By Gabrielle. Photography on location by Nancy Neil.
As soon as I learned I was pregnant with Ralph (or maybe it was Maude!), I started the search for the perfect diaper bag. It seemed very, very important at the time to choose the one that would convey the following messages: I have a new baby, I am stylish, and Even though I may look a little overwhelmed and as though I’m flying by the seat of my pants, look at my cool diaper bag. I am still stylish. Whatever I need to calm this baby is definitely inside this amazing diaper bag. My expectations were high!
Back then and ever since, the one bag that practically sang “I am still stylish!” from every boutique shelf was most likely a Petunia Pickle Bottom. An unforgettably playful name, bold designs I’d never seen used for a utility bag, and constructed so smartly in fabrics strong enough to withstand spit-up and park grime while chic enough to bring along on date night for three. Needless to say, I’ve been an admirer of DeNai Jones before I even knew she existed! Imagine my delight that she and her stunning home are decorating the front page of Design Mom today. Friends, meet the designer behind the brilliant Petunia Pickle Bottom. Welcome, DeNai!
Q: Please tell us who makes this house a home.
A: Come on in! We’re happy to have you. Alongside me are my husband Braden, who I’m lucky to say is also one of my business partners as Petunia Pickle Bottom’s CEO, and our two sons, Sutton (7) and Miller (5). We’re privileged to live in the seaside town of Ventura, California, just south of the Central Coast, close enough to L.A. to make use of the airport and just down the hill from Ojai.
My hope is that anybody who comes over feels at home in our house. I’ve tried to create a space that reflects our lifestyle as a beach-loving family who loves to travel, have friends and family over, and share good meals and conversation around the dinner table. The house was built in 1926 and is a classic California beach town bungalow that soaks up lots of natural light, has a good amount of sunny outdoor space, and is the perfect place for us to do our favorite things like playing hide n’ seek, doing arts and crafts projects, gardening, baking cookies, reading books in our hammock, and walking down to the beach or local Farmer’s Market. We’re lucky to have a climate and a home that allows us to live outdoors during most of the year, and keep the windows open to take in the ocean breeze.
As a mother, I hope I help to make this house a home. Even though I love design, I believe it’s really experiences that most create the environment. One of the things I hope my boys will remember about our home is sitting down every night for a home cooked meal. I love cooking and I strongly believe in family dinner – for casual conversations about our day, for talking through any problems, and for just providing the boys with a listening ear. Another thing I love is baking. My boys, including my husband, love homemade cookies and granola. I make sure to set aside time to bake once a week (often with the boys), partly because I believe the smells of home will stay with them forever, and will hopefully bring them back as adults with their loved ones.
Q: How did the home come to be yours?
A: This house is our first home, and assuming I am like most women, I found the home to be an emotional purchase. Thankfully my husband is the more discerning one in our marriage and held my emotions at bay for about two years before we bought the house that took my breath away. Thank goodness, also, that my husband was the realistic one when it came to fixer-uppers, because of course I dreamt of moonlighting during the off-hours of our growing business and overhauling a beautiful craftsman. It makes me laugh now to think that I imagined even having off-hours back then!
It was fortuitous how the house actually came to be ours. Some close friends put us in contact with a wonderful couple who were just about to put their newly refurbished home, built in 1926, on the market. We walked through the home that very weekend and immediately put in an offer. e knew that this was the house in which we wanted to start a family. The place where we wanted to fill the hallways with laughter. Thankfully it became ours.
Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? Did it change when you added kids to the mix? You didn’t even have your boys yet when you began Petunia Pickle Bottom! Did they inject a little masculinity into your comfort zone?
A: I would describe my aesthetic as eclectic. In every room of our home, each piece has a story. There are a lot of travel mementos, great memories of a flea market trip together, a wonderful piece of art from an artist we met at an Art Walk, something handmade, or a family heirloom.
The boys definitely contribute by adding mementoes to the mix, especially because they go everywhere with us. It’s sometimes a challenge to rotate or display their art, shell collections, bird’s nests, rock collections, and the like, but they are so proud – how can I not? We also have a large Moroccan bin full of Legos and overstuffed baskets of children’s books throughout the house that are used on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
Q: Do you consciously decorate a room with your boys in mind?
A: I definitely tried to decorate the boys’ rooms with their interests and unique personalities in mind. My son Sutton loves to travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s by airplane, boat, or by foot – he’s an on-the-go kind of boy. I really tried to keep his room masculine but inject a bit of fantasy and exploration.
I handmade the ghost ship that hangs in one corner above his book bin. He loves it, and he will tell you, “It will take me anywhere I want to go!” He also seems to truly appreciate the maps, globes, sailing books, suitcases, and record player which is saved from my childhood.
My son Miller is a calm, soft spoken, gentle soul. I felt his room needed to reflect his personality by including soft greys, calm quaking trees (found in the Cole & Sons wallpaper), and his hide-out tent for tiger attacks. He is obsessed with tigers and loves camping, so I made sure to incorporate those elements. All other details have been found at flea markets or are mementos from family trips.
I do try to help facilitate personal responsibility by having certain things at a reachable level: backpack hooks, clothing, and art supplies in reachable drawers; toy bins in their closets for easy clean up; shoe bins at every door (we keep shoes for outside); and books in multiple scattered bins about the house.
Q: Let’s talk about Petunia Pickle Bottom, beginning with the name!
A: My dad, who beams with pride whenever the name is spoken, was the one who coined Petunia Pickle Bottom. My earliest memories are of him calling me this nickname while I sat on his lap, right before he would play the harmonica and lull me to sleep. When the idea of the business gained momentum, it really was a spiritual moment when it came to me: “Of course…Petunia Pickle Bottom!”
There is a funny story among my family about the very early stages of the company’s creation, when I carefully laid out the first samples in my parents’ living room, with my husband, dad, and mom in company, and naively stated, “I think these might sell!” This has become a running joke in the family now that things have grown! I’m not embarrassed to state at a party that I am part of a company called Petunia Pickle Bottom.
That company is now finding itself at an exciting precipice. We just launched a new men’s lifestyle brand called Sons of Trade, and this summer we will debut another new brand called Petunia Handbags. Both of these new brands have been a labor of love, and we are excited to expand into the non–baby market. Of course we will continue to support the wonderful journey of parenthood with the launch of the Petunia Pickle Bottom Fall 2013 Collection in the coming months, which includes some exciting new products and prints we really love.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: Travel plays a huge role in our family as well as in my design inspiration. Early on, my husband and I started taking our boys along with us on the longer international trips for business – which of course came with certain challenges – but we wouldn’t do it any other way now because it really taught us a lot about what a traveling family needs.
We actually just returned from a month-long development trip to China and Thailand, which the boys came along on. While on these trips, I definitely use all of the products we make for travel, and I test-drive anything we have in the works to be sure it really suits the needs of a traveling family. When it comes to the design process, I find that travel also always promotes ingenuity and inspiration, no matter where the trip takes us.
I also find inspiration in the everyday role of being a parent. Thankfully, our company seems to constantly be traveling through that chapter together. Among our employees, I believe we had six births just last year and two pregnancies this year. So we’re never short on inspiration and ideas around here! We also have a fantastic fan base who reach out to us via social media and share what they would love to see next from us.
Q: You’re a successful designer. How does this affect the way you decorate your home?
A: With regard to decor, I am drawn to all things white and neutral, which is probably a surprise since Petunia Pickle Bottom is known for color and pattern. Maybe it’s a bit of a reaction to all of the color and pattern I work with every day, even though of course I love creating those designs. There is also the fact that all of my favorite getaway spots, where I like to go alone with my husband or as a family, feature white plaster walls and fluffy white duvets. I definitely tried to achieve this getaway feeling in our home, especially in our master bedroom.
One of the things I love about our home is the natural light it gets, and I wanted to play up that feature by decorating with natural tones. I want our home to be our peaceful oasis away from all things busy, away from the rigors of running a business. I do still like to mix in pops of color. This can be achieved by adding a pillow or wallpaper to a room, or by pairing a bright bag with a more neutral outfit. There is definitely always going to be a place for pattern and color in my life.
Q: What do you hope your decor choices and the items that surround your family are teaching them about you and their someday ideas about family?
A: I hope my decor choices teach the boys to keep something from every journey, not just a memento but a life lesson. The mementos we keep will forever remind us of the people we met, the sites we saw, and the things we learned as a family while traveling.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids so far? What didn’t you expect at all? And what do you already miss?
A: My husband and I would both agree that our favorite part about living with our boys is seeing things for the first time through their eyes. It’s an honor to be a part of their learning experience and to field all of their questions. Even when there are a lot of them!
My own mom always told me, “The days are long but the years are short,” and it is so true. I didn’t expect the years to go by so fast. I already miss yesterday, but then I am very sentimental. Like most parents, we tend to sneak in after the boys have fallen asleep and just inhale their sweet little boy breath. Tomorrow it will be a memory.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I wish someone had told me to be easier on myself as a parent. Even now I tell this to myself. I tend to question everything I do, to toil in these thoughts at night while falling asleep: maybe I could have handled this or that situation better.
I have to constantly remind myself to ease up on that pressure to be perfect because nobody ever is. And that’s not what your kids really need. All that I can really hope for in this great journey of parenthood is that my children know we love them unconditionally.
DeNai, this was such a peaceful tour. Your reasoning behind the specific soothing decor in your bedrooms and the getaway chic mode in the rest of your house is such smart advice. Also, I’ve added three must haves for our next home: a rock climbing wall, one fantastic white day dress, and curls!
Friends, do you remember your first diaper bag? Were you lucky enough to snag a Petunia Pickle Bottom? Tell me what you carried! (The diaper bag days are a thing of the past in the Blair house, which makes me both thrilled and wistful!)