Partners Trust’s community outpost and retail concept Openhouse looks to both emerging and established local designers to fill its store on a rotating basis and, starting next week, will introduce a new, inspired collection; Jean Marilla, owner of Glendale’s Twenty/One/Seven, promises an inventory that is anything but traditional.
While sought out to create high-end eclectic interior environments, Jean Marilla’s approach to design goes well beyond the surface, often blending playful lighting with rich textures and modern elements with formal pieces. Describing her style as eccentric, Jean has taken to Openhouse to create the store’s most diverse collection yet. But before it’s unveiled, we sat down with the designer to talk about the soul behind the design; from why L.A. is such an inspirational force to the importance of welcoming transformation, Jean offers a look into her mind’s eye and the future of Openhouse.
PT: How would you describe your design style?
JM: My design style is actually sandwiched in between modern and eclectic. I’m a free spirit and so I naturally battle the mainstream. My designs are always either simple, but with some bells and whistles, or a mixture of everything, but not necessarily over-the-top. I always try to stretch my skyline by way of introducing designs that are spanking new – new expression, new silhouette, and new approach.
PT: Will your Openhouse installation have a theme?
JM: My mind’s eye tells me to show my love for art and for all things distinctive. The space will both reflect my blended design skills and taste, and also mirror my true persona – playful and eccentric. A fusion of tints, textures, and patterns will be here and there while black and brass will be everywhere.
PT: Tell us your approach to interior design. What kind of satisfaction do you get from it?
JM: As a designer, I am not afraid to draw outside the lines and add colors—I always encourage my clients to do the same. Interior design is not all about what’s neat looking and what glitters, it’s about making a concept statement, letting the space stand out as a whole and individually.
Another thing is that, with other designers, there is almost always a story behind their concept. To me, it’s more important to show a representation of my client’s identity throughout the space—the design or concept must speak volumes in terms of who the client is or how the client wants to illustrate his life through his own place. The satisfaction I get from designing is knowing that my client and the space are immediately connected at the soul. There’s an immediate recognition because the dweller and the dwelling place are one and the same.
PT: What about Los Angeles inspires you?
JM: Since Los Angeles was built and developed by a piecemeal approach, it is different in a sense that anyone can straightaway see the dissimilarity among people living in the city, the contrast in terms of physical structures, and the wide range of professional and cultural grounds. I like that about LA. It is loaded with memoirs and landmarks. As I see the sights within this metropolis, I find a mixture of the old and the new. I look to the left and I see inspiration from its rich architectural heritage. I look to the right and I’ll get stirred by all the cutting-edge construction happening in front of my very own eyes. I see a design kaleidoscope, which helps me evaluate and improve my design choices. Los Angeles is a home to anything distinct and creative. Like me, it is a free spirit kind of city.
PT: What do you think a well-designed room does for someone’s quality of life?
JM: Well first, someone’s social life amplifies. There is a certain level of self-assurance that someone embraces when he or she has a well-designed place to show to friends and family. It is also a course of therapy knowing that someone has a restful dwelling place that suits his or her preference and lifestyle. In addition, as a designer takes on a space, clients usually join in the journey and their disposition in life slowly changes, especially when they finally settle in a well-made environment—they become more design conscious, they start to become as organized as the can, and be more careful with handling their properties. It’s like they learn through the whole process and then they learn to live what they have learned.
PT: How would you describe your clients?
JM: I can’t find the specific words to describe my clients – they are diametrically opposed. Some already know what they want, some are lost in translation. Some have sky high standards with very tight budget, some have the money to spend but are hesitant to stretch their design appreciation. But that’s actually the challenge. How to make clients eventually understand what they want and how things are done to achieve what they want. So I am not only a designer, but an educator at the same time. Surprisingly, it always end up with me learning from my clients too. Design is a never ending learning process and it is what keeps me grounded. And even when faced with these kinds of client, I always try to offer a final result that will delight them and that will show the best version of themselves.
PT: What advice would you give to someone trying to style their own home?
JM: Designing is not always a necessity and could be considered more like luxury. But like any luxury, it provides a great amount of comfort and a great condition of well being. So when people decide to design their space, I encourage them to capitalize in it. I strongly recommend not to treat themselves unfairly by being open to designing their space but unwilling to spend for something of value. Never bargain with quality.
Designing a space is not for people who want to play it safe. It is for people who are unafraid to welcome transformation and willing to look past what is already expected.