Designer spotlight: Jordan Brown of Mint Condition Homes

Jordan Brown works with Mila Zelkha in Bay area based company, Mint Condition Homes. MCH is a design focused, community driven urban redevelopment company that transforms bank owned properties into quality, affordable housing. The homes they work on are located in Oakland, California and are selected for the historic integrity of their existing structures and their potential for creating economic stability within their neighborhoods. MCH works with Mila’s construction company, Wrecking Belle.

I’ve been an admirer of Mint Condition Homes for some time now. Their work is the perfect example of design with purpose. Recently, I had the fortune of interviewing MHC designer, Jordan, about their work.


How would you describe your style?

I really enjoy mixing old and new objects in design.  During a remodel, it’s important to appreciate the historic integrity of a project while also rethinking each space (color, layout, use) for modern living.

What is the first thing you notice when you enter a space?

I first appreciate the natural light and the details, not just the crown molding or built-ins, but the wear marks of a place.  You can learn a lot about a space by identifying how previous (or current) owners used their home.  Lighting is equally important because it instantly sets the tone of a space.

As a designer, what do you find most challenging? motivating?

Not always choosing what you want, but what your client or the audience you’re working for wants!  Style is so inherently personal and subjective.  Getting the details right and making the client enthusiastic about your ideas are also hugely motivating. In our development work, the challenge comes from working with houses that are in severe disrepair, often uninhabitable. It is incredibly motivating to see neighbors rally to support our restoration and rehabilitation of blighted houses.

What part of an architecture project do you enjoy most?

I love imagining the potential of a space before we begin work and then seeing it realized with our final product.  The more battered a place is when we begin, the more fun we’ll have in rethinking the design.

Are there any global style influences/designers/architects that you admire?

I’m really loving textile designer, Suki Cheema now.  As a world traveller, he’s got a beautiful understanding of crossing cultures and it doesn’t hurt that he’s worked under the best fashion names to develop his trade.  I think he does a beautiful job of translating the style of a region into fabric.  The Rajasthan collection is my favorite.

What advice do you have for new architects or designers starting out?

Identify what you love about design and work towards a goal that fits what interests you most.  Design in the real world is always tempered by economic realities, so the more you love your career description, the easier it will be to put up with the budgets and conflicting opinions.

What project have you had the most fun on and why?

The best projects are always the ones where you’ve really gotten your hands dirty with rethinking the house.  The project you see in the attached images, “Brookdale,” had a really unfortunate, pseudo prefabricated, illegal addition off the back of the house that we dismantled and in turn allowed us to rethink the original sun porch off of the kitchen.  An area that was originally covered in dark inexpensive paneling now welcomes sunlight through large windows we reused from elsewhere in the house.

Where do you see your company in the future?

We plan to continue our development work bridging the thoughtful rehabilitation of distressed properties with green design and affordability, while simultaneously growing our construction company, Wrecking Belle, to pursue more design-build projects for outside clients.

Can you share a DIY idea with us?

We often come across decorative but boring white fireplace mantels. We often look for a paint color that coordinates with the rest of the house, maybe it’s a color from another room or even a piece of furniture, and carefully select an area of the mantel – not too big -but worth articulating with paint.  You’d be surprised by how different an entire living room will feel from the depth and richness added to a hearth.

If a song were to encompass your interior style, what would it be?

Brendan Benson is always fun: shabby chic yet introspective, polished details yet reassuringly approachable.

“And if she throws her heart away/I’ll be there on garbage day/To sift through what’s left,/I guess
To sort through the loneliness”

You never know what amazing treasures you’ll find once you peel back some of the layers of past decisions.

{image credit: via Mint Condition Homes}

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