Brenda Bradley’s energy is charmingly frenetic. The enthusiasm in her voice and demeanor is a constant—and it works to her professional advantage. There’s no keeping track of all she is up to, but one thing is for sure: Now matter what it is, she is excited about it.
Raised in Wilmington, Bradley comes from a family of entrepreneurs—and that spirit of innovation permeates her every project, including the building of a barn that now holds the majority of her antiques collection. In 2012, she decided she needed space to house her many finds as well as a place to meet with clients to discuss interior design ideas, her area of expertise.
However, that wasn’t always the case. With a degree in marine biology under her belt and two kids off to school, Bradley got thinking about the next step on her career path. It just happened to coincide with the time when Martha Stewart was storming the home décor scene. Inspired, Bradley returned to school. “The education was really changing,” she recalls. “When I started, I was going to get a certificate in interior design, then it became an associate’s degree…then, I kept on going and got a bachelor’s.”
Today, she applies all of what she learned and her energenic spirit to her work in the barn, with her clients, at Pettengill Farm’s yearly Vintage Bazaars, in her interior designs at Vermont’s historic Sumner Mansion, and now in her new shop, Excentrique, which, in 1925, was home to the West Newbury Woman’s Club. After many incarnations, Bradley has renovated it in such a way as to stress architectural details. For example, she has called attention to what was once a stage by adding a mirror to the existing mantel, hanging a teardrop chandelier, opening the wall, and incorporating salvaged columns.
It’s such details that make the place hum. The drop ceiling has been filled in with a light joint compound, sanded, and painted first with a deep dark grey, and then two coats of Ralph Lauren silver. The highly irregular patterning gives it character, while the custom window treatments, re-stuccoed walls coated in textured paint, dropped flower boxes, and new awnings add depth to the ensemble. Architectural salvage and pieces in “the class of black” round out the assemblage. “I wanted to carry the concept of the barn into the store,” notes Bradley. And she did. The place is resolutely rustic chic.
Always on the hunt for unusual pieces, Bradley regularly scours the Brimfield Flea Market and Todd Farm. “I’ve been going to Brimfield for 20 years—it’s like a history lesson.” She also scopes out estate sales and auctions and taps into all the people she knows in the business. “I have my sources,” she laughs.
The store’s tagline, “Journey by Design,” came out of a conversation she had with her graphic designer. “Everybody has a journey,” says Bradley. “People don’t just start from scratch—they always have something they are taking along with them. So how do you take all those pieces and put it all together so that it works?”
Now a Hunter Douglas dealer, Bradley also works with local artisans to provide rugs, specialty painting services, and custom cabinetry in her effort to “put it all together” for clients. In combination with her own flea market findings—as well as the incorporation of natural elements such as the four varieties of pussy willows and winterberry that she grows on her farm—she develops design ideas and vignettes alongside those who come to her for direction. Believing good design does not need to be expensive, Bradley secures the trust of her clientele. “I like to save people money,” she says genuinely.
Out of an interest in floral arranging has grown yet another endeavor: B. Lucci Bradley Design, which she and her sister-in-law, Gretchen, are getting off the ground. So far, they have designed two weddings—one vintage-chic, the other gastropub themed. Bradley describes the latter, which took place at The Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport: Behind the house is a huge shipping container, which they camouflaged with drop cloths and big sections of distressed wood, four urns with birch branches cut from her property, fabric framing, and a chuppah—behind all of which moseyed the Merrimack River. It was a resounding success, one she hopes to repeat (though in a whole new way).
“It has just developed into different things,” says Bradley of her many forays. “Someone would come into the barn and ask if we do weddings…In my mind, there is no difference between designing the interior of a space and designing the interior of a tent.”
Meanwhile, back in the shop, a client pops in requesting that Bradley find a very specific dresser for her—and so the hunt begins anew. “That’s what it is all about,” she says, “finding those pieces.