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Kenneth Brown on green, the '50s, Southern sensibilities

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(CNN) -- More homeowners today are spending money to stay on the cusp of fashionable trends, creating a demand for a thriving home design industry, said Kenneth Brown, an interior designer and host of "ReDesign" on HGTV.

"Now people are actually carving out money for design on any budget, and there's access with television shows, tons of design magazines, and so all of that has driven fast-moving trends," he said.

Brown stopped by the Atlanta Home Show during a week full of scheduled lectures to speak about the design process and the latest styles and industry trends. (Watch Kenneth Brown discuss his career and spring trends at the Atlanta Home Show Video.) The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native (who now calls Los Angeles home) spoke with CNN to discuss his show, his design style, and to share a few no-fail design tricks.

CNN: What's your personal design style?

Brown: My design style has sort of been pigeonholed a little bit into modern, and it's interesting because I don't find myself being modern. I do think that I have a sense of simplicity about my design because I do believe in having a home that is sort of more tailored. I don't like going in somewhere where there's a lot happening, I don't find it relaxing. ... So it may be modern in the simplicity, but I think there's a large part of my Southern heritage upbringing that comes through with the use of colors and rich textures. Comfort comes in key to all my design.

CNN: You have a very accommodating relationship with your clients on the show. What do you find is the most common reason for dissent in the designer/client relationship?

Brown: Like any relationship, lack of communication. My job as a designer is to demystify the design process. It is important my clients understand the design principle behind my decisions. Communicating this is key to a healthy designer/client relationship. My favorite question from a client is, "Why does that work?"

I've done shows where we've had homeowners, specifically the husbands, typically, who say, "Wow, that's a lot of furniture for this room, are you sure it's going to work?" Because when you look at it on a plan, it's hard to visualize it in real life. And I've cut out big sheets of paper in the shape of the furniture, and I say, "OK, let's lay this out and let's see how the furniture actually works in this space." So he arranges it all with the pieces of paper before he commits to buying it, and then he feels confident in my decision, and that one is checked off the list, and we can move to the next step. Because if at any point you loose the homeowner and they don't have confidence in you, you start veering off course, and the more you do that, the more watered down the design gets and the less it's going to be a better outcome.

CNN: What's your favorite design trick for injecting a little springtime atmosphere into a room?

Brown: Just like you redo your wardrobe for spring, fall, winter, summer, same thing with your house holds true. So for spring, the colors of blues and greens: replace your pillows with blues and greens. Take down heavy draperies, store them for the summer and put up white sheers. Bring in crystal pieces. Anything that's going to reflect light is a great way to bringing life into a room.

Clean windows are a must. You would not believe how many people, I go into their house and their house is beautiful and their windows are dirty. When you clean your windows and you let light through, all of a sudden your house feels new again. That's the easiest inexpensive tip you can do this spring.

Slipcovers are back in. You can do linen slip covers; really freshen up your house.

CNN: What do you do when you're asked to incorporate tchotchke collections into high-traffic rooms like kitchens and family rooms?

Brown: I definitely think that is a big part of design because that's what personalizes the home for them. That's what says who they are, but you don't have to put every one of them out all at once, because a piece will shine better when it's paired with one or two others as opposed to 10. You appreciate it more when there's more room around it to see it. That to me is common sense, but some people say, "I need to have it all out!"

Another thing that I say is that when there's too much clutter in your house, there's no room for you. You need to be able to live in your house, enjoy it.

CNN: If you had a time machine, which design era would you go back to visit, and why?

Brown: I would like to go back to the '50's at the end of a post-war lifestyle, end of rationing and a desire to enjoy life. People were taking chances to explore design in wonderful ways. ... You know the car designs back then, they were designed but they weren't overly focus grouped, so no one was watering it down to look generic. I appreciate that they took a lot of chances in that period to step outside the box and go a little bit more modern and mid-century.

CNN: What's your favorite piece of furniture and why?

Brown: I know exactly what it is. When I was growing up, I had an aunt Johnnie Vern -- very eccentric, Southern lady -- and she had this one chair that was covered in this blue-and-yellow big daisy fabric, and it was big and horrendous, and she was throwing it out. And I remember as a little kid wanting it, because it sat low to the ground, and I still have that chair. I've re-upholstered it three times, but that chair has traveled with me to every one of my houses. And people have always commented about it, "That's such a great chair. I've never seen one like it before."

And let me tell you a story about it: I had to ship it from my home in Louisiana to Los Angeles, back when I was a poor student. It was the only piece of furniture I had. I slept on the floor, but I had my chair. And I shipped it in a box via UPS, and it had to go the slow route, it had to go all around the country to get it there. And I finally got it, and it meant so much to me, that one chair.

CNN: If you were designing a show home right now, what are some of the colors and textures that you would, without a doubt, be incorporating?

Brown: I'm in love with mossy green linen/velvet blended fabric at the moment; especially on tufted pieces of furniture -- chesterfield sofas and chairs -- it has a rich hand to it while being comfortable and elegant at the same time.

CNN: What are some of your favorite places and spaces to go for design inspiration?

Brown: I gravitate to my favorite plant nursery in Los Angeles when I run into "designer's block." Being around rare varieties of succulents, which are full of texture and color, always gets my design juices flowing. I also enjoy diving and snorkeling reefs. I find the same inspiration from color combinations and texture under water as much as on land.

CNN: What recent design trends are you happy to see finally fading away, and what are some of your favorite resurgences?

Brown: I don't enjoy seeing rooms decorated with stuffed peacocks, animal hide rugs, large pieces of coral and antlers. Remains of dead things in your home does not work for me, especially when you can get good fakes.

I am glad people are beginning to realize they don't need to live in ostentatious "McMansions" to live beautifully. Smaller homes that are just the right size have a much more "welcome home" feel, and they are more socially responsible.

CNN: You seem very relaxed in front of the camera. Did your experience with clients help you in any way with that?

Brown: I feed off of the excitement of tackling a new project with my clients. I get lost in my design process and often forget the cameras are there.


Designer Kenneth Brown visits the Atlanta Home Show. He later offered design and planning tips to other visitors at the show.

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