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Exclusive: Brian Patrick Flynn on bringing his unique design style to Magnolia’s Mind for Design

Brian Patrick Flynn sitting in a beautifully designed room
Brian Patrick Flynn has his own show, Mind For Design. Pic credit: Magnolia Network

For years, Brian Patrick Flynn couldn’t catch the attention of anyone in the TV design show business. His style of interior design was just too unique. Plus, he hadn’t attended design school; rather, he got his start decorating and styling TV and Film sets after attending film school.

It was a meeting of the minds with Magnolia Network honcho Joanna Gaines over lunch one day in Texas that finally set Flynn on the road to his own TV series, Mind for Design, which launched July 23 on the network’s app.

“I’m excited for people to see how I work,” Flynn tells Monsters & Critics. “It is very different, but I think people are ready for something different.”

On Mind for Design, viewers will follow Flynn as he creates beautiful spaces for his clients. He says it is a 50-50 proposition, so he can push people slightly out of their comfort zone to incorporate colors or ideas they may not have previously considered.

“Most of the time, people know what they want, they just don’t know how to pull it together,” he says. “They also already have things that they own, but they just don’t know what to mix it with. So, I try not to take everything away and bring in all new. I do my best to work with what they’ve got and then bring in some new stuff to pull the whole look together.”

Mind for Design will also end slightly different from other interior design shows with a photographer who has been invited to photograph the finished product so that Flynn has a record of his work, as opposed to the usual big reveal.

On the one hand, the photo collection is a bit of an ego book, but on the other, it is how Flynn keeps building his clientele. That said, the process is a real part of interior design. Most designers, including Joanna Gaines, do have a go-to interior photographer.

“I liked the idea of showing my true process, which means at the very end my clients usually come home on photography day,” Flynn says. “They usually come in on the very last shot or two when my photographer has his laptop setup, or something called the CamRanger, which is a program that allows you to in real time style the shot instead of running back and forth to the computer.

The photography part is a very short part of the show, but I think it’s going to be interesting for people to see how photographers are a huge part of the interior design world.”

Monsters & Critics: Your Instagram post said it took 2½ years to bring this show to air. Did it all really start with lunch in Texas with Joanna Gaines?

Brian Patrick Flynn: The first time that Joanna and I sat down for lunch, it was January 2019. I had been on a project in Dallas, and I wrapped early. I had just finished art directing and styling a house. I randomly DMed her because we’ve known who each other are for years because we have so many friends in common and we have very similar jobs. I randomly said, “I think I’m an hour and 10 minutes from you if you have any free time.” It turns out she did. It was the one day probably she had free time, so I went and had lunch with her.

We didn’t even talk about Magnolia Network. Believe it or not, we talked about music, Kacey Musgraves, and growing up in Texas and Kansas and New Mexico, where Chip is from. I wasn’t able to meet Chip at the time because he had so many conference calls back-to-back even though he was 20 feet from me.

But at the very end of the lunch date, which was like an hour and a half long, she’s like, “Hey, I didn’t talk to you about this, but we have a network coming out and I’d love to figure out how to have you.” I said, “Absolutely. Whatever it is, count me in,” and here we are two and a half years later. It turned into like this incredible series I’m so proud of.

Brian Patrick Flynn works on some designs on the Magnolia Network.
Brian Patrick Flynn working on set. Pic credit: Magnolia Network

M&C: Since you came into this cold, how did you decide what you wanted to do for your show?

Brian Patrick Flynn: It was pretty easy. When we started talking about our taste in music, movies we loved, life in Texas, and I had just mentioned that with my background in television and film that I was super type-A about the way things look and the way things are edited, and that was exactly the focus of Magnolia Network, to create something beautiful and very documentarian.

When I walked out of the meeting, I had never met anybody who has the same exact thoughts about music, television, movies, and interior design as I do. Remember how Seinfeld would always consider itself to be the show about nothing? It just had people doing stuff. Well, we talked about instead of there being a true format, or it necessarily being a design show, we liked the idea of just following my firm, following the fact that I’m self-taught and I had no formal training, and just find the story as it unfolds. And that was what we said we were going to do 2½ years ago, and now that’s what everybody’s going to see.

M&C: You keep mentioning that you didn’t go to design school, but to film school, how does that make you different than other interior designers?

Brian Patrick Flynn: I think what’s really different about it is that we open every episode by doing a 20-second introduction. I’ve always looked at spaces and houses the way an art director will look at something through the lens. So, let’s say you hired me to come over and do the room you’re sitting in right now. In addition to thinking of how it works for you and how its space plan is, what colors would make you happy, what patterns you can live with, what type of architecture your house is telling me to dive into to make sure it’s appropriate for the property, I also think, “Hey, when I walk away from this house, how is it going to look in my portfolio?”

So, I split my brain in half and I think about how I can make it practical and livable, but also, as an interior designer, I’m only as strong as my latest project. So, I always think about what’s unique about this room and what angle is the angle that tells its story. I think that’s what’s been different about my career, and most of the time — I would say 99 percent of the time — clients are excited about it because they love the idea of me taking so much pride in how their house looks. It is a very unorthodox way to design houses.

M&C: You’ve said your creations are 50 percent you/50 percent your clients, so will you turn down a client who is pretty locked into what they want?

Brian Patrick Flynn: Yes, unfortunately, I did it two times actually. It was people that I’m truly friends with in real life and the reason that I turned it down was because of the amount of time that goes into a project to not have something that I really wanted to have my name on, or that would have been worth their money. It was like, “Hey, if they’re spending the money, why don’t you spend less and just do that yourself, because it sounds like you don’t need a professional designer.”

Don’t you think color is really important?

Brian Patrick Flynn: There are so many things in real life that I walk into the room and I’m like, “OK, that’s a thing that I know the homeowner or the client won’t want to change. For example, there’s something about redness in wood that really limits the palette you can do in a room. Sometimes people think about resale and they might have a $7000 redwood ceiling they don’t necessarily want to rip out.

So, a lot of times – and this is very specific — I’ll turn to ultra white for the walls because if you have something like a redwood ceiling and you paint everything around it bright white, it makes that red look beautiful and crisp. If you paired it with a beige or tan, it will look brown or muddy or yellow.

So a lot of times, I try to work with what the person already has, but when it comes to color, it’s funny you brought that up, somehow I got penned as the color guy. Since I started my career in 2008, everybody has always penned me as the guy who uses a lot of color, but in reality, half of the projects that I do in real life are really neutral.

If you were choosing a color and you were worried it was too dark, I think what I bring to the table is light source. A lot of times on my show and also on the Magnolia workshops, which are available on the Magnolia app, I talk a lot about if you’re going to choose a color, you have to think about the windows. How big are they? Where is the sun located at what time of day?

It’s also what’s outside the windows because if you have a bunch of green trees outside of a pure white room, at a certain time of day, it’s going to be a color cast that hits those green leaves and creates a yellow-green look inside your house. So, we try to educate people with a bunch of takeaways on Mind For Design, but without being preachy.

Then the other thing I was going to say is you will see me from time to time on the show also work with neutrals, but when I work with neutrals, I kind of banish beige. I usually stick with black, white, gray, and brown. You will see that on our fourth episode.

M&C: I love the fact that you think hot pink is a neutral color.

If you think about pink, and I could talk about this for hours, there’s nothing that it doesn’t go with. It goes with brown, it goes with white, it goes with yellow, it goes with green, it goes with purple, it goes with black, it goes with gray, it goes with aqua. If you open an actual textbook for color theory, you would never see a chapter on pink as a neutral, but it is probably the most used color in my portfolio for clients. For myself, the most used color is forest green. You will see use pink probably on three different episodes in the first season.

M&C: You have the 70/30 rule, where the design is flexible. How hard does that make it to work with you because you are always changing things at the very end?

Brian Patrick Flynn: It’s kind of controversial and has been since the beginning, but what I have found is it creates this really nice level of trust between myself and my clients. The way that I explain it is everybody gets bored with stuff, whether it’s a piece of art sitting in the same place for five years, the same pattern on a sofa that’s gotten old, or a rug that has seen better days because you’ve had your third or fourth child.

So, the best way to explain the reason I have this 70/30 rule is to ensure whatever money you’re spending right now, you’re not locked into just one particular look throughout your entire house. It allows things to be mixed up.

So, if it turns out last minute that a dining room is looking too forced or too much like a catalog and not like a real home, I start to rethink, “OK, that cabinet is too perfect. We need something in this room that has more personality.” And then, even though I’ve bought these pieces of furniture, they still end up in the house, but I move them around.

I’ve found that over the years, clients will reach out to me afterwards and be like, “I was worried at first that maybe you didn’t know what you were doing because you said you weren’t sure exactly what lamps we were going to use in the primary bedroom.” But then they understood it like two years later when they were like, “Hey, those lamps that we bought for $700. We loved them, but we changed the primary bedroom into our teen’s room, and we actually like them better in the living room now.”

So, at first, to me, it was like a confidence situation, and also it gave me a little bit of impostor syndrome, but from a business standpoint, it’s made people really appreciate the extra mile about me making sure that their stuff works in more than just one set up.

M&C: Of all the companies that you could have started, you selected lighting to start your own business. Why that element of interior design?

Brian Patrick Flynn: Back in 2013 or so, I used to live in L.A., and I had these projects that I was working on, and I kept trying to find very specific style of light. I was going to every showroom possible, going to websites, and I couldn’t find them. One time I was having breakfast at this awesome hotel in Palm Springs called the Parker; John Adler designed it.

Outside the Parker is this breakfast place called Norma’s. And Norma’s is known for having these gigantic 3- foot in diameter, plastic, mid-century modern globes. I looked all over the world to try to find 3-foot globes because I had a mid-century modern house and most of my clients love things with the 1960s look.

So, what happened was I was like, “I can’t find these things anywhere. They don’t exist.” Then all the sudden, one of the manufacturers, Crystorama, they’re in Long Island, New York, I had been using so much of their product, they reached out to me and said, “Hey, would you want to do your own lighting line with us?” I was like, “I’m completely self-taught. I don’t use AutoCAD, but we can figure it out.” So, I hired an illustrator to draw my ideas. They drew all the schematics.

All of a sudden, I realized the fact that I couldn’t find these lighting fixtures is what made me a good lighting designer because I started to create stuff that wasn’t out there. The next thing you know, that very first light fixture that I created, which you’ll see in episode three, it’s the bestseller. It’s a 30-inch diameter globe, but it’s made of acrylic instead of glass, which means when you ship it, it could be shipped in two half circles sandwiched into each other, which means you have half the size of the box. Then also, because acrylic, it’s chip-friendly and it won’t break.

The other thing about the lighting is to make those two half circles fit together, I had to add a band of metal around the middle to hold the two half circles together, which made this mid-century globe more traditional. Now people who love traditional style and love modern style both love this fixture. That’s when I was like, “Maybe I do know what I’m doing.”

Mind For Design is currently streaming on the Magnolia Network app.

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