Janet Brooks, ASID
The Scottsdale designer made a name for herself through hard work and fearlessness.
By Nora Burba Trulsson
Photography courtesy of Janet Brooks Design
Janet Brooks is known for the luxe-yet-livable interiors she creates for clients in North Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Carefree, not to mention places like Park City and Lake Geneva. But her rise to the top of Arizona’s interior design field—not to mention the numerous awards and accolades she has received—was not handed to her on a silver platter. She became successful the old-school way. She worked hard and was fearless in getting her name out there.
“When I moved to Arizona in 1987, it was during a recession,” recalls Brooks. “I knew nobody, and nobody would hire me unless I brought clients with me. It was a Catch-22. I had no clients here.” Instead, she took matters into her own hands and drove into North Scottsdale’s gated communities at 5 a.m. when construction traffic went in unimpeded, stalked builders at residential construction sites and showed them her portfolio. “I finally got a job to colorize a home in Carefree,” she remembers, “and then I did a custom home in Troon. That’s what started it all for me here.”
Brooks’ laser-like focus on work started early, growing up in Geneva, Illinois. She was interested in both science and the interior design arts, but wound up getting a degree in liberal arts fro Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. Being a skier and seeking some adventure, Brooks moved to Crested Butte, Colorado, where she quickly found work with an ASID designer.
“That designer was doing everything in town,” Brooks says. “Retail, ski lodges, condos. She became my mentor and taught me the basics of design—everything from measuring for draperies to how thick a countertop should be.”
Brooks later worked with another designer, with whom she launched a design partnership. “From her, I learned more esoteric things, like having a vision, being confident and using your imagination on a project.”
Still in ski mode, Brooks decamped to Durango a few years later, where she got a “big lucky break” to work on the Purgatory ski resort’s expansion, designing some 135 condos, retail shops and restaurants during the mid-1980s.
Marriage brought her to Scottsdale, where she established roots, launched her solo practice and passed the NCIDQ exams. “Because I don’t have a degree in interior design, I needed to pass that test. I didn’t want to be known as a designer who had ‘flair.’ I wanted people to know that I am a professional.”
Her professionalism (and advocacy for her clients) was duly noted, and she has worked with many stellar builders and high-profile architects like Mark Candelaria, Erik Peterson, Mike Higgins, Clint Miller, Vern Swaback, Jim Blochberger and others over the years.
Her approach? “I encourage clients not to rip out pages from magazines and go for looks just because everyone else is doing it,” she explains. “Just because everyone is doing floor to ceiling windows doesn’t mean it’s right for every client. I try to help them develop a floor plan that works for them, and to get into their heads.” While Brooks doesn’t have a signature look, she gravitates towards natural materials, and understated, minimal design that’s comfortable.
Working out of the North Scottsdale studio that she’s occupied since 2004, Brooks and her staff of three full-time colleagues focus on custom residential projects, with occasional office, restaurant and retail work. She’s got a new house in Silverleaf in the pipeline, a new build in Paradise Valley and a Las Vegas house that has a 230-degree view of The Strip.
And, between projects, she does manage to get in a bit of downhill time during the season. “Lake Tahoe, Crested Butte and Breckenridge are all favorites,” she says. “I love it.”