Backstage

  • Jan Eleni (right) with her husband [and Oribe Creative Director] Ronnie Stam (left)
  • Casa Lola in Brazil from 'Elle Decor UK'
  • Casa Lola in Brazil from 'Elle Decor UK'
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Jan Eleni

Designer Jan Eleni grew up in New York City immersed in art. In the ‘90s, the self-taught designer expressed herself by opening up a small antiques shop on 9th Street, where she grabbed the attention of editors, stylists and celebrity clients. With her whimsical touch, Jan’s work has been featured in countless blogs and publications. We asked Eleni to describe her creative process, her dream salon and her favorite places to pick up unique pieces.

How did growing up in NYC influence your perspective as a designer?


One of the greatest benefits of growing up in New York was having access to all of the museums. Being exposed to all of this incredible art at a young age definitely shaped my taste as a designer.

When I was in high school, I did an internship at The Soho Weekly News. It was the ‘70s and I was just 15 years old. Instead of going to school, I worked in the art department of one of the hippest downtown newspapers. Being surrounded by tastemakers like Annie Flanders, Stephan Saban and Allan Tannenbaum was a huge influence on a young girl. Soho was amazing back then...there was a rawness, a pulse, a creative energy. Just walking through the streets was inspiring.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?


I like to mix things up, and I don't like to plan ahead too much. I think it takes away from the creative process. I’m a fan of details, textures and utilizing earthy materials if I can. I love working with artisans and dislike anything overly designed.

Decorating/redecorating can seem like a daunting project. How does your creative process start?


I’m particular about the clients I take on—there needs to be some sort of connection. Communication is key, so I spend a lot of time talking with my clients as well as listening to them. I need to know how they live and how they use their home.

From there, I start by focusing on a feeling using a few key pieces as the focal point to set the mood. The rest is a domino effect. I never see pieces as just a couch or just a side table, though. It’s important to me that all the pieces connect with each other.

What’s been your favorite project thus far and why?


My favorite project would, of course, be my home in Brazil, Casa Lola. My family really jived with the people there, and it continues to be an incredible experience for us when we visit. I got to work with one of my favorite people, my husband [and Oribe Creative Director] Ronnie Stam. I am so proud of the home we created together.

Where is your favorite place to pick up furniture/décor?


I love John Derian, Paula Rubenstein, The Future Perfect, Matter and ABC Home and Carpet in New York, just to name a few. I’m also a huge fan of Remodelista, which is fantastic for sourcing.

If you owned a salon, what would it look like? How would you furnish it?


I would start with a fireplace and invest in great floors, perhaps an unglazed Moroccan cement tile or reclaimed wood. It would have Old World charm with a hint of French modern mixed in. I’d like to have a beautiful old bar in the reception area where clients could hang out on stools, drink and shop. The products would be displayed behind on shelves. For contrast, I would throw in a modern lounge pod for coolness. They would be great for relaxing, waiting and reading.

There would be an inspiration area—maybe it’s an ever-changing mood board or a large table where clients and stylists can peruse books and magazines. Lighting is key in a salon environment, so I’d love for each station to be able to control its own overhead light. Fantastic music to set the mood is also a must…maybe a little Serge Gainsbourg and Carla Bruni.

What are some simple tips salon owners can implement to make a space feel new?


A salon should always be extremely clean and organized, so make sure that all of the dirty towels are out of sight and the mirrors are pristine. Small additions like a footrest can help enhance a client’s experience. Also, every salon should have a great magazine selection—don’t forget the international ones—and don’t stick with just fashion.

Reorganize the reception area by adding a chic reading table. Floral arrangements can also make a big change. Also, how does your salon smell? Throw away the potpourri and try soy candles instead.

The Jan Eleni Collage is a beautiful and unique idea that developed a big celebrity clientele after being featured in Goop. How did you come up with it?


It all started when my daughter Lola was in kindergarten. She would come home with all these sweet drawings, and I wanted to create a time capsule of all these treasures. I played around with her drawings and even used one on my first business card. I kept developing the idea until eventually it became the collage.

If you could decorate anyone’s home or redecorate any space, who or where would it be?


For me, it’s not so much “who” rather than “what.” I would love to start a project from the very beginning and be able to collaborate with the architect to create the bare bones.
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