At the helm of this gorgeous French-style, modern château in the airy woodlands of West Monroe, stylist Brandi Brownlee Thomas worked alongside the homeowners to create an interior that marries substance and style.
ARTICLE BY VANELIS RIVERA
STYLED BY BRANDI BROWNLEE THOMAS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY MOORE CLARK
Interior stylist Brandi Brownlee Thomas is known for her sleek boho style aesthetic which combines layers of texture, colors, and whimsical details. But her latest project, the interior of a French-style, modern château set in the airy woodlands of West Monroe, presented Thomas with new design inspiration; one consisting of a muted palette and enchanting design elements reminiscent of the romantic European countryside escapes we’ve come to love in period pieces.
When Thomas walked into the empty house around 2020, the surroundings consisted of window and door frames, poured concrete, and ceiling beams. In order to begin working her magic, she set out to better know her client. “I think the mark of a really great designer is, honestly, being a private investigator. Asking lots of questions from the front end. I try to get very specific,” she reveals, emphasizing that a good stylist helps elevate someone’s personal flair. Utilizing this forensic technique, Thomas began to uncover the homeowner’s design aesthetic. Pinterest boards aided in this achievement and Thomas was able to note the driving force of the homeowner’s vision for her family’s new home.
Driven by the belief that “a home should tell the story of the folks who live there,” Thomas set out to work seamlessly with the homeowner. The pair became a dynamic duo, feeding off each others’ creativity. Acknowledging the flood of ideas running rampant in her mind, the homeowner credits Thomas with keeping her grounded, especially during the times when she got sentimental and wanted to drag everything they owned from their previous home into the new space: “A designer and a stylist is good in that they keep you going where you need to go.” Conceptualizing the interior also meant pulling from the feel of the formal elegance of the exterior, which Thomas describes as French provincial, as well as balancing the personalities of the homeowners. “She’s romantic in the sense of very sentimental, but you know, she lives with a man that likes to hunt and fish. So, you know, we gotta balance it out.”
“The lighting was a big thing,” explains the homeowner. With that direction, Thomas intuitively devised a cohesive design plan around the lighting, pulling light fixtures from various vendors in Texas, which was pivotal for the end result—rustic elements with a “splash of glam.” The most decorated chandelier glitters from the roof of the foyer. “It’s very substantial. We’re obsessed with it,” says Thomas, revealing that it took a crane and about 10 men to mount it. Establishing a tone of elegance and refinement, this empire crystal chandelier stands out from the egg-shell walls and herringbone-patterned wood floor. From the foyer, the living room commands attention by way of wall-to-ceiling windows and stout, honey-colored wood beams. Natural neutrals mimic shades of light—soft beiges from the furniture, touches of gilded brass from wall and decor accents, and sandy tones from the brick fireplace. Two curvy chandeliers provide the final touches of light from vine-like arms.
“This is mine and [the homeowner’s] brainchild,” says Thomas, ushering me into the plush kitchen and dining room area. To call the room a showstopper would be an understatement. Five colossal, classic cut-corner mirrors line the lengthy wall of the dining space tying the exterior architectural style of the house, which is characterized by ornate cast stone detailing around the windows and dormers. The acid-washed mirrors came from New Jersey, and their frames were custom-made. Special attention was paid to the curvy shapes, which evoke gentle femininity. “We wanted to get the right shape. And you have it everywhere,” says Thomas, pointing to the curves of some of the kitchen cabinets, detailed with long brass handles and the same acid-stained mirrors illuminating the dining table, a local piece from Ouachita Antique Woods made by Kyle Snellenberger. Five contemporary, fabric tufted upholstered chairs surround the table, joined by a cozy sofa meant to host the homeowners’ large family. As in all the rooms, the light fixtures finalize the space, complementing each other. Heavyset, rectangular pendant lights dominate the kitchen, towering over a sleek marble island, while a classic pendant chandelier maintains an understated symmetry, representative of the space which acts as the heart of the home.
It was time to explore the bedrooms, the private channels of a home meant solely for the enjoyment of its inhabitants, and in that way, calling for an intimate interior that represents the personalities of those it will hold in sleep and in waking. The main bedroom is a cozy space, minimally furnished. The king bed is centered under the glimmering spell of a smaller-sized empire crystal chandelier. Dark wood beams line the ceiling, adding to the subtle textures of the room alongside two hand-carved, wood dressers. Pops of wood carry over into the bathroom, a sublime space seemingly out of the pages of a fairy tale. A heavily detailed, Anglo-Indian wood arch (a salvaged piece from Europe) frames a mirror, marking the entryway to a walk-through shower. White marble herringbone tiles contrast the white sheen of a cast iron, slipper pedestal tub, and ivory marble vanities. Completing the space is an arched dark-wood paneled ceiling. “The arched ceiling is a stunner, no doubt about it,” emphasizes Thomas, who reveals the idea coming from the homeowners.
The additional bedrooms belong to the homeowners’ daughters, each matching their personality; yet, still maintaining the main stylistic motifs curated by Thomas. “I would call this transitional,” says Thomas, remarking on the simplicity of the middle child’s room, characterized mainly by a diamond-shaped, modern wall molding pattern in matte white. Making our way to the other end of the house, we pass a quaint narrow bathroom featuring a petite clawfoot tub and a vintage wood sink vanity. Another entryway leads to their eldest daughter’s room, dubbed affectionately the “heirloom room,” as it contains pieces belonging to the homeowner’s mother and grandmother. Velvet iron drapes and seafoam blue ruched shading add to the room’s enchanting quality. A few steps away, the youngest daughter’s room reveals a personality off the beaten path. The classic black and white palette make for a breathtaking space. A black matte wall, textured with modern wall molding patterns, contrasts the crisp white of a Japanese-style platform bed.
Not to be outdone by the personal flair of his daughters’ bedrooms, the husband opted for his very own personalized room, one which out-colors the rest. “So, this right here is not indicative of the rest of the house. This is her making a concession with her husband,” laughs Thomas, revealing the “hunting room.” Mimicking an old castle-style hunting lodge, the walls are filled to the brim with taxidermy game—a myriad of stately bucks, a Standard Bronze turkey, and even a mountain lion. The paneled roof opens up the moody room dominated by the grayish navy blue of the walls, and the deep blue of the velvet curtains. The space still holds elegance, accentuated by a large earth-toned Persian rug, two tan leather sofas, and three industrial orb pendants hanging from the ceiling. This nestled lair is clearly a gentleman’s hideaway.
“And there’s a whole back patio,” enthuses Thomas. A wood pergola casts a shade on another custom-wood table with industrial distressed metal legs and custom-wood benches. Hanging ferns add to the natural, relaxed ambiance while chic light fixtures keep the interior’s theme alive in the open space lined with Chicago brick flooring. The view is a canvas of green and the blue sky peeking between the far-off line of trees.
Reflecting on the space, Thomas admits that a “touch of rustic and a splash of glam” is hard to attain, especially considering the romantic sentimentality of the exterior of the house, but as she and the homeowner learned, with balance, cohesion is possible. “It made me realize that all the things that I love can be brought together, you know, and complement each other,” says the homeowner, visibly delighted with the results and adding, “There is a way to bring the old in and pair it with the new and have all the things you like without having to sacrifice.” The perks of hiring a professional like Thomas can be found in their ability to find pieces through their sources and vendors that match a client’s exact vision. A home shouldn’t feel like a museum, says Thomas. “It shouldn’t feel like this is just a gallery. This should feel like your home with all of your favorite sentimental things. And there is a way to do that.”
Fabulous Fabric: Holly Richard Bedding and Drapes
M&M Cabinets: Robert Holley (all cabinetry)
Glass Works: Brian Blaylock (all custom antiqued mirror creations/shower/glass doors)
Southern Bath & Kitchen: Amanda McCoy (faucets and plumbing fixtures)
Custom Design Center: Melody Sullivan & Mary Francis Siggers (flooring and tile)
First Choice: Jariel Herrera (marble countertops in kitchen and baths)
Ouachita Antique Woods: Kyle Snellenburger (custom 10’ long kitchen and outdoor table)
Walsworth & Co.: Patty Fuller & Karen Branham (furniture in bedroom with
patterned molding on white wall)
Traditions on Trenton: Pam Wood & Melanie Liles (antique sourced sundials & trumeau mirror in living area)
Knotted Mercantile: Stephanie LaSuzzo (rug in blue/animal room)