The Browns’ Great First Impression
The calm comfort of home
First impressions are incredibly random events. When knocking on a door, it’s impossible to predict what you will first see when the door opens. At Mindy Balliet Brown’s northwest Oklahoma City home, the mystery is less profound, given that glass doors allow an unobstructed view of the foyer, but the first impression is often the family’s super-sized Goldendoodle, Hank.
Hank is about three feet tall at his shoulders; he’s huge, but he is calm and gentle — outstanding qualities in a 100-pound beast. As first impressions go, he is near perfect; the calm he radiates is a function of the home in which he resides. Mindy designed her house around a feeling, (really, feelings,) and one of the most important to her is the calm comfort of home. That she has been successful in achieving this is remarkable when factoring in an active blended family that includes five kids and her husband Paul.
Along with her sister Elaine Price, Mindy owns ME Home, an interior design firm and retail space that works with both residential and commercial clients. The two complement each other well: Mindy is intuitive and emotive, while Elaine is a structured planner with a creative bent.
“I can plan for clients, too,” Mindy said, “but I still rely on feelings. My husband suggested I make a list of the projects I have to do here at home, but I just can’t. For me, it’s based on a feeling — I want it to feel good when people walk in.”
Planning an interior often runs the risk of losing sight of the actual purpose of a home, but with five children around, it was nearly impossible for Mindy to lose sight of it.
“We are a family of seven, so when I picked furniture, it was about comfort, durability, and size,” she said, gesturing at the large sectional in the living room.
For Mindy, durability and size do not have to work against an overall aesthetic. For example, her color palette is pretty consistent. She likes pink and blue — always — and lately she’s leaning toward lavender. The grass cloth in the dining room testifies to that, and the effect is very soothing, even as it contrasts with the unique yet traditional dining room table.
At first glance it appears to be a generally round table, and it’s large enough to seat the whole family plus a couple guests — a necessity in the world of teenagers. However, the table can be scaled down by removing the “slice” and “spoke” sections and reassembling it as a smaller version of itself. It’s a remarkable piece of engineering, and it’s utterly practical for a family of this size.
“For years, we had Sunday night dinners around this table every week,” Mindy said. “We still do occasionally.”
The boys are 21 and 18 now, and Hannah the artist (18) leaves for the University of Colorado in the fall. The consistency of Sunday dinners has yielded to the realities of children turning into adults.
The youngest, Laura (14), will be the sole occupant of the second floor soon, as her siblings move on, and Mindy is helping work through design ideas for her own upstairs space.
“I encourage clients to incorporate their kids’ art into their overall scheme,” Mindy said. “And I think kids should have a voice in how their personal space is developed.”
She is very serious about this, even to the point of not forcing her children to design their spaces. “The boys just want it dark, with a good desk,” she said with a laugh. “Hannah’s room is chaos; art and albums are everywhere.”
Hannah is a working artist, and has been for a few years. Mindy has some of Hannah’s first art pieces hanging in the breakfast nook — she was nine when she painted them. Her more mature pieces are in the dining room, foyer, club room and master suite. At 18, she is a talented artist who works in several media, including acrylic, watercolor and colored pencil. ME Home actually features her work at the retail location, because she is talented; it’s only incidental that she is the owners’ daughter and niece.
Mindy’s design philosophy is flexible enough to incorporate Hannah’s art because her strategy is to surround herself with things she likes, things that make her feel good. That leads to an eclectic scheme, of course, but eclectic is a great strategy for a place that must be lived in.
“I love and admire contemporary design,” Mindy said, “but I would never have it for myself. I do things for my clients all the time that I would never have in my own home.”
That’s largely because a home is a place where your feelings live alongside your family. Her paternal grandmother Gladys was a huge influence, both for design and for life. In fact, a pink cockatrice china set by Minton that once belonged to Gladys is now featured prominently in the dining room.
“She had 80 settings,” Mindy said. “Eighty! All the granddaughters got some of them. Gladys was amazing. She lived to be 98, and she died when she suffered a stroke in the flowerbeds. She was planting begonias.”
Gladys’ love of gardening rubbed off on Mindy. Her backyard is as much a sanctuary as the interior. “It’s a work in progress,” she said, “but I enjoy gardening and I love entertaining out here.”
The house was the WKY Dream Home in 1970, and it was a house that Mindy played in as a child. The original owners, Dr. Galen and Bobbie Robbins, were thrilled when they learned Mindy’s family bought the home. Mindy loves the house, even as she struggles to overcome some of the challenges that came with it: not enough natural light, dark woods everywhere and a lack of cabinet space.
She has solved most of the problems, and two important areas — kitchen and master suite — get a lot of natural light. Using white liberally has helped draw in the light, as has carpet choice. A large bound carpet covers nearly the entire master bedroom floor.
“We use bound carpet for our clients, too,” she said. “It’s way less expensive, and when you have kids, you can’t have anything that can’t get stained.”
Mindy’s mix of pragmatism brought on by parenthood combined with her overall tendency toward intuitive design has helped create a space that is beautiful, comfortable and deeply personal, but mostly, it just makes you feel okay about grabbing a seat and having a conversation. It’s not a museum or design studio; it’s a home.