Birmingham, Alabama, is perhaps the last place you'd expect to be a nascent design hub, but the once-sleepy southern town has a way of changing your mind. Take our latest Instagram Stories star. Born in the Heart of Dixie state, Andrew Brown spent a brief part of his childhood in France, followed it up with a stint in the West African country of Togo, and then circled back home to start his eponymous interior design firm. The result of all that globe-trotting? A one-of-a-kind aesthetic that combines the Spanish-moss leanings of the South, the Old World flare of Europe, and the organic notes of rural Africa. So grab your passport—this virtual jaunt is full of surprises.
"I'm originally from southern Alabama but grew up overseas in France and Togo, Africa. I'm equally intrigued by the aristocratic, grand world of Europe and the culture in West Africa. I was always interested in design. I loved reading European design magazines and constantly rearranged furniture growing up—but I studied English and foreign languages and international trade. I didn't really consider a career in design until I had the opportunity to work for an interior designer, and it was then that the lightbulb went off in my head, and I thought, These are all the things that I love; this is what it could be. So I went with it and never looked back."
"My favorite cites in Europe are Paris, Milan, and London. I also went to Venice for the first time last year and completely fell in love with it. I'm always so inspired by trips to Europe. I love seeing the juxtaposition of the old and the new, in terms of architecture and design, and the mix of styles is also very inspiring. Every street in these cities has something to offer, and everywhere you turn there is something incredible to see, whether it's a beautiful brass door knocker, a stunning lacquered door, old stone steps, an allée of trees, time-worn cobblestone streets. I could go on and on!"
"I love to travel, go to museums, and also peruse vintage design magazines and books for inspiration. I'm always inspired by Paris, by legendary designers such as Dorothy Drapery, Billy Baldwin, and Albert Hadley. Art is a huge source of inspiration, as well as music. I’m very much fascinated with the 1920s and 1930s, particularly the art and design scene in Paris between the wars. I always have a bad case of wanderlust, so I love seeing travel photos and [Instagram] feeds with visually stimulating imagery. [Also], inspiring interiors shots, especially if they are European interiors or photos from the past."
on the south
"Birmingham is a place that I love to call home. I've lived here for 15 years. It's a gem of a city that always surprises visitors. We have beautiful architecture, great restaurants, and charming shops and streets. There are so many designers in Birmingham for a city this size, like Bill Ingram, Jeff Dungan, Betsy Brown, and Tami Connor. Design in the South right now is very diverse. I think there are a lot of misconceptions, and one of them is that Southern designers have a certain look. Yet Southern design is as varied as design anywhere else."