Here’s a daunting task: Take an oil-stained auto-body shop and transform it into a tricked-out studio and boutique with an apothecary-chic vibe—a place where women can ooh and aah over the latest lip gloss and eyeliner. That was the charge for makeup magnate Bobbi Brown: Create a large loft-like studio that would also act as the first Bobbi Brown freestanding store. It needed to be a quiet space where she could find inspiration for color palettes and new product launches—and also be ideal for hosting large employee gatherings. The old body shop near her home in Montclair, New Jersey, became that perfect spot.
Recently, a few hundred employees were on hand for the annual sales meeting. Amid the din, Bobbi needed some solitude. Casual and fresh-faced in jeans, she crossed the room and with the flick of a button, a transparent garage door lowered, sealing off a chunk of what is otherwise an entirely open space into a private office cloaked in quiet.
The detail is just one of the sly winks of a space that fuels the creativity of the former makeup artist-turned-industry insider—a move she made after serendipitously meeting a chemist on a photo shoot and then creating a line of lipsticks introduced at Bergdorf Goodman in 1991.
The move to New Jersey was spurred by a fire that damaged the company’s former Soho office in Manhattan. Bobbi and her employees were displaced to a standard office building with low ceilings and bad lighting. For meetings and brainstorming sessions, they commuted to Montclair, just blocks from Bobbi’s home. "We felt so good having meetings outside the office, we put two and two together," she says.
Bobbi designed the space in tandem with her husband, developer Steven Plofker. While Bobbi Brown headquarters remains in New York (the line is now owned by Estée Lauder, though Bobbi retains creative control), she currently spends three days a week at this think tank, retail space, and "education center" for the brand. Not only does the arrangement allow her to work in a space that sparks her creativity, it also makes it possible for her to be close to home and her three sons—Dylan, 17, Dakota, 15, and Duke, 9.
Old-fashioned molded woodwork and wood floors warm an otherwise industrial space. Bright daylight streams through wide windows—perfect for analyzing colors.
Color boards and palette possibilities for Bobbi's newest lines fill her studio. The vintage train case was the impetus for the makeup case sitting atop it. The bronze timber stool, $565, is from fleetwoodfurnishings.com.
Vintage bottles on Bobbi's desk spur colorful new products.
"The combination of old and new [in her studio] is like wearing jeans with holes and gorgeous fancy shoes," says Bobbi. "The overall effect is a fun, exploratory space that's totally creative."
Outside, a tiny garden blooms-like a glimpse of an Italian villa on an urban terrain. It's just one of the considerate touches for employees, along with perks such as healthful office snacks and on-site visits by a manicurist and stylist. "The people who work for me get to share a better lifestyle here," Bobbi notes.
Photography: John Bessler
Produced by Jenny Bradley