Nothing gets us going over here at the Everymom like a gorgeous interior – and ones designed by moms who are inspired by her kids is what our dreams are made of. Bria Hammel, mother of two and CEO of Bria Hammel Interiors, is putting her heart and soul into each room she designs and each moment she gets to spend with her family.
Splitting her time between heading up a design firm (and launching a “life friendly” furniture collection, to boot) and watching her kiddos grow up is no easy feat, but Bria is doing it with grace – “the big word around our office right now” – and big-time passion. Read on for how she’s working her Instagram to boost her business, what it’s like to transition from designer to CEO, and the motherhood moment that moved her to tears.
Name: Bria Hammel
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Current Position/Company: CEO of Bria Hammel Interiors and Brooke & Lou
Education: Associates Degree in Interior Design
Children: Louie, 6, and Brooklyn, 2
What was your first job, and what skills did you take away from it?
My first job out of college was working for a design firm in my college town. The work experience I gained there was invaluable. I learned how to work as part of a design team, was taught how to be a leader at a young age, and how to manage large-scale design projects for both residential and commercial clients.
When did you know that you were passionate enough about interior design to pursue it full-time?
I was in college working on a business degree, struggling to stay motivated. I had many people telling me that I had a knack for interiors, always calling me a young “Martha Stewart.” All it took was one person asking me, “Why don’t you become an interior designer?” for me to completely shift my thinking and focus. The minute I switched my degree I went from getting C’s in school to straight A’s. I couldn’t wait to get to class. Needless to say, I instantly felt that it was my calling.
How would you describe your design style?
I was born in the South, and although I only lived there until I was 7, the feeling I get from the South has always stuck with me. I love fresh, colorful rooms with traditional elements. Give me a house to design in Charleston, and I’m one happy camper.
How has living in Minnesota impacted your design style, if at all?
Minnesota homes accumulate extra dirt and have to hold up to four very different seasons. Living in Minnesota has shown me how important durable, cleanable spaces are. We incorporate this functionality into all of our designs, no matter what state they are located in.
You have your own design firm that you showcase through your insanely gorgeous Instagram account. How did you turn your passion into a business?
When I had my son, I knew I wanted to work a job where I could create my own schedule. Albeit a crazy busy schedule. I started out helping friends, family, etc. Then they referred me to their friends, and quickly the business began to grow!
In what way has Instagram changed the direction of your business? Did the community you formed there lead to any interesting clients?
Instagram has helped grow our design business exponentially. Not only has it become a living portfolio for us, it has allowed me to use my voice and share with the world why we do what we do. Now, potential clients call us to discuss their project and they already know who we are, what we are about, and what we stand for. I have a hard time remembering what it was like before we were able to showcase our work and aesthetic in this way!
We work with clients all over the country because of Instagram. We have projects in Miami, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and beyond, all because of the connections and community we’ve formed there.
What challenges have you experienced going from designer to CEO? What advice do you have for women hoping to make a similar career move?
The most challenging part of being a CEO is wearing multiple hats as a business owner and designer. I started out doing everything myself when I started my company. The books, the design, the schlepping, everything. It taught me how hard the work is and made me appreciate and understand my employees as they came on board. In a way, my employees are kind of my own clients. I have to understand what is important to them, push them out of their comfort zone to make them better and stronger, and manage their expectations of what my business will provide for their careers, families, and lifestyles.
You lead a team of phenomenal women – what have you learned about yourself and about being a leader as you’ve grown your team?
The big word around our office is GRACE. I’m always talking to my team about giving each other grace, our clients grace, our vendors grace. We never know what is happening back at home that might be making someone struggle at the office. Or a client that might be challenging and we don’t understand why, but we end up finding out there was an underlying reason – giving them the benefit of the doubt always works out for us in the end.
I’m also working on giving myself a little grace. I have the highest expectations of myself to do it all. Be the best boss, the best designer, the best wife, the best mom. In my head I know there is no such thing as perfect, but in my heart, I strive for that every day. We all know it’s not real life to be the best at everything, and really – is there such a thing as the best? I work on giving myself some grace just as much as everyone else.
How have your business skills translated to parenting? What about motherhood to business?
Oh goodness, I think my kids would say when they grow up there is a very blurred line when it comes to business and parenting. I have the same conversations with my children on a much simpler scale as I do with employees and clients. We talk about what their goals are, whether it’s for the day, something they want to work on at school, or just about the dreams they have.
We also set tasks or chores for our kids to teach them the value of hard work and earning money. It’s just like at the office. I’m a true believer that you earn money the old-fashioned way. You aren’t entitled to anything just because of your degree, where you came from, or who you know.
The harder you work, the more you will earn. But on top of that, sticking to our core values is just as important to me as working hard. The same values I have at the office we have at home.
You just launched your first home decor line, Brooke & Lou, named after your children. We are in love with your “life-friendly” and gorgeous pieces. Tell us about what prompted this new initiative?
We have always had an aesthetic of casual comfortable living, which has attracted young families to our firm. Young families who hire interior designers are wanting beautiful furnishings but don’t want to have to worry about their kids destroying their investment. We have been designing furnishings for our clients with this “life friendly” approach for years and have always said we would love to make it more accessible for the masses. So here we are!
I named the company Brooke & Lou after my children because they are the whole reason we created this line. I wanted beautiful furniture that I would allow me to curate a well-designed home – mixing high and low price point furnishings, including furniture that can stand up to their little handprints and messy faces, but also incorporating some really special collected pieces that have a story and make a home feel special. Our “collected” section is one of my favorite parts of the website!
Where does your inspiration for these pieces or your home designs come from?
Definitely from traveling. Everywhere I go I’m taking photos, making notes in my phone, and documenting beautiful things I see. This inspires me every day to push our design boundaries and curate exceptional homes for our clients.
Do you have any favorite pieces from the collection?
What has the transition to a retailer, as well as a business owner, been like?
Retail is a whole different ball game. So many more technical aspects to consider, and a lot more number crunching. We have had to push our relationships with our vendors and find those vendors that were really willing to dive in full force with us on this. We are so lucky with all the support we have gotten and are learning more every day!
How has your perspective on motherhood changed as you’ve transitioned through these different career phases?
I’ve had to get creative when it comes to finding that valuable time with my children. With all the travel I do, I like to work in trips where I can bring my kids, and carve out special time with each of them to make sure we have memories they will never forget. I figured out quickly that one-on-one time with each of them is so important. We do a lot as a family, but the moments they truly cherish are when my husband and I spend time with each of them individually. It’s a different type of attention they get and it means so much more to them.
How did you handle childcare? Did you stay home at any point? If so, what was the transition back into the working world like?
When I started my business I was one month from having my first born, Louie. I stayed home with him the first year. His grandparents watched him one day a week and that was when I would meet with clients. The other days I dragged him around town while I worked, and for a little while, it worked great. But as he started to be on the move, he wasn’t as thrilled to be in paint stores and tile showrooms, so we ended up hiring a part-time nanny.
By the second year we had a full-time nanny, and now they are both in school full time. My husband and I really tag team with them and have a pretty solid schedule down. I’m always home in the mornings and get them ready for the day and take them to school. My husband is on pick up duty so if I have a meeting that runs long I don’t have to panic.
What’s your advice for moms transitioning back into the workforce?
Find a company that supports you as a mom. I’m such a big believer that we should be able to work full time and not miss important events throughout the year. We have extra PTO and vacation days built into our benefits package for this exact reason. Be ready to be flexible. It might require coming in early to the office if you need to be on pick up duty. Or opening up the laptop and working for a little while once the kids go to bed. Flexibility is key as a working mom.
How do you and your husband divide parenting roles?
Besides our pickup and drop off schedule, we are pretty much team players when it comes to parenting. As my husband (who is a hockey coach on the side) says, we are man-on-man defense. We took turns at night when they were babies and weren’t sleeping through the night. That way we weren’t both zombies every day (only every other day).
When we had our daughter Brooklyn, we decided that we both needed one night a week that we could do whatever we wanted to do after work – basically not be a parent that night.
My husband loves to play golf and coach hockey, which both tend to happen after work hours. So on Wednesday nights, he knows he doesn’t have to worry about getting the kids, helping with dinner, or being home for bedtime. He goes and has his “guys night,” and I take care of the kids. On Thursday nights, I do the same. I work, I schedule business happy hours, get my nails done, things that we would otherwise tend to be stressed about squeezing into our crazy schedules.
It has been such a blessing for both of us to have an adult night! We also try and do one date night a week. We are happier, better parents because of this!
How has your relationship with yourself changed through motherhood and your career growth?
The biggest thing I have noticed since becoming a mom is I don’t take myself so seriously now. I have been an old soul my whole life. Growing up, I always wished I was more silly and able to focus on playing and living life in the moment. Now that I have children, I work hard to do that in my daily life. We laugh, we sing, we play, I feel like I can be myself with them, which is such a gift!
This has helped me relax as a business owner. I know when to laugh, calm down, and not overreact. It’s been such a blessing to not be so serious every day!
How do your kids inspire you, in your career or otherwise?
Besides the obvious of inspiring our new product line, they inspire me to be a more genuine person. There is nothing purer than a child’s heart!
When it comes to motherhood, what are you still insecure about? What are you confident in?
I, of course, struggle to find that work/life balance. I’m always worried that my travel schedule will affect our relationship or I will have regrets for missing out. I make sure to just take a break when I start to feel this way, or I book a trip and bring them along. My kids now love to travel like I do, and we are learning to cherish our special moments together no matter where we may be in the world.
What’s been your favorite moment from motherhood so far?
This past year at my son’s Valentines Day party at school, Louie was doing a relay race with a little girl in his classroom, they had to balance the candy hearts on a spoon and whoever got to the finish line first with all the candy hearts wins.
They were neck and neck in the race and the little girl dropped her heart off her spoon, and instead of Louie racing to the finish line to win, he stopped and waited for the little girl to pick up her candy heart and they finished the race together. His teacher was watching and came up to me with tears in her eyes and said,“This is why Louie is the class friend – he has the biggest, most gentle heart. I’ve never had a student like him before.” My heart exploded, and I couldn’t be more proud of my little boy.
Bria Hammel is The Everymom…
Favorite design project? Is it bad to say every new project becomes my favorite? We are blessed with clients that trust us and allow us to think outside of the box and push the limits with details, all while keeping our classic fresh aesthetic. I fall in love with every single project we do and get a little emotional when we complete each one!
Next vacation spot? We are going to London in September! I haven’t been since I was in middle school, but I remember saying the last time I was there that I wanted to live in London someday, so I’m excited to go back as an adult and experience the wonderful city again!
Go-to source of design inspo? Hands down, traveling.
Favorite date night? Boating on a lake. We don’t typically get to go by ourselves anymore but we both are the happiest on the water with a cocktail in hand.
Most embarrassing mom moment? Hmmm this one is tough. I don’t get too embarrassed by my kids, it’s that whole not taking myself too seriously thing. But I can always appreciate those public restroom stories. This past week I was traveling with my daughter back from New York and she proudly walked out of the bathroom back to the airline gate with her grandma shouting to me through the concourse, “Mommy, I went potty all by myself!” over and over and over. Everyone at the gate got a pretty big kick out of it!