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West St. Paul designer (and mom) creates kid-proof home decor

October 12, 2018

Bria Hammel doesnt freak out when a kid spills juice or an adult accidentally dumps red wine on her carefully composed interior.

The design pro has figured out how to toughen up her decor without sacrificing her sense of style.

You wouldnt think, to visit her home in West St. Paul, that little kids even live there. The main-floor rooms are pale, polished and pristine, in soft blues and lots of crisp, immaculate white.

Im drawn to Southern style, said Hammel, who was born in Texas.

But her elegant furnishings are much more kid-proof than they look, made of damage-resistant materials and durable, easy-care fabrics. Her pedestal dining table, for example, has a resin top. It doesnt scratch, she said. And its cerused matte finish is more forgiving than a fine, smooth finish.

The pretty patterned cushions on the rattan bar stools at the kitchen island have a soft sheen. Theyre laminated, so you can just wipe spills with a damp cloth.

Children eat breakfast there every day. The bar stools I had before were indoor/outdoor fabric you could clean with bleach. I dont have time to clean with bleach or want my kids sitting on bleach with chemicals, she said.

Even her accessories are family-friendly, chosen for their washability (such as her accent pillows) or their utility (the decorative baskets that she uses to contain kids toys and other items).

To be able to come home to a clean, tidy house is important to me, said Hammel, 36, owner of Bria Hammel Interiors. She wants to spend her downtime relaxing and enjoying her family: her husband, Charlie; their 6-year-old son, Louie; 3-year-old daughter, Brooklyn; and Hunter the golden retriever.

I dont want to be yelling at the kids because things are in the wrong place, she said, or fretting about her furniture. Its about de-stressing your life.

Hammel said shes heard other parents of young children resigning themselves to living in homes they dont fully enjoy.

People say, When the kids get older, Ill have nice things. If you can afford nice things, and its safe for children, you should be able to have them, she said.

But she admits that finding tough, easy-care pieces that also look great is a challenge, even for professional designers.

We couldnt find it in the industry furniture that you can be comfortable having kids and dogs around or parents entertaining with red wine, Hammel said.

Thats why she and her design team decided to create it themselves.

In August, Hammel launched Brooke Lou, a collection of furniture, artwork, pillows, wallpaper, rugs and accessories designed to stand up to daily family life. She calls them Life-Friendly.

Not everything has to be plastic to be life-friendly, she said.

Some of the pieces in the line are curated from other sources, some were designed by Hammel and her team, including the bar stools with laminated seat cushions. Hammel commissioned a Twin Cities artist, Abbey Holden, to create the design patterns, had them printed on fabric locally, then shipped off for lamination.

Holden also created the designs for Brooke Lous wipeable commercial-grade wallcoverings.

Soon Hammel plans to debut a holiday collection of seasonal decor items, in deeper tones and motifs such as berries. Things that dont scream Christmas, she said. You could definitely leave it up past the holidays.

Mom on the move

Hammel needs an easy-care home because she has a lot on her plate.

Brooke Lou is the third business she owns. She launched her own design firm in 2012, after her son was born.

At first it was just me working out of my house, she said. But shed worked at other design firms and developed some ideas about running a business.

I wanted to create opportunities for young women like me, to work and be a mom, with more flexible schedules, more PTO and a kid-friendly office, she said. Bria Hammel Interiors, which is based in Mendota Heights, now employs 16 designers.

Her firm serves mostly residential clients, but is slowly getting into commercial [design], mainly for our residential clients who own businesses, she said.

Hammel also owns a development company, Hammel House Co., with her father, to design and build custom homes in Harmony, Minn., where a large contingent of her family lives.

She also designed her own home, working with Divine Custom Homes of Hudson, Wis.

There had been a 110-year-old farmhouse on the nearly 1-acre site they bought, but it was in poor condition and not a good candidate for restoration, she said. Their new house, built in 2015, includes a front door inspired by the original farmhouse, and a big front porch, which she considers her favorite room in the house.

The home, which she describes as Southern traditional in style, has an-open floor plan centered around a kitchen with a big island where her kids have snacks and work on art projects.

The kitchen, which is all white, is finished with wipeable surfaces, including enameled cabinets and a porcelain tile backsplash.

But even a life-friendly home can carry a busy entrepreneur only so far.

Once a week we have cleaning help, Hammel said. I have a little OCD in me.

Kim Palmer 612-673-4784

@Stribkimpalmer

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