As a small business doing our best to navigate the realities of a global pandemic, we love any chance for a feel-good moment and this story brings us so much happiness to share. Each season we shoot a real house to be featured in our catalog and this spring we were lucky enough to capture the home of our very own Brand Manager Jenny, who along with her husband David, welcomed their first child into the world less than one week ago.
Set in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, their home is filled with love and truly thoughtful design and intention. Read our interview with Jenny below (which took place less than one day before she gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby!) to get her ethos-driven design advice, at-home soundtrack and post-COVID life predictions.
Let’s start off with a huge congrats to you! You’re just weeks away from having your first baby. How are you feeling with everything that is going on right now? (editor's note: baby is here!)
Thank you! I’m feeling so many disparate things at the same time...thrilled to welcome our first little one. And also acutely aware of the wild world that he or she will be coming into. Sad to be extra isolated from family and friends both in these past weeks and the weeks, or months(?), to come. Grateful to have a cozy home to be hunkered down in and that it is SPRING. So glad to have the extra light, blooms and fresh signs of life. Generally trying to stay optimistic and make the most of these days.
Tell us about your job here at Schoolhouse!
My role at Schoolhouse is kind of a magical collision of all my past experiences—in industrial design, graphic design, interiors, textiles, and photography. As brand manager I get to work closely with both our product and marketing teams.
From big picture product line planning (what types of products we will launch and when we will launch them) and weekly product design reviews to producing photo shoots and seeing our printed catalogs through from concept to completion. Our team is small but mighty, which means I get to wear a lot of hats. I love the variety that brings.
You recently completed renovations on your home – we want the whole story! How did you find your house, what made you fall in love with it and what are some of the updates you made?
My husband found the listing and quickly reached out to our realtor, we’d been casually looking for maybe a month with no real timeline to move, but that quickly changed after we toured the house. It had a lot going for it... a couple blocks from some dear friends, original fir floors, great natural light, a big lot for gardening, gathering and letting future kids run wild. And, it had a lot of potential for improvement. The second floor was all one open space, including a doorless bathroom that my husband could barely stand up in. The kitchen was tiny and dysfunctional. Other than a few big trees on the perimeter, the yard was a blank slate!
What were the most difficult aspects of renovating and the most satisfying? Any special or surprising moments to share?
Most difficult: So. Many. Decisions. And they all seem to impact one another.
Most satisfying: I always love seeing a space that’s stripped down to the studs with light flowing in—it’s tempting to leave it that way, for at least a minute. But being back in the finished space that we spent so many hours dreaming up is surreal, it feels a little like living in a simulation :) . In the end, it will be most satisfying to be able to really share the space again with our loved ones.
We found some old newspapers in the walls from 1950, one happened to have a photograph of my husband’s family friend’s mom, what are the chances?! Oh, and during demo the contractor found a secret drawer that was built into a stair tread that led from the basement to the main floor—I was hoping it would be full of some treasures, sadly it was empty.
Any advice for someone planning their first renovation?
Make sure your goals are really clear from the beginning. Having those clearly defined to come back to can help as scope threatens to creep, or as you need some perspective on making a minuscule decision that is towering out of proportion.
"Know that you won’t get everything exactly right, but don’t let that stop you. It will inevitably be so much better than when you started."
Work with people you like and trust. We were able to work with a friend’s company, and the project manager assigned to our project is also a dear friend. Having strong communication going into something that became such a major part of our lives over the past months was key.
After producing several Schoolhouse catalog shoots, was it stressful to host one in your own home? Be honest! (And would you do it again?)
It was a little stressful AND I’d do it again. Photo shoots are a favorite part of my role here. It’s like creative bootcamp - collaborating, learning with each other and pivoting on the fly. I’m so grateful for the team that pulled this one together.
It’s a rare treat to have a team of people styling/beautifying your home for a week – super inspiring to see the way it turned out.
How would you describe your style and your home’s décor? Do you have any philosophies or mottos that you abide by when it comes to what you bring into your home?
"Simple with a sentimental soul."
I’ve gotten quite cautious about adding new stuff. I want to really love something, feel good about where it’s coming from and know it’s going to age well. I sometimes frustrate myself, and my husband, with this process, but know that the space and our experience of it will be better in the long run.
What are some favorite corners or rooms in your house and why?
Before and after the renovation, the nap nook has always been a favorite! It’s the perfect place to get cozy, knit, read, watch a movie, fall asleep in a sun pocket. I also love getting a peek of Forest Park and the west hills in the distance.
Post-reno, the kitchen has been a game changer. We ate a lot of takeout to get through the last couple months of the project, so it’s been a welcome shift to be cooking every meal at home.
You have such a beautiful outdoor space—tell us about your garden! Any specific tips to share?
The yard was a big part of what drew us to this spot. There’s so much potential for what we can create here—it’s a work in progress that we’re slowly chipping away at.
Tip-wise, for veggie and fruit gardening: start by focusing on what you love the most that isn’t easy to find at the grocery store or isn’t as delicious… for me that means all the berries, green beans, snap peas... edible flowers make any meal feel like a party. I also find a lot of satisfaction in growing the things in the garden that I’m always using a bit of—garlic, herbs, kale. It’s so nice to just have those on hand when a meal calls for it.
"An adage that I always remember is: the best time to plant a tree is last year, so we’ve been trying to get as much in the ground as we can."
Our latest addition was a summered apple tree. My grandma had one that she made the most delicious pink applesauce from. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to do the same!
It’s going to be tough but what are your favorite products from our Spring launch?
I love the simplicity of the factory family of lights—we have the outdoor sconces and Factory 5 Cable Pendants installed in our home. They hit just the perfect balance of being pared down with unique character and detailing.
What are your hopes/dreams/predictions for our post-COVID world? From a design perspective, do you imagine any seismic shifts occurring?
Where to begin, so many… less consumerism and a greater focus on supporting the types of businesses that we really want and need to be a part of this world. More joy in the little things! Health care and paid sick time for all. Less individualism and more emphasis on taking care of each other and the planet.
What’s the soundtrack in your home?
Neil Young for mellow evenings, Overcoats for dancing while cooking and The Postal Service for pandemic puzzle nights.
Shop All New