersby can access the Bria Hammel look (in brief: fresh traditional with a Southern twist) anytime they need a refresh. “I just love the idea of making interior design more accessible, and that’s the heart of Brooke & Lou,” Hammel says.
Though a lifelong interior design aficionado, thanks to her mother (Hammel’s mother, an Edina physician, was a “closet interior designer” who has always loved home design), Hammel fell into the career after her initial college plans were dashed. “I thought I was going to be a fashion buyer, and then I realized that Minnesota [isn’t] necessarily the hub for fashion,” Hammel says. A college degree in interior design, a few stints at various Midwest design operations (including a management position at Ethan Allen) and one child (her firstborn, Louie) later, Hammel decided to strike out on her own in 2012.
As Hammel shares the moments that have led to her success 10 years in, her effortless demeanor seems in contrast with the lifestyle empire she’s built. “When I started it, I didn’t really think about having a big team and how big we were going to go,” Hammel says. And though Hammel, perhaps, wasn’t expecting her firm’s swift success (BHI has grown to a 12-person team), her capability and expert-status as a creative director and CEO are undeniable.
Hammel’s signature streamlined brand—an updated take on traditional design with a feminine touch that’s exceptionally easy on the eyes—is largely to blame. It’s impossible not to see the beauty in the balanced blend of styles present in Hammel’s project portfolio and product line.
“Not following fads and trends is actually more important to me than being ‘in style,’” Hammel says. “We really make sure, when we’re designing, that we’re focused more on what the client loves and what we love.”
As BHI’s social media following grew, requests for the sources of products and furnishings became overwhelming. “As interior designers, almost everything that we do is custom or wholesale,” Hammel says. “So, it kind of put a bug in my ear thinking about, ‘How can we be more accessible?’”
Enter, Brooke & Lou. What began as an online home décor enterprise in 2018 (lovingly named after Hammel’s children Brooklyn and Louie), quickly took off as Hammel branched into a pop-up shop at Nolan Mains in Edina in the spring of 2021. The company now has a permanent location at Nolan Mains in the 50th & France district, where customers can shop a collection of home and garden decor, custom home furnishings and locally-sourced art.
“Once we got [into Nolan Mains], we realized that it wasn’t just good for Brooke & Lou, but it was actually really good for our interior design business,” Hammel says. “I just truly love seeing people come into the store and be able to touch and feel the product and really understand the quality of the product we sell.”
Brooke & Lou’s product line is 40 percent exclusive, while the other 60 percent of the products in its lineup are sourced from markets and wholesale. The exclusive product line includes customizable home furnishings produced in the U.S., which can be made with BHI’s exclusive Life-Friendly™ performance fabrics. (They’re soft to the touch but hold up against spills and stains.) It also features a selection of wallpapers and fabrics designed by a local artist and printed in Minneapolis. “We’re really proud of that because I think people don’t give enough credit to Minnesota and all the talent that we have here,” Hammel says. “It’s a very creative environment, and we love being able to utilize those people in the area.”
Brooke & Lou’s storefront has not only become a popular destination for both locals and out-of-towners, but it’s also unintentionally funneled people into Hammel’s interior design business, as happy customers have later hired BHI for home renovation projects. Seeing the connection between the two businesses, Brooke & Lou now hosts events where customers can stop in-store with design questions and be connected with products and solutions that fit their needs.
It’s all a part of Hammel’s mission to make quality interior design more accessible. As Hammel reflects on the college years spent making her bedrooms in shared apartments her own on a shoestring budget, it’s clear her passion hasn’t become affected in success. “Focus on what you love, and it’ll always feel in style to you,” Hammel says.
Hammel for the Holidays
It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season is fast approaching. With that in mind, Hammel shares some of her go-to hostess gifts, as well as tips for holiday decor that compliments your home’s overall aesthetic.
What are some hostess gifts you’d recommend from Brooke & Lou?
“When I give hostess gifts, I always try to avoid giving them more ‘stuff.’ You know, those pieces that you receive that just collect dust in your hall closet and never really get used. So, I opt for functional pieces I know they’ll need/use but that are a bit more elevated. Our Coconut Sugar Hand Lotion & Hand Soap with Brush & Tray Set is a great example of that! It’s a functional, everyday item but a bit more sophisticated and special. Other ideas could include kitchen towels or napkins, mixing bowls or cooking accessories.”
What are some tips you have for decorating for the holidays in a way that suits your home’s style?
“One thing I always think about is starting with scent. It’s always the first impression you get when you walk into someone’s home. Sometimes a scent can also inspire the overall look of the room as well. For instance, our Iced Metal Candle has notes of evergreen and amber which gives a space a more warm, moody feel. It’s so easy to accumulate excess during the holidays, so I try to be smart about my decorating and invest in pieces I can not only use around the holidays but also would feel fine leaving out all winter long such as pillows, throws and decorative objects.
What are some unique winter decor pieces or even places for decor that you’d suggest people try out?
For my living room mantle, I have topiaries that I put out in the spring/summer. Then, in the winter, I transform it with candlesticks and candle holders. I like to put out some more moodier options in the cooler months to bring in that warm, cozy feel. Our Geometric Candle Sconce is a unique piece because it’s light enough that you can hang it with a Command strip so that it doesn’t have to be a permanent piece in your space and can be swapped in during the holidays.
I also love to do a combination of faux and fresh stems, garland, wreaths, and trees. Faux greenery has come such a long way over the years, and you really get your bang for your buck investing in a quality piece that you can use over and over season after season. To give it a bit of life, I pop in fresh eucalyptus or dried fresh florals into my faux staples—it provides such a nice balance and people really then have an issue guessing if it’s real or faux! Mission accomplished!