Ever wondered what it might be like to work and live with your spouse? We sat down with Spoonflower Ambassadors Jordan Slocum and Barry Bordelon, aka The Brownstone Boys, to learn more about their adventures as life partners / business partners with a successful home restoration career. Continue reading to get to know Jordan and Barry!
Get to Know Jordan and Barry
What has the design journey looked like for each of you?
Jordan and Barry: We both have different backgrounds when it comes to our journey. Funny enough, neither of us studied or planned on becoming an interior designer. Looking back on it, it really makes sense ending up where we are. We fell into design quite organically, but our individual journeys definitely paved our way.
Jordan: I went to school originally for theater, but knew very quickly that it wasn’t in me to pursue my career. I just couldn’t deal with all the criticism and constant challenges of auditioning. I switched majors to film and marketing.
While putting myself through school, I worked at bakeries and really became passionate about baking! When working PA jobs, the bakery hours worked out that I could juggle both. The bakery I landed a job at became very popular and the owners kind of took me under their wing and looked to me to help a new store of theirs that was opening up in Manhattan. I became obsessed with design and all the codes required in NYC. Shortly after, I was hired by an ice cream company that had plans of expansion and were looking for someone to help them grow. I immediately joined and helped take part in the company expanding into 16 shops!
All along my professional journey, pre-meeting Barry, I rented a very small (and I mean small!) studio apartment in Brooklyn for 15 years. This allowed me to save for a future home (and create quite the Pinterest page for my future home). Six years ago, when I met Barry, I knew immediately we would be buying a place together and starting our own journey.
Barry: I wanted to be an architect for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, I used to draw houses and even floor plans! I was obsessed with creating spaces and rearranging them. All through high school, when the rest of the kids were trying to figure out what to do with their lives, I knew I was going to architecture school. I went to architecture school for two years but life took me in a different direction. I had to make some hard choices and decided I needed to change to a business degree and give up my dream.
After I graduated, I went into software sales and had a successful career for about 10 years! During that time my love of architecture and design pushed me to buy my first apartment so that I could have fun with making it my own. I made some small changes and improvements over the two years I lived there and sold it for more than I bought it for. I then bought a bigger apartment that needed more renovations and completely transformed it. After two years, I sold that place and bought two apartments.
I continued to do the same thing and after I met Jordan and put our resources and knowledge together to buy our place and tackle a major renovation. When we bought our place, it was my ninth real estate closing and my fourth renovation, so I was well on my way to acquiring a lot of on the ground experience with design and construction.
At what point did you know that you wanted to work with your partner?
J & B: It all happened very organically. A few days before we closed on our brownstone home, we decided that it would be fun to create a blog and social accounts about our journey of renovating a historic house. We loved the other creative renovation blogs and Instagram accounts we were following and it’s where we got a lot of helpful information. We wanted to share our experience as well, especially about brownstone renovation!
Our first blog post was about how we found and closed on our fixer upper and our first Instagram post was us holding the keys! We were hopeful some of our friends and family would read it. Over the year of our renovation we wrote a blog post every week (never missed) and posted our adventures on Instagram. More and more people started following us for inspiration and tips. We also started hearing from more people asking all kinds of questions. We would answer them as best we could, but some really seemed like they needed a lot of help.
We honestly had no idea at this point where it would all lead, but we were starting to wonder if we should give a hand to some of the people reaching out to us and needing a lot of assistance. We worked up the courage to ask someone if they wanted us to work with them on their project, and just like that we had our first client. At the time, we still thought it was likely something we would do in our spare time along with our day jobs, but after getting a second and a third client we decided to quit our corporate jobs and pursue Brownstone Boys full time. We were scared, but relied on each other’s backgrounds to pursue something we both were very passionate about.
What are your favorite things about collaborating together?
J & B: This will always be a work in progress but that’s what makes it exciting. We both agree on most design choices but also have separate styles that converge in a great way. Jordan likes bright pops of color and Barry loves a shade (or 10) of gray. We balance each other out pretty well.
One of our favorite things to work together on is restoring original features in a historic home. Gorgeous woodwork, ornate plaster mouldings, marble fireplaces and stained glass are what really get us going. But we love designing in the modern touches in kitchens and bathrooms as well.
There are definitely tough days working with each other constantly in some pretty intense situations. We always explain to our clients that a renovation is a roller coaster of emotions and that is what our day to day is like constantly. However, we’re both up and love this ride so much.
On what aspects of design do you have differing opinions? How do you resolve them?
J & B: It isn’t always easy being life and business partners. We do have differing opinions on things often, but we both know that the other has great ideas so we try to understand that our opinion isn’t the only one, and the other might have a better idea. It helps sometimes! Although sometimes it is difficult, we definitely think that the benefits of working together far outweigh the drawbacks.
What has been your most memorable project to date and why?
J: I would have to say our own renovation. We really had to stretch our budget and because of that we DIY’ed a lot of pieces on our own. We tested each other because we were in a fairly new relationship. My strengths were Barry’s weaknesses and vice versa. It’s because of our own renovation we truly tested the boundaries and emotions with each other. So it was super memorable!
B: My most memorable project was our first client. We learned so much and it was the first time we saw the process work where we took a house that needed a lot of work and turned it into someone’s dream home. Seeing their faces as they walked into the completed space for the first time was all we needed to know we found our new careers.
What organizations do you find yourself working with again and again?
J & B: We really love working with people in our community of all backgrounds. Something so special in the homes we get to work on are the families (and stories) we get to learn from. We recently did our first cafe renovation Hibisicus Brew. The owner, Alison Dunn, is from the Caribbean and had such a wealth of knowledge of hibiscus and her Jamaican roots. Brooklyn is truly a melting pot of culture and we are so fortunate to work with clients of all different backgrounds and upbringings. Working with families (and new families) always educates us!
What do you envision for your brand 5 years from now? 10 years from now? How will you support and challenge one another to get there?
J & B: We would like to continue helping people create their dream homes, but we can only take on so many clients a year. We really would like to inspire more people to transform their homes. We plan on continuing to grow our social channels and blog. We’re in the process of writing our first book all about renovating each space in the home. We’re also working on an episode of a second TV show showcasing one of our biggest (and most challenging!) projects. This year we have our first collaboration with a furniture brand coming out. So in the next 5-10 years we plan on expanding in all of these areas!