The Power of Design with Jen Dallas
Jen Dallas is the founder of Jen Dallas, Inc. Jen melds sophistication and history in creating the design of each house project. Well versed in many periods and styles, she has a true appreciation for the old meets the new. She strives to add character throughout her well-chosen design details. In addition to site visits and client meetings, her studio has its own line of textiles and matching ceramic tiles. She also recently launched her own collection of lighting and is working on her own line of rugs and furniture debuting in 2024.
Listen to the full interview here.
ON THIS EPISODE
[01:14] Jen Dallas on what she’s most passionate about
[02:49] Jen Dallas on her Childhood
[03:18] Jen Dallas on how her dad's work as an artist impacted her
[04:59] Jen Dallas on how her childhood influenced her love of design
[05:37] Jen Dallas on passing her love of design to her son
[06:00] Jen Dallas on when she decided to make design a career
[06:48] Jen Dallas on where she studied design
[07:08] Jen Dallas on her first job after college
[07:41] Jen Dallas on the freedom of hotel and restaurant design
[08:46] Jen Dallas on moving to Los Angeles
[09:46] Jen Dallas on starting her own company
[10:50] Jen Dallas on her personal design style
[12:15] Jen Dallas on her process working with clients
[13:30] Jen Dallas on her product line
[14:44] Jen Dallas on her tiles
[15:59] Jen Dallas on the timeline from start t finish for creating a product
[16:38] Jen Dallas on where she sells her products
[17:08] Jen Dallas on her lighting line
[18:17] Jen Dallas on her other products in the works
[19:08] Jen Dallas on just going for it
[19:50] Jen Dallas on her the impact of HGTV on design
[23:45] Jen Dallas on the various roles of a designer
[24:57] Jen Dallas on working with contractors
[26:14] Jen Dallas on some success stories
[29:52] Jen Dallas on open concept designing
[30:39] Jen Dallas on her biggest professional challenge
[32:20] Jen Dallas on her favorite piece of furniture
[33:00] Jen Dallas on how COVID impacted her business
[33:54] Jen Dallas on her dream project
[35:09] Jen Dallas on her design influences
[36:11] Jen Dallas on the advice she would you go back and give her younger self
[36:35] Jen Dallas on her dream for women
[37:55] Jen Dallas on her collaboration with her partner
[40:13] Jen Dallas on her secret to a rewarding life
[41:16] Jen Dallas on her tricks to get back on track when she slips
[43:29] Jen Dallas on her definition of success
[44:22] Jen Dallas on her proudest career achievement
[44:55] Jen Dallas on the defining moment for starting her business
[45:27] Jen Dallas on her advice would for a young woman who wants to follow her passions
[46:38] Jen Dallas on the female in history she would be for a day
Passionistas: Hi, we're sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, the founders of The Passionistas Project Podcast, where we give women a platform to tell their own unfiltered stories. On every episode, we discuss the ways in which each woman is following her Passionistas, talk about how she defines success and explore her path to breaking down the barriers that women too often face.
Today we're talking with Jen Dallas, the founder of Jen Dallas, Inc. Jen melds sophistication and history in creating the design of each house project. Well versed in many periods and styles, she has a true appreciation for the old meets the new. She strives to add character throughout her well-chosen design details. In addition to site visits and client meetings, her studio has its own line of textiles and matching ceramic tiles. She also recently launched her own collection of lighting and is working on her own line of rugs and furniture debuting in 2024.
So please welcome Jen Dallas.
Jen: Thank you.
Passionistas: Hi Jen. Thanks so much for being here today.
We're really excited to, uh, talk to you. Uh, like we said before we started, I'm a design junkie, so I'm delighted to hear everything you have to say. Um, what are you most passionate about, Jen?
Jen: Um, I'm most passionate about building homes for people that bring out the best life for them, for themselves. It's such a gift to be able to be part of that process for people.
And I take it very seriously, but I also just have joy in it. So how do you do that? How do you tap into what someone really needs and wants and transform that? I. I'm a good interviewer. I'm a good question person. I ask a lot of questions and I'm really, I observe, you know, when those, that first interview, when I meet someone that's possibly gonna hire me, I look at their homes now, I, I look, I meet their family, I see their job or where, you know, how they live now.
And I take all that information and then it allows me to really have a platform to ask a lot of good questions. Like what works well for them now in their home or what could work better? Usually when people hire me, there's some kind of transition going on, whether it's a life change, you know, life cycle change.
Maybe it's an empty nester, maybe it's a new baby, um, maybe it's a divorce. I mean, there's lots of different life changes, right? Um, and so it's always really fun to. Help them figure out what's gonna make their life better. And the environment's so huge in giving better quality of life.
Passionistas: So let's take a step back. Tell us where you were born, what your childhood was like. Were you a artsy, craftsy kid? How did you get interested in this?
Jen: I grew up in Chicago and um, my dad's an art was art teacher. And um, my mom was always very encouraging of me in my art. And I was always an art kid. I was always in the back of the classroom drawing pots after school or drawing or painting, or I just grew up that way.
Oh, and then I just always loved houses, you know, old houses.
Passionistas: How did your dad's work as an artist impact you directly?
Jen: You know, he, he, he just was growing up. I, we always had like creative things. I mean, I was a child of the seventies, so, you know, we just had these huge paintings. Whether he did them, his friends did 'em, they would trade paintings back and forth or art installation.
So I was always around all this creativity dinner parties for my parents. Um, you know, just different creative types. I was around that my whole life. In fact, I loved that I was a child of the seventies cause I felt like it really gave a lot to me during that time in history. And, um, the books he would read and share or the books he would encourage me to read.
Um, always giving me art supplies. You know, to this day I'm a total art supply junkie.
Passionistas: Our dad was a graphic designer and we always had, he always let us use his like really nice markers and paper and so we we're the same way. If you get me near a set of colored markers, I'm like a crazy woman.
I could spend a day walking around an art supply store and just looking at everything.
Yeah. Yeah. My dad used to have the whole sets of Pantone markers that had like the, you know, the tiered steps of all the, oh, the best. Yeah.
Jen: And like you, my, my Nancy, your back wall. That, that you're on my par. My dad always had bright colored walls and giant paintings on them. So, you know, again, your environments encourage you. Right?
Passionistas: So how, how did that, how did those childhood experiences help you see that design was a component of a loving home in a comforting place to be?
Jen: It always added. Just to my inspiration as a person, you know, just like seeing pretty things or seeing different things and adding to my curiosity as a kid.
Um, which I love cuz as a child growing up in that kind of environment and then encouraging that kind of thought, you know, you have that seven year, you know, I'm a parent. So that seven, first seven years is so vital and encouraging kids to see that way to, to view the world that way. And my parents did a good job with that.
Passionistas: And are you passing that along to your children as well?
Jen: Yeah, my son, um, very much so. Yeah. So it's really fun to watch him and, and he is curious about the world and he loves photography and he loves to paint and he loves to see pretty things. And, um, yeah, and he, he appreciates pretty things.
Passionistas: So when did you decide to make design a career?
Jen: I think I was about nine years old. And my mom, I've told this story a few times, but my mom always would hear me moving furniture around in the middle of the night and she'd say, Jennifer, what are you doing? Like, you know, and I'm like, I just didn't want my dresser on this wall anymore. Like it needed to be over there.
So I was always really sensitive about spacial things, even as a kid, you know? And um, and I always love. The fresh energy. Now I know it's the energy, right? Like when you move things around in your home, are you clean or are you organized? How much better it feels, you know? So I think I'm that kind of junkie when it comes to like moving things around.
I'm still to that. My son laughs me cause I'm always moving, rearranging.
Passionistas: So did where did you study? Did you study at university or?
Jen: I studied at, um, it's called a more College of design. It's part of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. So I moved from Chicago, down in Nashville and I, um, got a bachelor's degree and a minor in graphics, which I've always been fond of.
Passionistas: And then what did you do after graduation? What was your first job?
Jen: I moved back to Chicago and I worked for the Getty Group, which is a hospitality firm, so we did hotels, um, and then of course under the umbrella hotels, we did spas and restaurants, and that was my thing. During college, I wanted to be a restaurant hotel designer, so I just went for it. And I did that for about almost four years before I moved to LA.
Passionistas: It seems like there's a lot of freedom in restaurant and hotel design, like you get to be super creative. Things that you wouldn't necessarily put in someone's home.
Jen: Absolutely, yeah. Um, just in, in terms of all the jobs that I've had or the opportunities I've had, how it always, it's, they've all led up to me being where I am now. And you don't see it in the moments, right? You don't see it during the time. You're just kind of putting your first, you know, your foot in front of the other in the next few steps, right?
But it's cool cuz now doing the residential job that I do now in LA it's all about having that kind of hospitality hotel experience, that luxury event. You know, um, relaxation you want in your home. So it's really cool to have that experience behind me too. Yeah.
Passionistas: Looking at your website, you can tell that that's a part of what you do is give people that just that peacefulness, but that luxury and your work is beautiful.
We'll put a link in the. On, you know, in all of this so that people can check out your work. It's spectacular. Um, so what, what was the decision? Why did you decide to move to LA?
Jen: Um, my husband, uh, was an editor, film editor. He wanted to do more commercial work and I just always wanted to move to California, you know, being in the middle of the country, I just wanted, I desired the ocean.
I desired a coast. So we moved out here and, um, I had actually, when I lived in, when I was in Chicago before we moved out here, I was, I was actually sending emails and I didn't know it at the time, but I was sending emails to this, um, This head hunter, and they never responded to me. And I sent to a few of 'em, but this one I never, they never responded to me, but they were literally, I found out later they were pulling my emails into a folder on their desktop because they didn't have the right job for me, and I wasn't in this LA yet.
So they were doing that. And um, and then when I moved here, I reached out to them and I said, I'm here. I'm in la. You know, can we meet up? And just always had the hope that I knew something was gonna happen.
Passionistas: And so then when did you decide to strike out on your own and start your own company?
Jen: I've been on my own for about 15 years. Mm-hmm. I worked, when I first moved here, I was hired by, uh, a designer named Chris Barrett, who, um, had just gotten the jobs in the standing Secret Ranch in Santa Barbara, which is a beautiful hotel from the fifties. Right. And they're all individual homes. So they needed a residential designer because they were all individual homes, and that was her, that's her forte is hiring residential.
But she needed a hotel designer to help her on that job. So she hired me for two weeks, um, just to help her get through the job, but she never let me go. Like we were doing this two week temp thing and then I ended up working for her for about, uh, close six years. Until I had my son. And then I used my son as an, you know, I wanted to have my own schedule and I wanted to do my own thing with him.
And, um, so I went on my own.
Passionistas: The longest two weeks in history, huh?
en: He's still a friend.
Passionistas: So, describe your personal design style.
Jen: My personal design style is very clean and edited. Um, I love space around things. I think things show and are more beautiful with space around things, although I completely appreciate collections and, um, but I think in my, my aesthetic, I can enable, I can help people keep things clean and organized just in the way it's, it's designed.
I like to have a place for everything. Um, but I also like to be able to look at things, and you can only do that when you have space around things. Um, and I also, my, my love again is really reaching into the hearts of my clients and finding out what's important to them. I like a whole to feel like it's theirs.
And they use me as a tool that way to enable them to do so. But I think it's really, I feel it's greatest compliment when it's beautiful and it's done and they're so happy and they feel so at home, in their home. Um, and that's my love. Like, I love digging and asking good questions and finding out how I can create that for them. So yeah, that's maybe not the aesthetic part of my design, but it's a big key as part of my design.
Passionistas: So talk about that. You, you get hired, you meet the client, and you really dig into what they're all about. So what's the process? How do you work with them from start to finish?
Jen: So, I'm also, so I, I, I meet them. I just to find out more about them. What's their values like, what do they value? What do they love? What do they, um, what do they desire to work better for them? You know, how they're work. How does their house work well for them? Now, how would they love their new, whether renovating or building some, a new home for them?
How would that help them and how would it, um, add to their quality of life? And, um, and again, I, I shared, you know, usually there's some kind of new life stage that they're going through when they hire someone like me and just finding out whether it's a new baby, um, or just getting married or, um, and just asking some good questions about that.
And I'm just also very observant just in how they live, where they are living, whether it's their current house or their temporary house, whether they're waiting to get into their new house or, and, um, just being observant too, I think.
Passionistas: So you also have your own line of lifestyle products. Um, I would imagine that plays into your original graphic design, you know your design background as well. So what inspired you to start that collection? How did that all come together?
Jen: So one of my desires from a, when I was young was just have my own products. I would make envelopes outta gift wrap and I would make, you know, I was kinda crafty kid. Um, so I would make different things. So I've always liked to make my mark on things.
And so, and also being an interior designer, it's kind the next nice fun step to have your actual products. Cause one of parts for me in my job is seeing start to finish and if you have a product, you have a shorter time span cause you get to see it. Right. And, um, so, um, Perry Hilderman, who has worked for me for 12 years, She's one of, she's my best friend.
We're, uh, we call ourselves the dynamic duo. Um, we, we partnered on that and to give her something to give back, you know, for her to have her own thing too. And it was fun to do it with her. And we hand all of our patterns. Here in our Santa Monica studio and, um, we went from doing fabrics to doing ceramic tiles.
Um, and then we make dog beds, tea towels, table runners, tablecloths, um, out of all of our fabrics. And we're also in the trade showroom here in the Pacific Design Center.
Passionistas: That's amazing. So, so talk about the process of creating a product, like pick one, like a tile. Like how, what's the process from start to finish of doing that?
Jen: I love that you asked about the tile because it's kind of a funny story. I, we were drawing one day and I came up and it's our pattern stellar and I was just drawing the pattern and I.
Perry, this would be an amazing ceramic tile. And she's like, it would, and then we're tile and she's like, I do tile or tile. Do one or two steps in front of you and just kind. You know, when you're passionate about it, you just find out about it and you find out how to happen, make it happen for yourself.
And so we did. And um, we make all of our tile now in Mexico, but we're actually looking to bringing it to the US so our tile's, um, changing a little bit in terms of how we're making it, but we're really excited about it. We're doing some new and like figuring out new weight processes of having it made here in the us.
Passionistas: And how long is the process from like start to finish? If you come up with an idea for a product to actually see it in your hand, hold it in your hands.
Jen: It's funny, we do candles now and I came up with that idea like, we're just gonna do candles. So we started make, and that process probably took from us deciding to do it until one made maybe five weeks.
Mm-hmm. Wow. That's kinda a quick one though. Like the tiles probably took Koon back and forth and, and, and, and making the colors right. And the, um, that probably took like three or four months.
Passionistas: And now are the products, um, you use them, I assume you use them in your design work, and do you sell them on your site? Are they available in retail outlets? What's the distribution?
Jen: We, um, sell everything on our, on our Maple jude.com site. Mm-hmm. And, um, we have a few retail places, um, majority in California that are listed on our site. Mm-hmm. And, um, yeah, I mean it's majority on our website. We're trying to be a more e-commerce.
Passionistas: And you recently launched a lighting, uh, collection, right? So tell us about the inspiration behind that.
Jen: Very excited about that. Um. It literally, I was eating dinner by myself one evening at a restaurant and I started drawing in a napkin. And I know it sounds so cliche, but I was drawing in a napkin and I got really excited.
And I, and the whole inspiration for my first collection is puzzles and how like, um, puzzles fit together in the spaces between the shapes. And so I was just drying them and, um, came up with, um, different designs. And then I talked to a vendor of mine that I've been working with on custom lining for years and years and years, and we've decided to collaborate.
Um, and it's been great. And, um, one thing led to another and I did, I did another collection called the Eclipse Collection, which is more about moons and celestial, um, objects and. It's been really fun. And again, I just follow my heart in like something that I love to do and I just put it out there and see where it takes. But it's really fun.
Passionistas: That's amazing. And do you have any other products in the works that you've, that you have in your head that haven't come, come to fruition yet?
Jen: Yeah, I actually have a rug, um, a licensing deal with a rug company that I've been working on. Some rugs we're doing outdoor rugs. There's a lot of outdoor rugs right now, but, and I use them a lot of projects, but a lot of 'em are more just solid.
They're not, not a lot of patterns. And so I'm taking my hand sketching look like I do with Maple and I'm putting it in rugs. And so that's probably gonna launch by the end of next year, 2024. And I also, on my drawing board, have furniture in mind. So I'm working on a few pieces of furniture that I hopefully will get a furniture collection going.
Passionistas: Wow. I love that. You just, you have an idea and you go for it. It seems like you don't let anything stop you. Um, where do you think that comes from in you? Has that always been how you have operated?
Jen: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don't, I guess I just don't understand why it wouldn't work or why, why It's like planning a trip.
Like I, I just go, okay, I'm gonna go to Europe. Let's just figure it. Let's just go. I mean, it's that kind of mentality or like feeling in your body or you're like, I'm gonna do this. I really wanna do this. This feels really good and exciting, so I'm gonna put it out there and make it happen for myself.
Passionistas: So I have a question. As a designer is the HGTV, home decorating DIY craze? That is huge and has been for a long time now. Is that a help or a hindrance to someone who's a designer?
Jen: It's funny. I think I've just, I mean, I've been doing this for a long time now. I've been on my own for 15 years and I had probably 10 years before that. And when it first was coming, the CRA and stuff, it was really kind of annoying to be honest.
Mm-hmm. Because it's like everybody can be that. But I mean, thanks to the internet, I think that's kind happened with a lot of careers. Right. Cause it's opened our world, it's gotten so much bigger. And, um, I also, I just, so the HGTV was kind of annoying and I did start watching it. Because I was curious and I think it's interesting.
I think it really verses people in different design, but I also think it hinders us because it makes it seem like it's so fast and there's just no way you can make a room happen that fast. So I think it gives people a false perception of like the timeline. So that makes it hard. People are really into watching HGTV.
So it just really takes time for me to really educate my clients on the process and be just a good communicator on, you know, how it's gonna happen, what to help manage their expectations of time.
Passionistas: I assume they still, you know, I, I was a graphic designer in my former profession long before The, Passionistas Project. Um, and you know, with the advent of computers, it was like, oh. I have, you know, I have Adobe Illustrator and I have Photoshop, so I'm a designer now, and it's like, no, you still need a certain taste level and a certain, you know, skills with color combinations and things like that. So I would assume you face that thing too, where everyone's like, oh, I can, you know, I know exactly what I want and I can pick things out, but they still need you for the, the taste level and the aesthetic of it.
Jen: All right. Yeah. And I, I think there's so many of us out there, right? There's so many different designers, but I think we're, there's enough work for everyone. And I think that you're gonna be aligned with different clients that other designers aren't. I mean, that's why we're all different, right? And, um, I think the, really, that's a total key part of being a really great designer, is just having that aesthetic and understanding how it all works.
Um, but it's also important, I mean, I kind of feel like I wear different hats during the day where I wear that hat, which is fun. Hats the sled cat, figuring out what's gonna look good and how, and then my other hat is like a therapy hat, right? To help people understand what it is, what do they want. And sometimes people are really in touch with that and some people times they're not, you know?
And, um, hence why they hired someone like me. And then they also need someone that's very honest. Yes, it's gonna work. No, it's not gonna work. And this is why. And, and I feel like as more, when I put that hat on, the more honest I am, the more trust that my clients give me. Cuz they know I'll give them a no or, or as well as I'll give them the yes in the right situation. Yeah, it's interest.
Passionistas: That was exactly the next question I was gonna ask you is about the, all the different roles, um, having just. Remodeled a garage to be my office. And, and it's an emotional thing, you know, even just like going through your things and saying what you wanna keep and what you wanna get rid of. And, um, so I can imagine that that's such a huge part of what you do. And, and also you kind of have to be a, um, a financial advisor and controller too, right?
Like there's a lot of responsibility to stay in budget and. It's so easy once you start designing and even just on a personal level, just like, oh, now I need to get pillows for the couch. And so, you know, the, the level of just management and accounting that you have to do must be incredibly intense.
Jen: It's interesting cuz one thing that I've learned over the years is that I spend one or two meetings just dreaming with my clients. It's really important that you don't start from a lack perspective.
And I don't mean that by like, we gotta spend all this money, I mean it in like a dream perspective because you can't be in the money part of your brain and the dreamy creative part of your dream mind at the same time. Impossible. And a lot of times clients stay in the money side, which of course, totally appropriate.
But you also to get ultimately what you want, you have to dream big and you have to evaluate, and you have to think about those ideas of what you can, what you want. And then we take it from there, and then we figure out the budgets and then we stage it. Sometimes we do one room at a time, sometimes, and I help prioritize with what they're gonna get the most out of in terms of what I understand is important to them.
But it's very key. We started in the dream place first. And then we work through all the budget, of course, make it work for them.
Passionistas: We’re Amy and Nancy Harrington and you’re listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Jen Dallas.
To learn more about her interior design work, shop her Maple Jude products and see her new lighting fixture lines visit jendallas.com.
Now here’s more of our interview with Jen.
Do you work with contractors at well to as well to get everything done from start to finish?
Jen: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, my jobs are, um, you know, like more, uh, new construction is usually with an architect. Or a builder. And um, and then there's different levels of jobs where it's more like, let's just do a fixer upper here or a cleanup here. And it might be a builder that suggests me, or I also have all my own subs. So, let's see, a client comes to me and they're like, I just wanna redo my countertops and a new back splash.
And I have the people, the title people, the electricians, the plumbers to come and help. Um, I've been in business long enough now that I have some really good trades that I trust, that I know gets my aesthetic, that I can just let 'em go and I know that they're gonna do what I want, which is really nice.
That is so critical. It's so hard to find people that. You can really rely on and that, you know, you can bring in on the big jobs.
Passionistas: Um, so do you have like one or two success stories of homes that you worked on where you really feel like you've maybe delivered even more than the person had anticipated in their dream, in their dream conversations with you?
Jen: Yeah, there's a couple, one I just finished here in Santa Monica. He has a very modern house, very, very modern house. And, um, he, he's not a modern guy and they chose this house and he has always felt he likes it. You know, it's a, it's great house, but it's not aesthetic. It's not warm, you know, it's hard lines, hard materials.
And one of my most passionis and passionis is the, I always call it the old new house because I love to take an old house or a new house and make it feel like it has character and make it feel like it has layers, um, over time. Right? I mean, it's my favorite thing to do. And, um, he was just so perfect.
For me when I hired him that way, like, like, oh my God, he totally gets it. Like, I can do this with this modern house. So we did, um, we essentially rearrange the walls in some bedrooms. We renovated a bathroom. And in the hall, in the, it's on the upper floor, so the staircase has like a two, three story house.
So when you come to the upper floor, which is really the main floor of the house, it had like half walls and glass guardrails and um, and um, I put in Wayne's coating, painted wains coating. So I kept it painted so it feels fresh and clean still. But it's just got some warmth to it with a lot more wood in there than just drywalling glass.
And, um, we remodeled the bathroom, which was very more, for lack of a better word, Ikea, with just like really, you know. Clean straight lines and boxed vanity and you know, and glass. A lot of glass. And I did tile and I did beautiful white tile with blue keystone. And we did a waves coat in there too of this white ans tile.
And we did, but we, he found an old mirror in his trip to New York from the Flatiron building. It's this copper. Um, and so just the juxtaposition of the old and the new, which I love, and it just helped make this modern house feel so much better, you know, just having these layers to it, and he's so happy.
He loves it. And, um, and then at the very end of the project, which I thought we were done, I, I su, I had found this old window and um, and I suggested we add it. Um, there was this half wall that starts family room portion of the house and I, it's just above the staircase and I added it so it enclosed the room more.
So it wasn't this huge open floor plan anymore. And again, creating these more intimate spaces out of a big, large, modern floor plan. And he loves it. And it was such a fun thing that he was like, yeah, do it. So I got to do it. And he still loves it and he's very appreciative of it, but I think it really gave him a house he loves.
Passionistas: It's so interesting talking about HGTV earlier. I think that's the great curse of HGTV is that it has encouraged everybody to, to do open floor plans. And I think those are lovely when they are appropriate. But I also have heard that during Covid a lot of people started to put walls back up because now everybody was working from home and they needed their space.
So I love, I love that idea of designing to also close off and give. People, the, the dedicated spaces that they need.
Jen: Yeah. And I think if everybody's different with what they require and what they want, but I think majority of my clients, they'll come to me with the plans that are, you know, like these floor plans and I'll look at them and sometimes the spaces just don't feel livable.
They feel too big or there's not, how do you furnish it? How do you add the wall window covering? You know, and so I think that's why there's such a great layer of having a designer on board. Cause we look, we just have different things we're focused on, you know, and, and I think that's one of the keys of being a good designer, is just helping someone live in their new spaces and figure out how they're gonna use them.
Passionistas: So what would you say was, um, has been your biggest professional challenge and how did you overcome it?
Jen: Or maybe I just keep, maybe it's still a challenge. Um, what's my biggest challenge? Uh, I think one of the biggest challenges is, um, just the, I think it's very key when you buy upholstery. You buy any kind of furniture that people sit in it.
You sit in it, you sit in it, and you sit in it and you really experience it. Don't buy it off the internet. It might be super simple to do and easy to do. And during Covid, I think we all were like, What other choice we had, we couldn't go anywhere. Right. But I really, really encourage my clients to sit in everything and try them out.
And even when I do custom furniture, I do sit tests, like I let people sit on 'em. We just do it with muslin. We don't do the final upholstery and we let people sit on it. So I think one of my biggest challenges is people wanting to buy things quick and wanting to buy, you know, things off the internet and not having seen it.
And even when you look at the scale and lighting stuff, sometimes it's just huge. You know, it's, it doesn't represent the pictures you don't represent. It can look this big, but it's really this big. So scale is big for me, and I think a lot of times when you, or comfort, and a lot of times when you buy things online, you're, you're not tapping into those parts that are really key to the success of it being implemented into your home.
Passionistas: How about you? What's your own personal piece of furniture that you love the most in your house that you kind of sink into at the end of a long day?
Jen: Um, it's my sectional in my TV room. It's. I love it so much. I just like curl up in it. It's just key that you have a comfortable sofa, you know, and it could cost a little more money.
t's not, you know, but it's worth it. Cuz I think, um, you know, in terms of just wearability and, um, sustainable, you know, pieces to be able to reupholster it later because, you know, you bought a key piece that'll last. I think that's, that's, I feel responsible for that. Like, I really wanna be better about that. And not just throwing in a landfill.
Passionistas: Yeah. We've, we've mentioned COVID a few times. How did that affect your business?
Jen: I was the busiest I've ever been during COVID, and I think it's because we were all home and we had time. We had the bandwidth to think about like our design projects and stuff, and I just had the best time.
Like I was so busy and I had a great time and I got to like really fulfill um, some good, um, solutions for people that have, we've been talking and talking, talking, trying to do it and then they just nailed it. Um, so it was fun. It was actually a great busy time for me. I think a lot, I've talked to a lot of designers cause I'm friends with, you know, we talk a lot and um, it was very much that way, I think across the board.
Passionistas: Do you have a dream project that you wish someone would come to you with, uh, castle and ask you to, you know, like is there anything like that, that you just would love to do someday?
Jen: I love, um, and I've had the opportunity to do a couple, um, I love larger properties with acreage and whether it's a old home that we renovate and then we add other buildings, um, I did, I worked on a project for about eight years in Lexington, Kentucky.
We renovated the guest house and then we built a brand new home for the client. And then we renovated a barn and we did a couple new barns and a party, barn and greenhouse. And it was amazing. It was absolutely amazing. Um, and, um, I started another one here in Solvang, California. And those are the whole, those are the jobs I absolutely love and I excel at.
Cause I, I can see I'm a big picture person so I can see it all and how all the billings are being used and implemented. And I've had a lot of experience with it now. And so I'm kind waiting for the next one. Um, but I also, I mean, nothing's too small for me too with the right client. I have clients that I love, that I've touched every part of their home, and they come back, whether they get a new home or they have a life change and they have a new baby and they need to renovate this or that, and I love those.
Passionistas: Who are some of your, uh, design influences?
Jen: Um, there's, over the years, I think I, there's Bunny Williams. Susan Kassler in, um, Atlanta. Um, you know, I get my inspiration from architects, you know, like Frank Geary. Cause I always loved how he was so like, he's like all over the place, but the, how he makes things work, even though his materials are just outrageous.
Just the inspiration from that. I'm still really old school and I get probably 12. Subscriptions to magazines, and I still sit there at night and I go through my magazines. I'm just a tangible like paper person, so I love the Pinterest, but for different reasons. Like I really like my magazine being, and I'm inspired by many designers that I see on the pages now.
Mm-hmm. There's just so many now, you know, it's hard to name them all.
Passionistas: What advice would you go back and give your younger self?
Jen: To not take things so seriously? But no, everything always works out. You know, we think everything's like so serious when we're younger, and the older I get, the more I'm more laid back about it, know it all works out.
And I think I would've, you know, a lot of anxiety would've been released early on if I would've just done that.
Passionistas: What's your dream for women?
Jen: My dream for women is that, you know, they just embrace who they are. They celebrate who they're. That, um, we are, we're heard. That we don't quiet ourselves, you know?
And as I'm getting older too, that's been a blessing. You know, I would've talked to my younger self about too, not hold back, not be peace. Not trying to keep peace. There's times where we need to be heard and we need to roar and we need to say, Hey, that's not right, that doesn't feel good. Or that, you know, I don't want that.
You know, and there's been many times when I was a younger child, I was more, you know, keep the peace, everything's gonna be good, and. And I think we're just nurturers that way and that we've always, you know, or at least I can speak for myself, kept the peace. And by speaking up, it's not that you're not keeping the peace.
That's what I've learned. I'm just owning myself and taking care of myself.
Passionistas: Um, you mentioned earlier your collaborator and partner in the Maple and Jude, um, line. What is that sisterhood that you have with her mean to you, and how do you think that collaboration with another woman has helped you professionally and personally?
Jen: Oh, so much. I mean, she, like my chosen sister, as you said, sisterhood. It's totally her. She's my chosen sister. She goes beyond, she has chosen family. Um, We find it a great blessing every day that we get to hang out together, we get to launch together, we get to run ideas by each other. We, we have our nose to the grindstone together, getting it all done.
Um, but I think that we also just appreciate ourselves, appreciate each other as people. Like we can just be people like, today, I'm tired today, you know, and we get it. You know, we're not trying to be everything. Every day, you know, like we can, we're just patient with one another. We allow each other, we allow each other to be ourselves.
And, um, it's relaxing. And it's just so nice when you have your own tribe that allows you just to be who you are when you find that. And she's definitely that for me. And, um, and we have a lot of fun. I mean, we just have really good time. We laugh all the time and we listen to music all the time. We're about songs and art and, you know, beauty products you, so it goes beyond work.
Passionistas: That's beautiful. I love that. I mean, Amy and I obviously have that boat. We're actual sisters. But that's what we love about The. Passionistas Project is we're trying to build that sisterhood between everyone in our community. So it's nice, nice to hear that. You know, women supporting women, we love it.
Jen: Um, it's fun cause when I'm with Perry, I think we're stronger together. I think people are, are tracked to it cause they feel our energy together. And, um, we get that a lot and we, everybody thinks we're sisters and occasionally they think I'm her mother, which I don't like. It's ok if I could be her mother, I would.
Passionistas: Yeah. We get that a lot. They, um, they, they, if they think we're twins, then no, we're just, no, we're just sisters.
Jen: But, um, yeah, it's a beautiful, beautiful relationship and it's great to have that support. And, um, and it'll be lifelong. We'll be together forever, you know? Yeah, yeah.
Passionistas: So what's your secret to a rewarding life?
Jen: Whew. That's a good question. Um, I think, I think ultimately for me, it's just to be present. It's about being in the moment. Not thinking too far past. Towards the past, not thinking too far ahead. We can get joy in both, right? But just being present and enjoying your life in this moment is huge for me. It's huge. And just I'm an optimist. Um, And so I find just great joy in the smaller things, and I think that brings me a lot of happiness and just being appreciative of small things, whether it's, you know, the way the ice tea tastes today to, you know, the sun's out to, you know, I think that appreciation and the little things and then just being present in the now are huge.
Passionistas: When you find that you slipped from that. Do you have any tricks that you use to get yourself back into that positive space?
Jen: Um, when I slip from that, I allow myself to be slick. I'm like, okay, I've slipped. I'm feeling, you know, and you know, I have this joke with my son and now he is starting to say it.
But, um, there's something truth about, um, faking it till you make it right. And there'll be moments where, you know, and I'm not saying I ignore my feelings. I am all about feelings and, and going through them and going through the motions and making sure you're okay and all of those. But you get to a point where you're like, okay, I, I, I'm sad about this, or I'm angry about this, and you just gotta let it go.
It's, you gotta move on from it because otherwise you'll just stick, you'll, and your brain will just spin on it and you'll, your monkey mind will have a great day with it, but you'll feel horrible. So a huge step in wanting to take care of myself and self-care is just a lot, you know, going, okay, I'm gonna allow myself to be set about this for X amount a day, 10 minutes, or whatever.
It's, and then move on, you know? Cause there's a lot of things we have no control over anyway. Right. But I tease my son about it because I'll say there's also something about if you're upset about something and I can't let it go if I'm angry or whatever, I'll say's. So physical activity about like shifting and changing your physical energy really helps lift you outta that too. So I always experiment with that.
Passionistas: It's like the moving the furniture, right? It shifts shit in here. Yeah, it's, but it works. Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Jen: Yeah. You are where you wanna be. And it's so true. If we just take responsibility for where we are, where we, how we feel, where we are, our circumstance, we'd be a lot better off.
Cause we would shift, we would change, we would beg better choices if we just take responsibility instead of looking out there, check in with ourselves.
Passionistas: What's your definition of success?
Jen: Success for me, you know, going back to my whole thought process about being present and in the now is ultimately is that, I mean now it sounds really simple, but I think I get the most out of my life when I'm just present in each day and I take each day as they come not to get preachy.
Um, But just to be in those moments, you know? And to have that freedom of mind where you're clear and you're okay. Cause you've taken care of yourself, you've done what you've needed to do. You know, the days that clear, that clarity of mind to me is a success for me. Like just being able to know I'm good and everybody I love and cared for is good and, you know, have good work to do just like that.
Does that make sense?
Passionistas: Absolutely, absolutely love that. Um, what's your proudest career achievement?
Jen: Um, I'd have to say starting my own thing, starting my own studio is my proudest. Um, I have, I have other ones with, you know, the product lines and things, but I think my proudest is I just went for, I did it. I always tell my son that he was my good luck charmer.
He's the one that pushed me to do it. And it, it was that life change that made me. Push to do it. I'm just so grateful that I didn't.
Passionistas: Why was that moment the defining moment for you to start the business? Did you want more flexibility?
Jen: I loved who I was working for and I loved where I was working. Um, but I wanted freedom. You know, I thought I would always be that person that would, you know, work even though I had a baby and. But you see that face, you fall in love with this little person and you're, and I was like, oh, I can't leave him. I, I wanna, I wanna stay home with him. I want my flexibility and, and hence I started the studio.
Passionistas: What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to follow her passions and go out on her own?
Jen: I would, um, I mean, I think. A big part of helping me do that was from the time I stopped when the time I was in college, I learned everything I could about the business. I worked in drapery, workrooms to furniture stores, to for, for, um, furniture reps, to tile shops.
Like I learned the business, like all the different avenues you can go, and that really helped, you know, it's just like building that. That experience. Um, and that just gives you so many different opportunities. Cause then you also know a lot of people and it helps you build and get different jobs and you never know how all that's gonna add up for you.
Um, and I just, I always say just follow your heart. Like if that's on you and you're an entrepreneur and you know it, and this is what you're called to do, then there's a reason why you were given that there's a reason why you feel that way. Um, and don't spite yourself. Do it because there's a reason why you have that.
Passionistas: So one last question for fun. Um, if you could pick one woman in history or a female pop culture icon and walk in her shoes for one day, who would you choose and why?
Jen: You could laugh with, the first person that comes to mind is Amelia Earhart, and I just think she's extraordinary, you know, and to fly and to do, I mean, Hello. That would've been a That would, I would love a day in her life.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Jen Dallas. To learn more about her interior design work, shop her Maple Jude products and see her new line of lighting fixtures. Visit JenDallas.com.
And be sure to visit ThePassionistasProject.com to sign up for our mailing list, find all the ways you can follow us on social media and join our sisterhood of women coming together to explore their passions and find their purpose.
We'll be back next week with another Passionista who is defining success on her own terms and breaking down the barriers for herself and women everywhere.
Until then, stay well and stay passionate.