Jenna Buck Gross isn’t drunk on power or wine — she’s buzzed with the vibrancy, versatility and potential that is color. This month, we’re crushing hard on our interior design spirit animal, Jenna Buck Gross of Colordrunk Designs. We love the joy of her design and the risks she takes when it comes to pulling a room together… and trust us, this woman knows risk. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a fashion degree, she moved to New York and spent years working in the fashion industry. She started a family and decided to move back to the A-T-L — and once she gutted that first house and put her own colorful stamp on it, friends began hitting her up for help and voila, Colordrunk was born.

Jenna Gross
Our interior designer crush is Jenna Buck Gross of Colordrunk Design. Image: Elizabeth Day

How does color influence a space?

Obviously, color is the backbone of most of my designs and is at the core of my design philosophy. Color brings so much life to a space and I really believe that color affects the way people feel. More than just influencing the way a space looks, I believe color influences the way a space feels. I use color to introduce personality into my spaces. I often ask clients to think back to a favorite memory or piece of clothing for color inspiration, and I will then use that color or that palette throughout a space to invoke those memories. Maybe it is a blue from your Caribbean honeymoon or the yellow from your grandmother’s kitchen growing up. Color can completely transform a room by invoking those sense memories.

Any color mishaps you’ve made along the way?

Not using enough — ha! No, seriously, I am sure I have had some mishaps. When I first started out, I probably picked a few wrong yellows. Yellow can be hard!

Jenna Gross
“When this client approached me, she knew she had to use Schumacher’s Chiang Mai fabric (one of my favorites as well),” says Jenna. “We went bold with a blue velvet sofa and trellis arm chairs.” The window treatments and ottomans are custom designed by Jenna herself. Image: Sammie Saxon
Jenna Buck Gross
Image: Sammie Saxon
Jenna Buck Gross
Bright, bold wallpaper adds a chic feel to these dressing rooms at the Red Dress Boutique in Downtown Athens, Georgia. Image: Andrew Lee
Jenna Gross
Jenna wanted to make a bold statement at the cash wrap in Red Dress Boutique — thanks to this stunning Jonathan Adler light fixture. Image: Andrew Lee

What has been your most challenging project to date?

My most challenging project to date was a project we have come to affectionately call “the brown house.” All the molding and floors were beautiful but stained dark brown, and the walls — you guessed it — light brown. My clients weren’t keen on painting or adding many window treatments, so I added layers of color with pillows, accessories and throw blankets. In the end, I was able to talk them into wallpaper here and there, and that helped add depth, texture and, yes, a little color. But boy, all that brown was hard for me.

Is there one design element you continuously use over and over again? Why are you drawn to it?

I like to mix patterns and colors that don’t necessarily “match.” I like to keep people on their toes.

How does Atlanta’s design scene differ from the rest of the country’s?

I love Atlanta’s design scene because it’s all over the place. Atlanta is so cosmopolitan but still very Southern at its core, so I love the mix of traditional, modern and urban design that permeates the city. Because Atlanta is a melting pot, I feel the traditional, Southern aesthetic of “old” Atlanta, now serving as the base upon which design styles and influence from, literally, all over the world can be added to create something unique. There are tons of us in the trade in the Metro Atlanta area but this is such a creative and vibrant city, I feel like there is no shortage of clients for all of us. Each designer I know personally, or whose work I admire from afar, has his or her own unique approach and design aesthetic. It really is a wonderful place to work.

Jenna Gross
“My client wanted a beachy feel in her breakfast room,” says Jenna. “We used light fabrics with little bits of punch to keep it happy.” Image: Ian Mcfarlane
Jenna Gross ColorDrunk Design
This Lilly Pulitzer fabric was perfect for Jenna’s client who requested a house full of aqua and orange — “her happy colors.” Jenna started with this fabric and decorated the entire house around it. Image: Ian Mcfarlane
Jenna Gross
“‘Go big or go home’ … that was my mantra for this room with the bold green walls,” says Jenna. Image: Elizabeth Day

Where do you get your inspiration?

On any given project, I try to take my inspiration from the client. While there are certain hallmarks of my design style — a playful use of bold colors and patterns and a focus on spaces that are functional and livable — I try to determine what the client wants and needs in their space and follow that muse throughout the project. Beyond that, I take my inspiration from a lifelong love of art and my years working in the fashion industry.

RELATED: How to Decorate With Color

What are your favorite local spots to decorate a client’s home?

I come back time and again to Jonathan Adler. The colors, the creativity and the sass of his designs are so fun to incorporate in any space. I am also a proud HomeGoods aficionado! HomeGoods can be a gold mine for accessories, lamps, rugs — even the odd piece of furniture — and the great prices usually allow space in my design budget to spend on pricier staple or “showcase” elements for a project. Finally, Gregg Irby is my go-to gallery for art. Gregg’s gallery is full of beautiful art by mostly local artists and is always my first stop for fine art.

Jenna Gross
“Twin boys moved from a nursery to a bedroom upstairs,” says Jenna. “The layout worked perfect for twin beds but we wanted them to have another place for sitting and reading, so we had a window seat built in. A fun little touch in this room are the lights that you only tap for them to turn on. Image: Elizabeth Day
Jenna Gross
This is Jenna’s favorite room in her own home. When she built the house, she knew she wanted two things: hot pink grasscloth and this Marjorie Skouras chandelier. The rest just fell into place. Another special, personal touch? The painting is very old and features her late father. Image: Iran Watson
Jenna Gross
“Here, I used a neutral lamp on a white side table to draw attention to the fun art (by Nancy B. Westfall),” says Jenna. Image: Andrew Lee

Share one design secret with us regular folk.

Don’t worry about what’s “in.” I cringe when clients say, “Well is that ‘in?'” It doesn’t matter! You need to worry about what you love and what you want to see every day. Decorate with what makes YOU feel good. Do not decorate on trend. You will just be unhappy with it when the next trend comes along.

Who are some of your design heroes/mentors/icons?

Jonathan Adler, Amanda Nisbet, Meg Braff — all the fun ones.

Jenna Gross
A nursery-meets-big-girl room! Image: Iran Watson
Jenna Gross
“Custom headboards are my favorite piece to use in a bedroom. You can choose any shape and any fabric!” says Jenna. “We carried over the Roman shade fabric and piped the headboard in the bright green — a little addition of fun.” Image: Elizabeth Day

What’s the biggest mistake homeowners make in the design process?

Not saving up for, and investing in, the piece they love the most. I try to be a stickler about coming in under budget. If a client has a piece (or a fabric or wallpaper) that breaks the budget — but that they can’t seem to let go of it, and we can’t find an alternative that feels the same — I will always encourage them to allow me to design around that piece. That way, they can save for it and we can install it at a later date, and the install will be seamless.

Where do you see your industry in the next 10 to 15 years?

I see it booming. I think people are realizing how important it is to take care of themselves. A home should be so much more than just a utilitarian space that keeps you warm and dry. Life happens there. Especially as trends like teleworking and live/work spaces continue to grow, I think people are going to insist on having unique spaces that reflect their personalities.

Thank you to Jenna Buck Gross for allowing us to pick her very creative, colorful brain when it comes to design!


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About the Author
Melanie Preis