Since opening last fall, BRIKA—which offers an array of apparel, art, home wares, and more—has become a much-talked about (and oft-Instagrammed) fixture of the Bentonville shopping scene. This can be attributed in no small part to its artful, inspiring interiors. Ever wanted to know more about the creative responsible for the store’s eclectic look? Enter interior designer and Wynne native Ryan Lawson. “I have known the owner of BRIKA for almost 20 years. When she was approached to open a store in Bentonville, she said she knew a designer who might fit the bill, and it all fell into place from there,” Ryan recalls.
Now based in New York, he jumped at the chance to transform a historic bank building in his home state into a bright and beautiful shopping experience. “The South brings back some good memories for me—of friendliness and comfort,” he says. “I think I do a pretty good job of integrating those two things into my life now, even though I don’t live in Arkansas anymore.” Read on to learn more about Ryan’s creative approach, favorite design elements of the store, and why he’s drawn to antique ironwork.
Ryan Lawson: There are, of course, different things to think about when designing a store and when designing a house. I’ve found that in retail, budgets are usually tighter, things are on a faster timeline, and pieces generally take more abuse because of the nature of how they’re used.
That said, I think my approach is similar in both situations. I take into account the function of the space and point of view of the client before getting started. I like to establish a narrative and a sense of history for all my projects. I find inspiration in books and online, and I set up a sort of story; that makes it easier for me to have a point of reference when I’m designing architectural details or selecting furniture, carpets, all the other little things that are part of the design process. Having that set of parameters to operate within, more or less, keeps the story cohesive.
RL: I loved working with the team that pulled all this off—the developer, BRIKA, my team, and all the artists and craftspeople who built things for us. I brought two of my favorite artists in on the project, and I’m really thrilled with both of their contributions.
Matt Kleberg, a Texas artist whose career I’ve been following for years now, made the beautiful arched paintings specifically for the upper story of the space. Oz Art, which is a great initiative for public art in Northwest Arkansas, was thrilled to be able to acquire these pieces, and I am thrilled that the public gets to enjoy them in one of my projects!
Los Angeles artist Clare Graham made the button sculpture hanging over the bed. It’s intricate and intriguing, and I have such respect for his long career making pieces like this with such focus and intensity.
The rugs are from my friends at Beni, and are all made by hand in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The seating is from Swedish company, Hem, that makes wonderful quality pieces at fair prices. The local team who made most of the display furniture, Rift Customs, did an amazing job working with my team executing the vision. I could go on and on.
RL: This is a hard question for me. I try hard to avoid things that are trending, as they will by definition not be trending soon. I also hope that my work stays relevant longer than the typical trend. I do look at magazines and Instagram just like everyone else does, so things that are popular and exciting trickle in for sure.
More and more I’m seeing pieces that are completely handmade getting their time in the spotlight. I love things that in some way show off that they are made by hand: Textiles and carpets have a little more interest when there are slight irregularities and variations. Furniture that’s carved, sanded, or finished by hand always has a friendlier personality. That, I think, makes it easier to connect with and fall in love with, and therefore we want to keep it forever.
RL: I absolutely love to shop for antiques and vintage treasures. I have been doing it for so long that I need several storage units to hold everything I have bought! I’m trying to be very judicious about buying things these days and saying no more than I say yes, but there are things that I have a hard time passing up. Textiles, especially needlepoint and quilts—they have to be in supremely good condition and have a sort of freshness that feels modern and timeless, not fusty and old. Is fusty even a word?
I also love antique ironwork—think something someone made in a foundry or iron shop in 1910 just to show off their skills. That’s what I like: things that tell a story. I also love martinis, so I am always on the lookout for sets of vintage martini glasses—anything from Art Deco cut glass to 1980s Baccarat can get me excited.
Keep up with Ryan on Instagram (@ryanclawson).
Photos by Rett Peek | Courtesy of Ryan Lawson