In the carefully crafted and ever-chic design game, Brett Helsham never fails to bring her A-game. At the helm of her eponymous design firm for just over two years, her time zigzagging the globe as a kid crops up clearly in her vibrant, thoughtful designs. While they can span an ocean’s breadth—from minimalist to Moroccan—her creations always maintain a focus on warmth, function and personality. Check out her philosophy of space below.
HOME IS WHERE THE (CLIENT’S) HEART IS
Helsham makes a clear distinction between her taste and her clients’ needs, keeping the latter the sole priority. Since every client has a different lifestyle, her work starts at understanding the psychology behind what they do, how they do it, when they do it and why. “Some people love to entertain, some people have Shabbat dinner every Friday night,” she says. “My approach is to really understand how my clients live. I work with creating functional spaces for these parameters and then the aesthetic follows, not vice versa. I guide my clients to make positive choices after I’m gone, too, because they’re creating a home where I hope they’ll collect memories.”
Helsham knows this to be true; she’s gleaned this perspective from her own life. “Since I moved around a lot, being exposed to the different cultures shaped my aesthetic,” says Helsham. “And, the practical logistics were important, too: If you move around, you have to shove your furniture in the next house! My mother allowed me to design my room over and over, so I would take different things in my room. We’ve lived in houses big and small, and all of this now plays a role in my work and preferences.”
HER TOP TIPS
- Don’t be afraid! “People sometimes use a designer when they can’t make choices themselves,” she says. “But if you’re working on it yourself, an easy way to look at it is: You have to love it, whatever it is. It will work if it’s an extension of you.”
- Comfort first. “I always have lots of blankets and pillows around. No matter what type of aesthetic you like, everyone enjoys that,” she explains. “If you’re going minimalist, you can tuck them away, and if it’s a softer vibe, you can have them around the room.”
- Use your life experiences and the mementos you collect as the accents on your canvas. “When people travel, they buy things to remind them of their past. I think having those pieces around is great,” says Helsham. “They add to the personality of the space, whether it’s a carved piece from Nicaragua or a blown-glass vase. These little artifacts are true extensions of you.”
TAKE CAREFUL NOTE:
Let It Flow…and Then Edit: Some people have eclectic taste and putting a variety of items together is challenging. “They might all be beautiful pieces, but you can get trigger happy instead of seeing what works together,” says Helsham. “Sometimes you need to roll with it in terms of the architecture and style of the space. Then, add your eclectic choices through color, pillows and rugs.”
Pay Attention to Paint: “Paint can make or break your space,” she explains. “But don’t assume dark colors make things smaller or bright colors automatically make it feel happy. Choose carefully and specifically.”
SPACE FOR CALM:
For Helsham, the solace a peaceful space provides is as essential as your other fitness and wellness activities. “Your home is a very important space for mental clarity, health and wellness. Simple things like making the bed in the morning make people feel better,” she says. “We come home from work, and it’s a place for respite. So you have to start with really understanding what makes a space organized, comfortable and a place you want to come home to. When you come home and it’s chaos, you feel it no matter what. That’s why we do Spring Cleaning! Create a space that helps you unwind and charge up again to go do whatever you need to do.”
- Understand your own personal chaos. “Some people have computer chargers, some have books, some have mail: Each person has one thing that drives them crazy,” Helsham says, with a laugh. “Figure out what that is, and then find a simple solution. So it could be a beautiful box for your mail, and then you know where it lives.”
- Find a workspace where you can set up shop. “Even if it’s a drawer, designating areas to certain tasks helps,” she says.
- The number one issue in NYC is closet space so get creative. Use tools like spinning coat hangers, cabinets, shoes or even suitcases.
Elfa from The Container Store also provides simple, economical solution.
IF YOU WANT THIS STYLE, THINK ABOUT…:
- Minimalist: Play with texture while keeping furniture minimal.
- Mid-Century: Choose one sculptural mid-century piece that resonates and work around it.
- Moroccan: Start with a carpet. Any color and/or pattern goes!
- Airy Hamptons: Use fabrics that are actually 100 percent acrylic, washable and UV protected to avoid fading and stains.
- Shabby Chic: Play with different materials like bamboo and banana leaf.
- Favorite Bar: The rooftop at the Thompson Hotel/Sixty SoHo Hotel
- Favorite Restaurant: Pasquale Jones
- Favorite Furniture Store: The Apparatus Studio
- Favorite Fabric Store: Pierre Frey and Holly Hunt for classic solids, Osborne & Little for fun colors and florals
- Favorite Accent Store: The Future Perfect
Brett’s SBS Mantra: Be Strong! Being an entrepreneur you have to be so many things, but Be Strong means having the confidence to never give up and to have the strength and mental capacity to face challenges when they (and they always do!) come up. It means you have self-control and emotional discipline. But most of all, it means being unapologetically you and loving every moment of the journey.