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20 Questions with Jennifer Janeway

Get to know the founder of Jennifer Janeway Designs through a series of questions about her past, present, future...and favorite snack.

1. How did you get started? After 23 years in healthcare IT, I decided that I was ready to try something new. After all, if it didn’t work, I could always go back! I launched a self-created website on May 1, 2020 at the height of the pandemic and ran it as a side business for about 6 months until I was able to “retire” from IT and do this full time.

It always sounds odd, but a LOT of the skills that I used in my former career were transferrable to entrepreneurship. Project management, sales, and budgeting are all talents that I've carried with me. And in the meantime, I’ve hustled even harder to learn the principles of construction and all of the details that go along with renovation projects.

2. What’s your philosophy on design? First and foremost, we design homes that are meant to be lived in. We want our clients to love their homes so much that the feeling that they get when they walk through their door after being away is “wow, I am so happy to be home.”

Your home has a direct impact on how you feel every day. For me, making sure that we’re creating solutions to our client’s challenges, but also using materials that allow them to actually use and live in those spaces is so important.

3. Jennifer, Jen, Jennie? I prefer Jenn with 2 n’s.

4. What is your dream vacation destination? There are so many places that I’d love to see, but I’d love to spend a summer roaming the Amalfi Coast. I could envision myself being on the water, eating and drinking my way from town to town.

5. What’s one step in your daily routine that you can’t stand to skip? After three years in business for myself, I’ve made a goal for myself this year to take better care of myself. I used to be a runner BK (that’s “before kids”), and in the past few months have taken it up again. It helps me to feel more energized each morning, and gives me a mental clarity that I find myself missing when I take a day off.

6. What’s your go-to guilty pleasure snack? Cheese, in any form. I love Manchego with fig jam slathered on it, queso with freshly fried tortilla chips, Beemster aged gouda with apples and dollop of grainy mustard. If it had any type of cheese on it, I’m in, but especially if there's a sweet and salty combination.

7. What’s your favorite room to design? I love designing bedrooms – creating a sanctuary that’s a place for someone to get away from it all. Large or small, having a place in your home that’s a place that you love to retreat to at the end of the day and tuck into those covers is something that I believe everyone craves.

8. What's your dream design project? I would love to combine my love of food and design to design a restaurant! There's so much personality that you can inject with the color, lighting, and furnishings - even down to the dishes and the music that plays while you eat. I always love going out to dinner and taking note of the design details.

9. Favorite meal you’ve cooked recently? I’ve been a little obsessive about our new Ooni outdoor pizza oven. It gives pizza that truly wood-fired taste that you can’t get from your kitchen oven, but definitely takes some practice to get the dough and temperature right. But when it is… chef’s kiss!

10. What’s a design trend that you’re enjoying right now? Hands down: wallpaper. When a client says that they’d like to use wallpaper in their project, my heart does a little happy dance. It’s such a fantastic way to completely change the look and feel of a room, and there are so many great vendors out there.

11. If you had an afternoon to yourself, how would you spend it? I’d spend some of it in my garden, and the rest on our outdoor sectional catching up on the latest editions of House Beautiful, Cooks Illustrated, Fine Gardening and Magnolia Journal. I have a lot of magazine subscriptions.

12. Any pet peeves? There are a lot (😊) but slow drivers probably top my list.

13. Which TV show would you choose to live in if you could transport yourself there? “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” because of the gorgeous outfits – jewel tones, lots of details, gloves, and an overarching sense of elegance.

14. Name a design feature you wish you had in your own home. I would love to have a full kitchen outdoors.

15. What are people surprised to learn about you? I was really shy as a child, and for a long time considered myself an introvert. When I tell people that, they’re always so surprised. I would say that I’ve evolved into more of an ambivert – I can be outgoing in certain situations when I need to be. But I definitely recharge in a much lower-key way.

16. What’s the best advice you’ve received? “Just because you CAN do it doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” As an entrepreneur, mom, and wife, there are a lot of demands on my time. And with some recent reminders that time is not an infinite resource, I fully believe that we need to be really thoughtful about how we spend our time.

Need someone to help with housework? Hiring a cleaning service. Rather take your kids to the park instead of cutting the lawn for 2 hours? Hire a landscaping service. Want nutritious meals but don’t have time to prepare them? Find a service with ready-to-heat meals.

Embracing help, and not feeling like you have to do it all, is liberating.

17. What advice would you give to aspiring designers? When I tell someone what I do, they usually say “that’s fun!” because they think that we are fluffing pillows all day. There is a significant portion of this work – I’m talking about 80% - that is technical. Plumbing fixtures, structural supports, clearances, and even window treatment design and sofa construction – it’s all very technical, and your knowledge needs to span the entire gamut. It's also a very physical job – hauling 12” X 24” tile samples, cases of fabrics, and armfuls of accessories for an install is no small feat!

18. What’s the best part about your job? I have to confess…the moment when a client walks into their new space, puts their hand to their mouth, and exclaims “It’s so much better than I could have imagined!!” makes it all worth it. There are details that we as designers obsess– or rather loose sleep over – but seeing it come together on install day is so rewarding. To be able to give our clients homes that they love, and they’re excited to entertain their family and friends in is the best feeling in the world.

19. If you weren’t a designer, what would you do? I’ve always had a passion for food, and for a long time joked that in retirement, I’ll own a fish taco stand on a Caribbean island.

20. What are your goals for the future? I'd love to have a little retail shop in addition to the service side of the firm. A boutique where you'd stop in for a coffee or Prosecco, and grab a set of gorgeous throw pillows and cashmere throw blanket for your family room.

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