“Growing up, I really thought I was going to be an architect,” says 28-year-old decorator Brandon Fontenot, of his not-so-far-fetched childhood fantasies. Knowing this, it now comes as no surprise that the Houston-based interior designer turns to architecture first. “It usually dictates what goes in the house,” he says. “I like to allow the architecture to lead the design.” Born and raised in rural Louisiana, he credits his nature-filled upbringing as well as his admiration for fashion for his love of the trade. “By looking at clothes, I started looking at designers’ homes,” Fontenot recalls. “I just became mesmerized by what Jacques Grange did in Paris for Yves Saint Laurent. Looking at fashion sparked my love for design.”
After making what he calls a “natural move” from his small hometown to bustling Houston, the rising star, who at the time was working for a larger design firm, set his sights on something more. “I was craving a more intimate expression of my work,” he comments of his decision to leave the safety net of an established company.
With one client on his roster, Fontenot took a leap of faith that would change the course of his career immensely. But only when he founded his eponymous design practice in 2015 did he truly find his edge. “What I do here is so different from a lot of other designers,” he says of his tendency to reach for earthy materials and neutral color palettes, in a city dripping with grandiosity and over-the-top décor. Furthermore, the nurturing environment Houston has to offer has kept Fontenot craving more: “It really is the American Dream here. There’s tons of opportunity and the longer I stay the more indebted I feel. I’ve cornered myself a little market.”
Although his appreciation for his adopted city runs deep, most if not all of his current projects are outside of Houston. Thanks to his loyal clientele and countrywide fanfare, he has his hands full with projects lining the East Coast. From an 1850s farmhouse in Connecticut to the garden level of a Brooklyn brownstone, he’s staying busy and branching out.
“Because my portfolio is so neutral, I often get pigeonholed,” Fontenot reflects. “But this time, the clients [in Connecticut] want a lot of color, and I don’t live with color well so this will be a nice push for me.” In Brooklyn, he gets to experiment with something not many New Yorkers have: space. “It’s 4,000 square feet of just outdoor space,” he says. There’s another challenge on his horizon too: creating a playful and vibrant space for a client’s college-bound daughter in a jaw-dropping Boston brownstone outfitted with opulent moldings, plaster ceiling medallions and “over-the-top” chandeliers; it appears he’ll soon be mastering the art of combining youthful cool with history.
Craving more culture? Sign up to receive the Cultured newsletter, a biweekly guide to what’s new and what’s next in art, architecture, design and more.