Inside the Head of Dennis Brackeen

Ben Koush. Photography Jack Thompson.
September 03, 2013

Dennis Brackeen, designer and partner in the home design shop Kirby & Company, is restless, peripatetic and has feverishly decorated a temporary loft with the fervor and mastery most of us would render to more permanent quarters. Actually, by rejiggering space and redecorating this 1,000-square-foot rental in the historic 1910 Nabisco Purse & Co. building (now called City View Lofts) in downtown Houston, Brackeen has effected a dramatic transformation from soul-crushing taupe to riotous colors, patterns and textures hitched with blue-chip antiques and soulful treasures from all sorts of sources he prefers to keep close to his breast. But we pry.

On growing up dusty. The flat, dry, dusty cotton fields of West Texas are a great place to be from — the lack of color, architecture and culture left me so parched that it catapulted me into the world of aesthetics, which now quenches my thirst for all things visual. Specifically, I am from Lamesa, Texas.

Forever inspired by … The greats — Billy Baldwin, David Hicks, Tony Duquette. Contemporaries — Alberto Pinto, Kelly Wearstler, Miles Redd.

The one that got away. An amazing pair of period Louis XVI bergères, circa 1780, when I was in my 20s. I enjoyed them for the better part of 10 years. A favorite client at the time coveted them. One evening while entertaining her for dinner and after she topped off my third glass of wine, she handed me a check for an absurd amount of money and begged me to sell them. I did, but I have regretted it ever since.

I peruse endlessly. David Hicks Living With Design and David Hicks: A Life of Design; Billy Baldwin Decorates; Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design.

I’ve preordered … Fifth Avenue Style: A Designer’s New York Apartment by Howard Slatkin, Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration, Luminous  Interiors by Brian J. McCarthy and Axel Vervoordt: Living with Light.

Dining in design. Triniti is a well-thought-out restaurant with a beautifully balanced aesthetic.

The goes-everywhere lamp. I’m generally not one to be too repetitive. However, I use Christopher Spitzmiller lamps in almost all of my projects.

The hue I’m mad for. Although my favorite color hues change almost daily, I am mad about a deep inky blue-green color that I recently used for an entire living room: Fine Paints of Europe 9210 Standard Collection in Hollandlac Brilliant.

I’ve squirreled away … Some things that I have hidden in the back of our warehouse for myself are an English Regency green tortoiseshell-and-abalone tea caddy; an 18th-century nude oil on canvas by Jean-Louis David; a square plaster table by John Dickinson, circa the 1970s; and a Karl Springer goatskin mirror, circa 1977.

On my back. My wardrobe is as diverse as my interiors. I’m just as comfortable dressed as a dandy as I am a rock star and everything in between. Jackets and shoes are my thing. Naming a favorite is almost impossible; however, right now it is a toss-up between a Tom Ford cashmere and silk sport coat and a pair of Christian Louboutin leopard and gold-studded Rollerboy Spikes loafers.

The walls that surround me. The perfect room is one that is created with proper balance, proportion, harmony and rhythm, regardless of its particular style. Although I love to play with scale and enjoy creating a bit of tension in a room to keep it interesting, I avoid the bizarre and things that are too trendy or quirky. A space should be tailored for the people who live in it and be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Comfort should never be sacrificed for beauty. Luxury is comfort.

If I could live anywhere. James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room is both a stunningly designed room and a work of art.

Style sensibility. I like for rooms to feel collected, never contrived or over-decorated. My craft is my passion, and I for one would get terribly bored repeating the same look over and over. Although I enjoy the subtle sophistication of a monochromatic palette, I also have no fear of bold color or pattern. I enjoy layering with texture, pattern, various lighting options and the ever-so-slight detailing that makes a room look finished or polished.

Kirby & Company DNA. The shop Kirby & Company was born 2 1/2 years ago and has been the best move in my career to date. I have three co-owners: Linda Chan, Blake Karambis, and Jenna McPhail. The beautiful thing about our team is that everyone brings something individual and special to the table. It also helps that we have been friends for many years. Partnerships can be difficult, but we have all committed to making Kirby & Company a positive and happy place to do what we all love to do. We were fortunate enough to purchase the former Brian Stringer Antiques building on West Alabama, and it feels like home — a home with the best pedigreed antiques, vintage finds, custom furnishings and accessories.

On what the future holds. As far as my future, well, I plan on waking every morning thankful that I get to make a living doing what I am most passionate about. I work hard, and I play hard. I love every minute of life, enjoying my family, friends and hopefully making someone else’s world a more beautiful place.