HGTV star Brian Patrick Flynn adds whimsy to his midcentury modern East Lake abode

“Split-levels are like an irritating pop song you love to hate and hate to love.”
Brian Patrick Flynn
Brian and Hollis updated the exterior with vertical cedar planks, darker paint, and modern house numbers. The East Lake location allows easy access to Oakhurst and downtown Decatur.

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

As you would expect from the host of two new primetime HGTV series, Brian Patrick Flynn takes his own home very seriously—but when discussing his personal abode, he’s also characteristically irreverent. Asked why he chose a split-level ranch, he says, “Split-levels are like an irritating pop song you love to hate and hate to love. They are a bit ill-conceived in regards to how they’re engineered, but they’re just quirky enough to make you not care about their shortcomings.”

Brian Patrick Flynn
Both Hollis Smith (left) and Brian Patrick Flynn make their living in showbiz, but they’re happiest as homebodies with their two dogs, including the Instagram-famous Gidget, shown here.

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

With his sharp wit and habit of injecting random pop culture references, Brian has been entertaining fans for years in his online stories and Instagram posts. He’s also become a familiar face on television, starring in design and renovation series at networks like TBS and HGTV. Upcoming gigs include hosting HGTV Urban Oasis 2015 and HGTV Dream Home 2016.

But his interior design projects—for clients as well as for himself and his partner, Hollis Smith—show another side of him: smart, debonair, and with a story to tell about everything. Recently we visited with him at his Brady Bunch–style house in East Lake.

What drew you to this house? After living in a loft for five years and feeling boxed in on all sides, I wanted a house that had indoor-outdoor space packed with character and architectural significance. I needed lots of breathing room.

How did you change the exterior? I loathe cheap brick. Detest. Hate. Despise. So to keep the look clean and chic, I painted the old brick as well as the trim a black-brown and added vertical cedar planks to the facade. The dark exterior mixed with medium-toned wood is super clean, midcentury, and very masculine—three adjectives that sum up my design aesthetic.

Tell me about this living room. There are some midcentury modern touches here, but how did you give it your own take? The living room has some midcentury charm with its wood plank ceiling, asymmetrical slope, and grasscloth-covered walls, but I didn’t want it to be pure MCM. So instead of going crazy with all things Eames, Panton, and Mies, and using tons of ultra-white paint and saturated hues like red-orange and robin’s egg, I took a more transitional approach: classical paintings mixed with folk and contemporary art, a color scheme of greige and black, and lots of clean early-1980s lines. My favorite design and fashion era is the super early 1980s, like ’80 to ’82, when tweed was everywhere and homes were packed with an overload of texture and a juxtaposition of sexy and Shaker styles.

How did you remodel the first floor? It looks like everything—the floors, walls, and ceilings—got a new look. We tore out a coat closet next to the front door to allow light to flow throughout the entire first floor. Then we ripped out the drywall ceiling and clad it with V-groove pine and birch beams. The V-groove was stained gray, and the beams were stained ebony to coordinate with the newly stained ebony floors. And since there is no actual dining room in the house, we created one with a custom 10-person, U-shaped banquette.

How do you use the lower-level room with the purple console? I’m the kind of guy who’s tempted to put a TV in every single room, especially because both Hollis and I make our livings in television—Hollis is part of the costume department for The Walking Dead. But I didn’t want TV on the main level, so we decided to let the basement be the main viewing space and outfitted it with handsome colors like black-brown and bronze on the walls and pops of rich violet on furniture finishes and accents.

What’s the story behind the gray-purple-brown theme? I noticed a lack of purple and gray tones in midcentury homes I’d seen in books and magazines. So to be original, I loved the idea of covering the house inside and out with touches of charcoal, black-brown, plum, and violet. Besides, I enjoy tackling colors that scare the hell out of most people. And since brown and purple are the most hated colors, I fully embraced them.

The master bedroom with the crazy-tall headboard: Do you like things overscaled because you’re tall? Ugh, that damn tall question! Let’s get one thing straight: I am tall, this is true, but 6 foot 5 isn’t like pro basketball height, Andre the Giant stature, or circus sideshow–worthy. I’m just on the “taller side.” That being said, I like a bed that’s proportionate, so I tend to stick with platform beds that have seven- to eight-foot-tall headboards—not just so they fit me, but to add drama and play with scale.

Do the interiors have a common thread? The common thread throughout the house is scale. I have a lot of super large pieces in each space, and with good purpose. The rooms are all small, and instead of filling them with tons of bitsy pieces, I made use of all the square footage with substantially sized things that are both practical and pretty.

Finish this sentence: I hate lighting that is . . . Wimpy. I think if you’re gonna exist on this earth as lighting, you need to own it and be sculptural, unique, and big.

Which three interior designers would you let redo your house? There are five interior designers/architects I’d hand my house over to in a heartbeat: Smith Hanes, Lee Kleinhelter, Beth Webb, Bill Ingram, and Ray Booth. Hanes, Ingram, and Booth would reinvent the architecture in the most spectacular and high-end fashion possible, and both Webb and Kleinhelter would pack it with insanely amazing vintage, custom, and sculptural pieces; rich textures; and a strong use of black and white.

Who would you pick to play you and Hollis in your biopic? I would prefer to go with the Zachs: Zachary Quinto because he seems super smart and slightly weird, which is my favorite combination of descriptives for men, and also maybe Zach Braff because of the tall and “adorkable” factor, plus he is a director and I love a do-it-all-yourself type. For Hollis, well, that’s easy: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Interior design Brian Patrick Flynn, Flynnside Out Productions, Living room Grasscloth: Kravet, Sofas and chairs, end tables, console table, table lamps: City Issue, Drapery: Drapes & More, 404-685-8585. Coffee table: Highland Row Antiques, Rug: Myers Carpet, Nelson pendant: Design Within Reach, Art: Vintage. Dining room Banquette vinyl: Kravet. Tables: Grey, Globe lights: Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co., Bertoia chairs: Hayneedle, Kitchen All cabinets, countertop, and fixtures: Ikea, Light fixture: Hayneedle. Wall tile: Specialty Tile, White bedroom White vinyl: Staceage/Lewis & Sheron Textiles, Hanging bubble chair: Hayneedle. Neon: Lite Brite Neon, Floating cabinet: Ikea. White shag rug: Myers Carpet. Window covering: Duralee fabric, Master bedroom Wallpaper: “Pompeiian” by Cole & Son, LeeJofa, ADAC, Bed: Custom Slipcover & Upholstery, Silk linen fabric: Kravet. Bedding: Restoration Hardware, Throw pillows: Holland & Sherry, R Hughes, ADAC, Shag rug: Ikea. White chests: Scarlett Loves Rhettro, Nelson pendants: Design Within Reach. Exterior Paint color Black Fox: Sherwin Williams, Woodwork: HammerSmith, Backyard Furniture and all other items: Hayneedle. Basement Wallpaper: Graham & Brown, Purple console: Scarlett Loves Rhettro. Gray cabinet: I.D. Lab, Bathroom Wall tile: Pacific Stone, Tile & Marble, Lighting: Jonathan Adler, Vanity: Ikea.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2015 issue of
Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.