Brooklyn Decker on Helping Women Organize Their Closets with Finery, Her Love for Comedy & Why She Loves Living in Austin

By Kathy Blackwell | April 12, 2017 | People Feature

What can’t she do? As if being an actress, home designer, social media star, and philanthropist wasn’t enough, Austin’s Brooklyn Decker can now whip your wardrobe into shape, too.

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Like a rainbow: Linen culottes ($475) and belt ($150), Tibi. Kick Pleat, 624 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-445-4500. Infinite bandeau, Electric Feathers ($160). Sunroom, 1603 S. Congress Ave., 512-524-2197. Marble frame sunglasses, Linda Farrow ($650). Sunroom, see above. Jasper double ring, Quarry ($283). Kick Pleat, see above. Dalilow sandal, Christian Louboutin ($745). Saks Fifth Avenue, North Star Mall, San Antonio, 210-341-4111. Crinoline armchair, Patricia Urquiola (price on request). B&B Italia, 1009 W. Sixth St., Ste. 120, 512-617-7460

To know Brooklyn Decker, you simply have to scroll through her flawlessly unfiltered Instagram and Twitter feeds, and it’s all there. She’s a woman who embraces the goofy expression, the sans-makeup selfie, the sly political statement, and the occasional homage to bathroom humor.

"I joined Twitter in 2009 when I was exclusively modeling, and as a model at that time, you didn’t have a voice," says the former Sports Illustrated cover star over an afternoon cocktail at the sun-dappled South Congress Hotel bar. "People didn’t know who you were, so there were a lot of judgments made based [only] on image. I loved having a tool to say what I wanted to say. I see it as so liberating because you can just put yourself out there."

What started as a mode of self-expression is now a vehicle for her many passions. The actress, who stars in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, is her own interior designer for the West Austin home she shares with tennis champion Andy Roddick and their toddler, Hank. In between the red carpet photos you’ll find a sketch of a sink, a snapshot of newly installed windows, and a whimsical portrait of Decker, wearing all black, wrapped around her brand-new bath fixtures, a la John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Rolling Stone ("Hello, new bath taps. You are the Yoko to my John," reads her playful caption).

Decker’s followers (which on both channels combined surpass 1 million) also know that she has helped expand the philanthropic reach of the Andy Roddick Foundation, which provides after-school and summer programs for children from low-income families. And they recently followed along as she unveiled the new tech startup Finery, an app that virtually organizes your closet. Decker, the site’s chief design officer, and close friend Whitney Casey, founder and CEO, launched the "world’s first wardrobe operating system" in March during a media tour that included a panel at South by Southwest. "My day job—acting—is wonderful, and I love it," says Decker. "[But] when you’re tied to a show and you’re not working, you can’t really do anything else... so I have a lot of downtime in Austin. And while I love that, I get a little stir-crazy. I’m a bit of a workaholic."

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Easy, breezy: Nico long-sleeve maxi dress, Natalie Martin ($340). Sunroom, 1603 S. Congress Ave., 512-524-2197. Livi earring, Kendra Scott ($75). The Domain, 512-879-3174

In addition to Finery’s launch, spring also saw the third-season debut of Grace and Frankie. In the middle of this whirlwind, Decker turned 30 on April 12, a birthday the North Carolina native shares with her mother and maternal grandmother. Decker’s looking forward to her next decade: "I am having more fun as I’m getting older, so I’m excited about it. I’m in a really fortunate place right now, so going into 30, I have zero complaints."

Her role as Fonda’s daughter on the critically acclaimed Grace and Frankie solidified Decker’s transition from model to actress. With her quirky sense of humor, Decker is drawn to comedy and admires the work of women like Dolly Parton, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy. "That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m very good at it," she adds with a smile, "but I’ve found it to be a comfortable medium for me. I audition for dramatic parts, and I still find the comedy in scenes where it might be inappropriate but for me feels very natural."

Not only has the actress learned much on set from the seasoned cast, which also includes Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen, but being around the show’s powerful women has made an impact on Decker politically and professionally. "They’ve really set a standard for their work," she says of Fonda and Tomlin. "We’re in this really charged political climate, and they’re strong, iconic feminists, so it couldn’t be more fascinating to be on set with them during this time. They’re just incredible women to be around." She also enjoys a special chemistry with June Diane Raphael, who plays her sister, Brianna.

"[Raphael] is fiercely confident with what she throws out there, and sometimes it falls flat on its face, but she usually gets something great out of it," says Decker. "A lot of comedy is being fearless with what you throw out there, and it usually works. If you’re confident, people believe you."

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V-neck jumpsuit, Nomia ($450). Kick Pleat, 624 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-445-4500. Palm hat, St. Tropez ($78). Sunroom, 1603 S. Congress Ave., 512-524-2197. Modern Craft II earrings, Lizzie Fortunato ($196). Kick Pleat, see above. Corda clog, Reinhard Plank ($395). Sunroom, see above

Another role model in confidence is her husband, a former Grand Slam champion. "We approach things so differently. Where I can have a hard time with a scene or feel like I’m not making something funny enough, he’s like (here, she lowers her voice): 'Well, just make it funny.' He’s played tennis since the age of 3 or 4, so it’s second nature to go out and just do it. Where for me, acting's a fairly new skill set."

Decker also misses some of Roddick’s pop cultural references. Her parents didn’t allow her to watch television until they gave into her grandfather’s wishes and got basic cable when she was 14. While that might seem an unconventional background for a TV star, it doesn’t faze Decker, who is actually more surprised at the evolution of her home design "hobby" into a full-fledged, profitable passion. "It’s turned into this weird thing where Andy and I will get a house, and I’ll update it and then someone will want to buy it, even though we didn’t mean to sell. It’s like flipping, but unintentional flipping."

They have no immediate intention of selling their current home in Bee Cave, which they bought almost four years ago. In fact, they’re making changes with the future in mind, turning their master bedroom into a mother-in-law suite and adding a new master bedroom as well as renovating the kitchen and building a wine room ("drinking is a big hobby of ours in general," she jokes). After learning from interior designers on previous projects, Decker has now renovated three homes on her own and is building a vacation home in Cashiers, in her home state of North Carolina.

Decker fills her home with Austin treasures, including the work of ceramics artist Keith Kreeger ("We have so much of his work in our house, it’s actually embarrassing," she notes) and wallpaper by UT grad and floral photographer Ashley Woodson Bailey. She shops at Wildflower Organics for furniture, Mercury Design Studio for European paintings, and David Alan for rugs. For unique finds, she’ll hit Uncommon Objects on South Congress and the overwhelming maze of The Austin Antique Mall. Like all local design fanatics, she’s obsessed with the twice-a-year Original Round Top Antiques Fair in the Hill Country. "I moved to Austin from New York. When you’re used to New York antiquing, coming to Austin feels like a very reasonable shift—it’s a nice break from those New York prices."

Decker’s eye for design extends beyond home décor. In her role at Finery, she oversees the user experience and the design of the website. Although she loves fashion, the idea behind the site—to save busy women time and make the most of their clothing investment—is her big motivator. "I thought it was crazy that women will spend more money on their wardrobe than they’ll spend on their education, not because they love fashion, but because being naked isn’t an option," she reveals. "Even if you’re not a fashion lover you have to get dressed every day. Finery works behind the scenes to make your life easier. Women will spend two hours a week worrying about what to wear, and we want them to use that time working or getting a drink with friends or spending time with the kids, so the idea is that this will give you your time back. I don’t know why this hasn’t been done before."

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Modern muse: Hungry Caterpillar top ($1,395) and Wrap pant ($1,195), Rosie Assoulin. ByGeorge, 524 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-472-5951. Crater earrings, Lizzie Fortunato ($184). Kick Pleat, 624 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-445-4500. Tondalawrap heels, Manolo Blahnik ($645). Neiman Marcus, The Domain, 512-719-1200

Finery tracks the clothes you buy, helps you create a wish list, and even arranges for refunds when a recently purchased item goes on sale. It gives you outfit ideas based on the weather or an event on your calendar. Decker has wanted to work on a project with Casey since meeting her in Austin years ago. Casey is often in New York, which is where the Finery team is based. "The fashion technology hub is New York, so we want to be entrenched in that," Decker says.

Although Decker spends time in New York and Los Angeles, Austin is her home base. Over the past year or so, Decker, who is a longtime global ambassador for the Special Olympics, has become a much more visible presence for the Andy Roddick Foundation. What her husband started 17 years ago has morphed from raising money for other children’s charities to overseeing its own programming to help Austin kids when they’re not in school. It works with the Austin Independent School District, Austin Parks and Recreation, and other groups to create enriching experiences for children with limited resources. Decker has tapped into her creative connections like Kreeger, Woodson Bailey, and leather artisan Cambria Harkey to not only reach out to younger donors through events like an annual luncheon, but to share their talents with the kids as well. "Andy’s long-term vision is that ARF will be the go-to out-of-school program for all schools in the state of Texas," Decker confides.

For the next few months, she’ll commute to Los Angeles for the workweek with Hank, returning to Austin for the weekends. Although Mallory is a stay-at-home mom, Decker finds a lot to relate to in her character: "Her challenges are different because she’s a mother with no career and four children who is trying to find herself in her mommy-ness."

She adds: "Any new mom can completely relate to being overwhelmed by that responsibility, and the responsibility they have to themselves, their partner, and their profession or their life. It was really easy to connect to that."

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Categories: People Feature

photography by SHAYNA FONTANA. Styling by Cristina Facundo. Hair by Kelsey James using Oribe. Makeup by Erin Lee Smith using CHANEL Les Beiges at Atelier Management. Photo Assistance by Cecilia Alejandra. Location: Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Rd., 512-445-5582; umlaufsculpture.org. Interior photo taken at the Umlauf’s current exhibit, “Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett,” running through August 20.