Jennifer Owen’s example of her interior design talent, featuring works of art in oil on the wall by Jennifer Pazienza
INTERVIEW BY H. CANDEE
How do you manage to narrow down a person’s tastes in order to decorate their home to their satisfaction? Isn’t it a preliminary challenge for you? Jennifer Owen: Not really. After an introductory phone call then scheduling a two-hour consultation to discuss the details of the project, listening to the client and understanding their vision is the first step.
Tell me, Jennifer, how does it all work behind the scenes? What are the steps involved that you take with each unique client? Jennifer: Returning to my studio after a consultation armed with notes and photographs of the space, I set to work on pulling the story together. At that point, however, I already have a visual of how I feel the space should look and how I’d like to move forward.
I go to work pulling fabrics, paint colors, furniture, accessories, wallpaper, carpeting, and create a visual story. I then schedule a follow-up appointment with the clients for a presentation highlighting our vision.
Do you often have to work around the art work they want to keep on the walls? That must affect things to some degree, yes? Jennifer: Absolutely. Very often, clients will own a collection of artwork that is meaningful to them. So of course, that becomes part of the visual story. Most of us, over the years, have collected favorite objects such as artwork and I feel strongly that they should be incorporated into the new space. These objects often are inspiring to me as a designer.
I work with a lot of talented local artists. I’ve shown and sold their work over the years. Since opening my studio in the Berkshires, I’ve supported and featured local artists such as Rose Tannenbaum, Roselle Chartock, and Jennifer Pazienza to name a few.. We are fortunate to have an incredible creative community of artists in many different mediums. I’ve also used local artwork in my photoshoots for completed projects, which are then highlighted on my website.
A couple of years ago I purchased 12 vintage Harper’s Bazaar cover from a local antique store. I then took them to Frames on Wheels and together
we chose colorful frames for each individual cover. This created an amazing collection of 12 pieces, all of which were purchased by my clients.
Two pieces by Rose Tannenbaum are featured in the dining room of my client’s home in Boca Raton, FL. I selected the oil on canvas pieces and they work beautifully with the soft green-blue Farrow & Ball wall color.
Vintage Vanity Fair cover from 1930 was sought and framed by Roselle Chartock. It is now beautifully displayed in my client’s home in Stamford, CT.
Jennifer Pazienza is an extraordinary artist who resides in Canada and spends time in the Berkshires. I’ve used several of her pieces in my projects. Striking blue and yellow oil on canvas pieces are shown in a client’s home in Massachusetts. The colors are a perfect companion to the blue walls in the dining room. These are just three of the local artists I’ve worked with. All of the artists featured I met locally in our close-knit Berkshire community. Continued on next page...
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Jennifer Owen, interior designerThree examples of her work
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Jennifer looks at her color and pattern choices with Reid Stewart at Peter Fasano Fabrics and Wall Coverings in Great Barrington Photo: Tasja Keetman
Did you always know you would be enjoying the success of such a business you created? Jennifer: It’s almost happened magically. When you have a passion and you find your path, you tend to follow the path almost without realizing, and suddenly you’ve arrived! I’m so grateful for what I do every day.
What were the very early stages like when you first started? Jennifer: I worked for Persnickety, an interior design showroom in Rye, New York. I had a high volume of clients, which was exciting and fulfilling. After giving it a lot of thought I decided to branch out as an independent designer. I set up a homebased office and my long-time loyal friend and assistant at the time would work many weekends and evenings with me to cover the demands of running a small business. It was exciting and challenging at the same time.
When did you find it all getting easier? Jennifer: I wouldn’t say getting easier, but one does tend to develop a certain sense of “what to do”. The challenges are always present, however executing the projects with all the balls in the air always
leaves me with a sense of total fulfillment at the end of the day.
Your decorator’s eye is impeccable! What was for you the most challenging of jobs you have taken on? Jennifer: My client in Boca Raton. I took three trips to Florida to see the space and meet with her in person. It was a large home. We had to furnish it completely, including four children’s rooms. Working out the logistics for a long-distance project was challenging. Everything had to be shipped to a landing dock in Florida. I had to hire installers for window treatments, carpet, and new flooring and coordinate all of this with her contractor. At the end of the project my client was so happy with the results. She wrote to me: “I have to say, and I don’t know how much I’ve expressed it, I get never-ending compliments on my home. You did such a magnificent job!”
Do you ever get lost in the world of luscious fabrics and have sleepless nights deciding which are the best to choose? What magic formula do you lean towards using in such a case? Jennifer: I sometimes have sleepless nights thinking
about the excitement of pulling a color story together. I will often present my clients with three choices, but there are endless choices filled with design and texture, colors, and style. I have an incredible collections of samples in my studio, so I’m inspired daily.
By any chance, do you apply Feng Shui to any of your work when in the early stages to make sure the directions are clear where things should go? Jennifer: Yes. Feng Shui is a 2000-year-old Asian concept that works. For instance, when you’re hanging a mirror, always be conscience of what the mirror is reflecting. Placing a mirror to reflect the outside can bring in beneficial energy if the outside environment is positive, such as a beautiful garden or body of water.
How long can a job take, from start to finish? Jenn: I like to line up my ducks and stay focused until completion. The longest projects usually are completed within a year. On an average, 3-6 months.
Jennifer, tell us about where you grew up, went to school? Continued on next page...
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Jennifer: I grew up in the West Midlands in England. I developed a love of fabrics at a very early age. I went to an all-girls school and one of my favorite classes was sewing. We each had our own Singer sewing machine and we were given assignments. We chose our own fabrics!
I went on to live in Paris for three years and studied French at the Alliance-Francais. In terms of interior design, after spending many years in retail as a buyer in New York, I transitioned into the world of interior design and I did extensive training with the Interior Design Society.
How did you end up in the Berkshires? Jennifer: I initially spent weekends here and developed a love for The Berkshires and the energy it exudes. Then eight years ago I decided to move permanently.
And tell us about your family! Jennifer: I have two beautiful daughters who live in Harlem. They both work in the non-profit sector and are extremely creative in their own right. My oldest daughter Zanny works for a small foundation in New York as a Grants Administrator. My youngest daughter Becky, is a Dance
Framed vintage fashion magazine cover, a nice piece of artadded to Jennifer’s interior design plan
Movement Therapist and works with the elderly, facilitating therapeutic movement classes. They visit me often in the summer.
Getting back to your business, I just wonder, why is it better to hire you, then say, for me to do the work myself? Jennifer: The process of interior design and changing your home environment is extremely labor intensive. I have found in my career that many clients are looking for answers to get to their comfort level in terms of how their home looks and feels to them and consequently they tend to go in many different directions which leaves them frustrated. Hence, they seek professional help and immediately have a sense of “getting it done” with the guidance of a professional.
I remember several years ago a client of mine in Westport, CT hired me to redo the entire house. I recall my first appointment with her. All the walls were white and there were many areas that needed help. So, upon leaving the first meeting, I went to work on a color
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Jennifer knows her business!Photo: Tasja Keetman
story feeling a little daunted with all the white walls. The project was completed within a year and my last meeting with my client was bittersweet. We’d spend a lot of time together and she was in tears as we hugged goodbye and she said to me, “Jennifer, I never have to stop at Home Goods anymore. It’s such a relief. Thank you.”
There is so much involved in designing a home or place of business, etcetera… What skills must you be proficient at in order to complete the entire process? Jennifer: Listening. Organization. Follow-up. Meeting deadlines. Patience. It’s all about building and keeping relationships with other tradespeople so they have your back when you need them, and you have theirs.
Are there any rules you have made for yourself that you follow in your designing? We, as artists, often have distinct likes, dislikes, preferences and wishes. Do you have a set standard that makes you a distinctive designer? Jennifer: My design aesthetic is clean, transitional. Simple elegance at its best.
Where have you picked up inspirations along the way? Any one in particular, or any location? Jennifer: There are a lot textile designers that I love to use. William Morris’ arts and crafts style, Scalamandre
has an amazing mill in Italy that creates incredible fabrics, Nina Campbell, who designs fabrics and wallpapers for Osbourne & Little, Romo, one largest fabric houses in Europe, Farrow & Ball paints and wallpaper, located in the south of England.
What do enjoy best about your career, Jennifer? Jennifer: I go into client’s homes and I change their environment. That’s my spiritual mission.
You have won a great award, yes? I do know of the Best of Houzz Award, congrats! Tell us about it, please. Jennifer: I was awarded the “Best of Houzz Service Award” four years in a row. The Customer Service award honors are based on several factors, including a designer’s overall rating on Houzz and client reviews. It is a great honor to be recognized.
On your free time, what do you enjoy doing? Jennifer: I love to walk my two pups Harry & Oliver who bring much joy to my life, cycle, kayak and I love watching British murder mysteries. I’m inundated with interior design publications at all times! Do you have any great plans for the future? Traveling? An exciting idea you want to take on? Jennifer: A trip to Italy! My fantasy is to eat and drink (red wine) all the way through the provinces.
And of course, returning to Paris. A new renovation is always in the cards!
Thank you Jennifer!
Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. ~Andy Warhol
We relaunched our website this spring: www.designsbyjenniferowen.com You can visit our studio at 6 Railroad Street in Great Barrington next door to Karen Allen by appointment or by chance! Visit out Houzz page to see our most popular pictures and updated project images https://www.houzz.com/pro/designsbyjenniferowen