Designer, contractor, TV host and mom… Danielle Bryk is a self-made Renaissance woman who can do it all. Known for her chic and contemporary style, Danielle puts her boundless creativity to work, creating beautiful spaces for clients on a limited budget. After completing her first television show Family Under Construction, Danielle launched a new show, Bryk House, where she started her design and project managing company and tackled the challenges of guiding clients through their renovations. Now Danielle is back to embark on her biggest challenge yet, re-building her sister’s dilapidated Georgian Bay cottage in a brand new series on the Cottage Life channel. We caught up with the dynamic designer to find out more.
When did your passion for interior design first develop?
Even as a young child, I was constantly rearranging the furniture in my room. When I started my family, I was studying design in New York City and we moved a lot. Each time we relocated, I loved reimagining and rehabilitating the spaces — we lived in some pretty dingy apartments! I guess I’ve always had a passion for breathing new life into a space.
How did your flair for design evolve into becoming a licensed contractor?
My husband and I had our first child when I just finished school, so we really didn’t have any money. So every time we moved into a new apartment, I would fix it up myself. I went from doing basic things like painting and simple carpentry, to more and more complex projects. Eventually people began asking me to do their houses, so I decided to get licensed and insured. This wasn’t foreign to me though, because when I was growing up, my mother literally renovated our house from the ground up by herself. I’m talking about resolving structural issues — not just paint and pillows! There was an unspoken understanding in me that what you do has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with interest and talent. It’s a gift I am forever grateful for.
Is it challenging to tackle the role of both the designer and contractor on a project? Are you ever forced to sacrifice some of your design elements?
I think both of these roles inform each other, so my understanding of the build process definitely helps me be realistic about what we can achieve. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know because, yes indeed, often design elements are compromised due to budget. I will be honest and say that I do find being the contractor much more stressful than being the designer. At the end of the day, you are taking responsibility for the craftsmanship and professionalism of many moving pieces. This is why it’s crucial to have a team you trust implicitly.
Your new show, The Bryk Cottage on Cottage Life TV, was filmed as a documentary as opposed to a typical lifestyle show. What are the benefits to watching the building process unfold in real time?
I find this format so informative. For one thing, our timelines and budgets were very real — so real that by the end of the show, we did not have a completed cottage. This is something that is unheard of with a lifestyle show — not having that final reveal would be unacceptable and yet with our project, as with every other project I have ever seen, it took longer than expected. Over the course of the series, many suppliers took longer than planned and some of the trades were unable to deliver as initially promised. It’s a much more realistic version of a renovation. Also, as a doc, we were not able to accept any items
from sponsors. Each and every item we chose was based on our research and if something cost a lot of money, well, it was because we felt it was worth it. We are very honest about these numbers and for some of the products you may get sticker shock from hearing the true cost.
Your sister and brother-in-law actually own this cottage. What was it like having your sister as the client?
Haha! It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Neither of us held back — we turned our filters off and at some points we did regress right back to our childhood dynamic. I’ve never threatened to scratch a client’s eyeballs out before. At the same time, we rallied together to make the project happen because for us, family really is everything. I was able to keep my eye on the prize and I feel so grateful that our family has this space to gather.
What advice can you give homeowners tackling their own projects?
It is important to get as much information as possible before tackling anything. For example, learn the costs involved in converting vacant land into a habitable place to build, learn the local codes (most waterfront properties have stringent laws in place to protect the water) and enter into the process with an open mind, a trusting heart and solid line of credit! Try as much as possible to hire a team that you trust and feel good about — know that things will take longer, that people do make mistakes (but the good ones always fix them) and that getting into a Zen state will totally manage your stress levels!
Tune-in Thursdays at 9 p.m. to watch The Bryk Cottage on the Cottage Life channel.
For the full interview visit OntheGo.to.