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Colorful Home Bliss: Expert Tips for Vibrant Decor with Designer Brittany Jepsen

March 5, 2024

You’d be forgiven if you’re more than slightly wary about adding colors to your home because it’s all too easy to go overboard. But there is a cohesive way to do it, and it will most definitely change your life. Brittany Jepsen, the creative force behind The House That Lars Built, is an expert at […]

the house that lars built podcast with Anita Yokota Home Therapy

You’d be forgiven if you’re more than slightly wary about adding colors to your home because it’s all too easy to go overboard. But there is a cohesive way to do it, and it will most definitely change your life. Brittany Jepsen, the creative force behind The House That Lars Built, is an expert at adding pops of joy to your home that would appeal even to those of us who are color-phobic. She sits down with Anita for another inspiring Home Therapy session.  A true artist, Brittany is the author of Craft the Rainbow, and her work has graced the pages of The New York Times, CNN, Vogue, Martha Stewart, and more. Discover the vibrant world of Brittany, whom Anita fondly calls an expert on Dopamine Decor due to her genius use of colors and patterns. In their conversation, Brittany candidly shares how she navigate the challenges of parenting while juggling business and family life.  The creative journey continues as they explore the influence of Brittany’s mom, who serves as her art director, shaping her distinctive perspective on creativity and art. Tune in for more!

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Colorful Home Bliss: Expert Tips for Vibrant Decor with Designer Brittany Jepsen

Welcome, Brittany. I am so happy to have the Dopamine Queen on the show. When I first met you in Washington DC, I was fangirling because my sister and I have been following you forever. My book is back in Seattle. I bought your book when it came out. I don’t have it with me, but I do know how much joy you bring to all of us with the use of patterns and colors. Even your fits every day, I was like, “That’s so Brittany.” Whatever you wore, I’m like, “That’s so Brittany.”

You’re so kind. Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.

I’m glad that we get to talk about more of how you are as a creative and where it all began. I am going to dive into your childhood. When you were ten, you started a crafting club. Can you share a little bit more of how that started?

I did. My mom is really creative. She had a creative career. She always had an emphasis on thinking outside the box. Even when we were kids, we would maybe make a project or something. She would always say, “How can we make it? How can we take it to the next level?” That was a part of even school book reports.

In California, you have to do a section on the Gold Rush. I made a Gold Rush man doll. I didn’t have to do any of that, but she always encouraged me like, “You could make that.” I made little clothes for the little doll. Everyone else came with a drawing. It was always, “How can I make it? What else can I do to make it interesting and thought-provoking?” She wasn’t necessarily using those words, but that’s how I see it. She was like, “You have this, but what else can we do to make it, to use your skills, and to practice things?”

When I was ten, I started a club. It had a very creative name called Crafts for Holidays. I would force my friends who weren’t necessarily crafty to come over and we would make something for Halloween. We’d make something for Thanksgiving. Every single holiday, we would have something to make. In hindsight, I’m realizing I patterned it after my mom and some of the things and get-togethers I would see her do. They would get together and make things. I had Crafts for Holidays, and it’s not much different than what I do now.

Immediately, I’m thinking of all the blog posts that you have seasonally. Does she still craft with you? Is she still being creative in her own way? How does that influence you and your boys? Does she craft with her grandsons? How does her creativity influence you and your family?

I’m not sure I necessarily see her crafting as much anymore. There’s always the thought. I’ll share an idea with her and she’ll share how to make it better and how to improve it, or she’ll send me a lot of ideas. She is like, “Look at this idea. You could do this to it.” It’s more like a creative brainstorm all the time.

I’m going to share this with you. I have a lamp. This is my grandmother’s lamp.

For the readers who can’t see it visually, can you describe briefly what it’s like?

Yes. I’m so sorry. I  forgot that. It’s this Asian-inspired lamp. It’s in lavender and periwinkles. They would call it a [00:04:49] type of illustration on this ceramic lamp. It’s probably from the 50s or 60s. My mom gave them to me. There were no lampshades, so I’ve been trying to figure out lampshades. I don’t have a lot of time so I got something from Target. I got a text from her because I shared it on Instagram. She’s like, “Have you thought about a lampshade that’s a little more interesting that would maybe look like this?” I was like, “Absolutely not. I have not thought about that.” I needed a lampshade. She’s like, “You could draw it out.” She sent me a sketch of what the size and scale could be, and I was like, “Can you go find this for me?”

I love that. She is your creative art director or your idea person. How wonderful is that? I liken my sister to that. She’s in graphic design. She’s a real estate broker, but she wanted to go to art school. She was an English major and an Art major. She influences me in similar ways. I love how she is continuing to shape your creative ideas and contribute to this wonderful idea of color, form, and shape.

The reason why you were so familiar in Washington DC is I remember you went out to dinner and I was like, “She’s walking outside by herself at night.” You were like, “I got this. This is my city.” I know you went to school in Washington DC and then later worked at so many wonderful places, even with Jonathan Adler. That doesn’t surprise me because I feel like his bold colors and patterns are in similar veins to how you create. I was dying. What was that experience like working with so many creative people in that era?

It was an interesting era. The reason I lived in Washington DC is because I went to graduate school there. I got a graduate degree in interior design. This was from 2007 to 2010. It was at a time when blogs were starting to come out. When I was growing up, I was always into magazines like interior design magazines and anything I could get my hands on. That’s how you shaped your aesthetic at the time. It was through books and magazines.

Before I went to school, I worked for a large hotel chain doing interior design. This hotel chain is not necessarily known for its design aesthetics so much as for comfort and being really solid. I remember I was fresh out of college and I was starting to really put together my aesthetic. I was looking at blogs while I was at work because I needed to collect inspiration from the designers who I was mostly assisting. There was Design*Sponge. It was like being introduced to the things that shaped our generation.

I remember stumbling across Jonathan Adler on his website and I was blown away. I had never seen anything like it. Even in my interior design magazines, I’d never seen anything like it. His humor, his irreverence, and his use of ceramics but also transforming them into interiors were very new to me. I was like a hawk. I was so laser-focused like, “What is this place?” I realized, “You can be fun. you don’t have to take yourself seriously but it can also be beautiful.” I kept that with me for a while until I was in grad school and I was looking for internships.

During spring break, while everyone was gone, I was in the computer lab. I spent the whole week in the computer lab researching where I wanted to intern and then sending out applications. I sent out over 50 applications all across the United States. One of them was to Jonathan Adler. One of them was to Celerie Kemble. She is an interior designer in New York who has a Palm Springs aesthetic but really great use of patterns, materials, and colors. It is almost a beachy color palette. I sent them there and they were the only two that I heard back from. I got them, so I said yes to both. I worked 3 days at 1 and 2 days at the other.

They were so instrumental in shaping my view of what interior design is as a profession, how to create two entirely different aesthetics, and also what is my aesthetic in all this madness. It was so foundational for me. I took bits and pieces of both aesthetics and grew up on the one that I identified growing up, which is more in my roots, my mom’s aesthetic, and this whole mesh of a bunch of aesthetics. It was so impressionable to me. I really value the training I got.

I see a different inspiration from these pivotal people in your life. Something that I really admire about what you do is you’re able to layer patterns, colors, shapes, and forms and have them be so cohesive. I know there are going to be readers who are going to be like, “I love it so much, but how do I do that at home?” I love it when there are two contrasting wallpapers in a room, but sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed. It doesn’t come supernatural to me even though I love it. I know a lot of people might feel the same way. Do you have advice on how we can layer things that are cohesive and not have it look chaotic?

Yeah. It’s tricky. I understand why people shy away from it. I get it. It can be really tricky to pair things. Sometimes, I go for it because I don’t care. I’m like, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.” Sometimes, it’s practicing. Becoming conversant in the language of design is important for knowing how to implement it better. Even when you see something that you like, it is telling yourself or asking yourself, “Why do I like that?” It could also be learning the design principles. Your book does a great job of laying out some of those principles. It is becoming conversant like, “I like that because I like the colors. I like that because of the scale. I like that because of the negative space.” Once you can become conversant with it, then you can start putting the puzzle pieces together.

For example, I have a wallpaper from our wallpaper collection. Zinnias takes up the whole pattern. There’s not too much negative space here, but because of that, I consider it as solid, if that makes sense. There’s a little bit of white space, but because of that, I have a flower print that has a lot of negative space. You can read it better because the wallpaper is so covered with florals, so it pops. Otherwise, there are some florals where it may not work because maybe the florals are on the same scale as the print. You can’t have scales that are the same. Otherwise, one of them will not read well. The flowers are small enough that they work.

The smaller print becomes the background, and then you find something bolder or more prominent as the foreground. I really love how you’re pointing that out. It’s very similar to having two rugs in the same room. Do you know those living room and dining room combination rooms? A lot of times, I’ll put a rug in the dining room and the living room. It’s similar where one could have a smaller print and then the other maybe a bolder pattern. Balance is what you’re saying. Also, something I’m taking away from you is not overthinking. The experimenting part as a creative, would you say, a lot of times, you have your foundational ideas but at the end of the day, it is letting loose, being creative, and seeing what sticks?

Absolutely. That’s where a lot of us get stuck. We don’t maybe have the guts to try it or we think, “That’s not me.” It is you more than you think, but we’ve also been trained to think, “I need to have neutrals. I need to follow this person’s aesthetic rather than tapping into what’s inside your heart.” That’s what I really feel super strong about. I feel like we don’t give ourselves enough credit as to what we truly love.

Before I heard of Marie Kondo, I always said, “You need to find things that make your heart jump.” Hers is about things that spark joy. When I see something and it makes my heart jump, then I know that is me. I feel like people might feel that, but they don’t think they’re supposed to feel that. It’s so hard to live in that space where you’re living for other people.

We don't give ourselves enough credit for what we really truly love. It's so hard to live in a space where you're living for other people. When designing your home, you need to find things that make your heart jump. Click To Tweet

This will be a muscle that you have to exercise where you’re like, “I like this.” You have to say, “I don’t care what you say. I know it’s not your aesthetic. I know you might judge it, but I love this. It’s so hard to do, especially when you’ve spent your whole life trying to fit into a box that you think you’re supposed to be in. Who says you have to fit into that box? I don’t expect you to have the same aesthetic as me and so on and so forth. Experimenting is a big part of it, but I know that also can be expensive. You’re like, “If this wallpaper doesn’t work, that’s a big expense.” I realize and understand why it’s hard.

Sustainability too. You don’t want overconsumption and things like that. It’s finding your smaller areas of experimenting. As a therapist, I’m always thinking of cognitive behavioral therapy. I’m like, “All or nothing thinking. Limiting belief. Negative beliefs about ourselves in our home.” Everything you’ve spoken about made my heart sing because that’s really what we want to use our home for.

I get so many hits when I go on your Instagram or go on your blog because I love that color or I love that pattern. I’m going to be honest. I’m a little more intimidated to do it all, but I have to say, and you’re going to be proud of me, 2024 is my year to go more all out on it. I love your feedback. You are, to me, a dopamine decor expert. I’m curious. What is your favorite color? Do you have several? When you say what makes you happy, are there colors or patterns that you time and time again go back to?

Absolutely. I do have to say I don’t think I am choosing and gravitating towards things because they’re like, “That color is known for happiness so therefore, I love it.”

It’s you.

I love yellow, pink, red, and green. I’m mostly attracted, and I have been for a while, to yellow, which is naturally known as the color of happiness. It is the color of the sun and the color of bright flowers. I see it and my brain goes, “I could pair that with this.” I love the pairing of colors. I love the story that pairing colors creates. I love yellow with brown. I always love a bright color. I call it a grounding color, so yellow with brown.  I think of this beautiful rattan color. I like bright colors with groundings and how the unknown of pairing these colors is also very exciting. Finding a color combination that works is mind-blowing to me.

I’m curious. What sign are you?

A Gemini.

I  love talking about astrology. Tell me. Do you see some of your Gemini coming out in your work?

I don’t know too much about astrology other than what I see when I’m scrolling through Instagram like, “Geminis are like this.” I know it’s the twins. I’m guessing, because I don’t know too much, it is like a pull of two differences.

There are two sides of your personality. You would think I would know it by heart, but I was curious because that’s always a fun question to ask.

In that way, since I’m thinking about it more, I am a Gemini. The House that Lars Built is my company and that is super bright. It is probably brighter and more playful than what I do as a person. I’m in my basement Where my offices are. This is my brand and business down here, but upstairs, I don’t have the same level of saturated colors. I like to bring in more of those grounding colors. Let’s say it’s green. I have a green refrigerator that I desaturated. I like colors that are more desaturated and not as bright. My therapist told me I live with a lot of cognitive dissonance.

For Geminis, it’s the push and pull and the tension. This is a gut feeling, but I have a feeling you’re an introvert. Are you an introvert?

I’m an extroverted introvert.

Ambivert maybe, but I feel like you find yourself grounded when you tap into that introvert. You get your rest from being by yourself. You find that grounding.

Even hearing that makes me so peaceful. I don’t mind. I love being with people. I love being social. I love going to events. I love going to parties. I’m the last person to leave a party. I love being social, but I could be by myself for months and days, doing my own thing because I love doing my own thing. I have so much I could be doing. There are endless amounts of things. I could create or I could do this. If I could be locked in a hotel room, that’s my dream.

I love that so much. I’m more of an extrovert, but as I’m getting older, I’m an ambivert. I always like talking about that because it’s fun to see how different creatives have different personalities. It’s how it influences our time at home. As creatives, to gain inspiration, we need those moments of pause as well. How we soak in inspiration and how we marinate on things, I’m so excited to talk to you about all these things.

I’m curious. With two young boys and as a businesswoman and entrepreneur, I’m always so excited to pick different people’s brains. I would love to know how you juggle everything. I call them buckets. I know you have many buckets. How do you manage the mommy world and the business world with time management and stay sane?

I don’t think I am staying sane. Sometimes, I feel like my brain is splitting into many parts. I’m like, “Mom. Business. This.” It is like, “How do I do this all at the same time?” I feel like I’m trying to take steps to implement more systems into my life. Naturally, I’m not drawn to systems. Especially with children, there’s a lot of chaos in my life. My boys are particularly chaotic. I have two boys, but I look at people who have lots of kids and I’m like, “I feel like that’s what it’s like to have many children.” They’re absolute chaos.

They’re energetic.

They’re energetic but also independent so they get into a lot of mischief. They’re 5 and 3 and they don’t know how to do things. For example, during Christmas break, I took it off. We have a shop. I was like, “I can’t go another day without fulfilling these orders.” Jenny, who works for me, usually does them. I was like, “I have to do it. There’s not enough time. I’m not going to tell my boys. I’m going to go downstairs. I’m going to fulfill these orders. I’m going to risk it. If I tell them, they’re going to try and find me. Game over. I won’t be able to do it.”

It takes me a half hour to fulfill these orders. In the meantime, I’m so proud of myself because I was like, “I got this done.” I come upstairs with my bags of orders and in comes my neighbor with my son, Felix. She said, “I found Felix down on the road.” I was like, “The doors were locked.” I have four locks. He’s my three-year-old. Jasper was up in my room. He’s not supposed to be on TV. He was watching TV and had bottles and buckets around him so he wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom while he was watching TV. They were filled with pee but also pee on the ground all around. I was like, “This is a half hour. I risked it and I lost.” Life is chaotic.

I have much older children than you and they’re girls. My sister has two boys. I mentioned this to you before, but she looks so tired every day. I’m tired, but she looks really tired every day. I have three girls, so I’m like, “Have a third. We’ll have 3 boys on one side and 3 girls on the other.” She goes, “No.” You are in that season of 5 and 3 or 4 and 6. You are in the trenches. I feel you. We all have been through those seasons, but that is quite an adventure you probably experience every day.

A part of it is I always thought that I would have kids where I was like, “I’m going to craft with them. I’m going to share my artistic wisdom and my creativity with them.” To be honest, so far, they don’t care at all. I’ll say, “Should we color? Should we go make a craft?” My oldest has no interest in it. He thinks that this is all stuff he does at school. He’s like, “Mom, I already did it. I’m good.” When he went to an artsy-fartsy preschool, he was like, “I already know how to draw, Mom. I already know how to do this.” I’m like, “Forgive me. You don’t need any more.” My dreams aren’t necessarily coming true. Maybe they will someday. Maybe they’re still too young. I don’t know.

They’re young. They change so much. To give you an idea, I have so much therapeutic experience, especially with teen girls. That was my niche. I love helping young women become who they are. I have three girls. Especially my two teenagers, I’ll want to chit chat with them or I’ll want to impart some advice about maybe boys or self-care. They’re like, “No. Don’t even breathe.” I walk down the stairs and the eye rolls begin. I’m like, “I didn’t even talk to you. I haven’t even talked.” Parenting is all relative in the different seasons. I really admire how in the midst of everything, you are doing amazing work. I wanted to let you know that you inspire so many people like me every day.

That’s so kind of you.

I mean it. I thought maybe we would end with one more question. Do you have a question for me?

I would love to know how your show is going.

I am having so much fun. As a creative, we’re not necessarily the best. This isn’t a generalization. I’m going to talk about myself. I am a total creative when it comes to time management and maybe finances. The very nitty-gritty stuff, I’m not the best at, but with my creative vision and things, I’m perfectionistic. I want things to hit right for me. With this show, what I love is it’s not necessarily a visual mode. I’ve decided that I love the experience of talking with other creatives or interesting people. You learn so much from 30 minutes. I crave that interaction and that interface. I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s been so fun.

It’s such a great niche because the home interior design is so focused on your well-being. That’s something that we don’t give enough credit to. I always say this. The things you surround yourself with have so much impact on how you feel. Going back to what we were talking about earlier about how you have to live, you should live with things that make your heart jump. If you don’t, I feel like you’re not being your true authentic self. You’re living for somebody else. I feel like things have a life in them. This is not to get too kumbaya.

I feel like everything that you bring into your home that you relate to and sparks that joy has life in it. If you bring all that life into your surroundings, you will be inspired. You will live better. Part of our mission and what we do at The House that Lars Built is to encourage people to make things with their hands. When you make things with your hands, you live a deeper life. There’s soul in making things, but there’s also soul in things and in things that inspire you.

Things have a life in them. Everything that you bring into your home has life in it. Click To Tweet

Things can be cold if they don’t mean something to you. Things can be sterile if they don’t mean things to you. Filling your home, your life, and your surroundings with things that mean something to you is so important. You’re doing such great work in encouraging people to tap into their brains and tap into their hearts with design. It’s such a lovely thing.

Home Therapy with Anita Yokota | Décor Expert

Thank you so much. That means so much to me that is coming from you. This is a dream come true. Honestly, I know being a therapist for twenty years was not a waste. There was, at some point, that I was like, “Was it a waste?” I’m so glad I hung onto my license. There’s a purpose and intention for everything. Piggybacking to what you’re saying, it’s that energy. It is being intentional in our own homes in our authentic way. There’s a vulnerability to that. Being willing to be vulnerable and succumbing to that vulnerability is where true creativity is born. Thank you for being here with me. This was so lovely. I hope you can come back someday and we can talk more.

I would love to talk more. This is such a passion of mine to talk about these things. I feel very honored to be one of your first guests. Thank you for having me.

Thank you so much.

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