Designer Crush: Janel Holiday Huff

1. Who is your biggest role model?

Growing up, my mother’s parents were super eclectic and major role models for me. They lived in the California desert and made all these wonderful additions and structures to their simple, single-level, ranch home. From huge bird aviaries, a black bottom swimming pool, multi-level koi ponds that were powered by windmills, etc. It was all done in this great handcrafted way and really contributed to the lifestyle of indoor/outdoor living for me that I am so attracted to.
2. Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for?

Pillow Talk with Doris Day and Rock Hudson has always been one of my favorites. The California Spanish ranch home in the original Parent Trap was one of the first homes I remember obsessing on as a little girl. As for modern day movies, the Lautner home in A Single Man would be amazing to work with. Any new James Bond movie.
3. What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?

I always try to meet with clients in their existing spaces to see how they truly live. I like to design realistically for people’s lifestyles and want to be sure to incorporate all family members, from pets to kids, into the scope of work. I encourage clients to keep track of all interests in photos they see, even if it just a paint color on a wall. Pinterest has been a helpful tool in this arena.
4. What new design trends are you excited to integrate into your work?

I am still loving the mixed metal “trend.” I don’t usually follow trends, I just go for what feels appropriate for the space and client(s). I have always been a cheerleader for color and pattern and I like to encourage my clients to explore those avenues. I am the biggest fan of wall coverings and there are so many great ones being produced, I especially love the printed grasscloths that Phillip Jeffries is producing, Timorous Beasties, and everything that Walnut Wallpaper in Los Angeles is representing.
5. You say you pull inspiration from the California lifestyle and surroundings. How do you incorporate elements of California culture into your work?

Nature is my muse. The colors, textures, diversity, and patterns found in nature are unique and mesmerizing. I love to incorporate surroundings from the exterior to the interior whether it be with furniture, materials, color, etc. that speaks to an outside element. One of my favorite and simplest examples of this is how (architect) Albert Frey fabricated yellow draperies in Frey House II (Palm Springs, CA) that matched the yellow wild flowers that grew at their leisure around his property and surrounding mountains.
6. Not many designers take the time to blog. Why is it important for you to have a personal voice and perspective on your site?
Well, I don’t think I blog enough! I do it first and foremost to encourage myself to explore various creative outlets. I love all aspects of composition and photographing the world around me helps me to keep this artistic approach relevant in my own work. I think it is the best way to show people what my style and personality is really like since my own emotional and personal style isn’t always reflected in my portfolio. I would also hope that it humanizes me a bit. I strive to be very honest in my work, kind in my relationships with vendors and subs, and to do this all with a sense of humor. Too often we come across big egos and ugliness in this field which is supposed to be all about creativity. I never want to be on that side of the business.
7. How do you completely unwind?
I practice yoga. A lot. It helps keep me balanced in the real world. I love quick girlfriend weekend adventures, wine tasting…single day road trips with my husband in one of our vintage BMWs, taking my dog for a beach walk or hike. If I’m overwhelmed during the work week, I will dip into a matinee to shut my brain off. Anything where I can turn off my phone helps.
8. If you hadn't become a designer, which career would you have pursued?
I love science and was actually a biology major for my first three years of college. I always thought I would be a veterinarian growing up. In high school I had a fantastic biology teacher who made me want to be a teacher.
9. What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why?
I worked at a retail shop for a brief amount of time (modern home furnishings and accessories) and that was painful. Turns out I don’t deal with the general public very well. I would hope I have more patience now.  
10. Who has your favorite client been and why?
My positive experiences have varied. I have a client whose home I have worked on for over 4 years and did so much custom work for her and her family. I have loved seeing her children be born, grow up, and grow within the house and surrounding design. I truly love that house as I have put so much energy and time into it. I recently finished a bachelor apartment for a client and his space has changed his life. To see how design can positively change someone’s life is very rewarding for me.
11. Create your perfect playlist for us.

Lightning round!

12. Would you rather shop new or vintage?
Always a mix of both. Tommi Parzinger with Tom Dixon lighting?! That is what it is all about.

13. First celebrity crush?
I wish I could say River Phoenix. But I must admit that I actually wrote Will Wheaton a fan letter. So Will Wheaton first…then River Phoenix. Two of the four boys from Stand By Me were constantly being ripped out of my Tiger Beat.

14. What’s your hidden talent?
Most of my clients don’t know the extent of how much I love riding vintage Vespa and Lambretta scooters. I used to be able to fly through canyons when I lived in Los Angeles and was quite the speed demon on my scooters and motorcycles. ”Growing up” a bit has absolutely slowed me down, but I would like to think that speed demon still lives in me. 

15. Best restaurant in your area? Where is it?
Shizen is a vegan sushi restaurant that recently opened in the Mission and I could eat there every. Single. Day.

16. SF or LA?
Both. I grew up on the Central Coast (in Santa Barbara) and am such a California girl. The topography of this state is so wonderful. From redwood forests, to varying coastlines, Palm Springs, Tahoe. So much good stuff. I love the Mid-century and deco architecture of Los Angeles and the traces of old-school Hollywood glamour. The best shopping, fashion and interiors. The traffic crippled my soul though when I lived there. San Francisco’s access to the Marin headlands, nature, the ocean, Muir Woods and wine country is amazing, all this while the city is packed with art shows, concerts, and museums. I love how SF encourages people to let their freak flag fly. And of course, the SF Giants.