Jenna Wilson: Far From the Maddening Crowd

Camp // Rumaan Alam // August/September 2010
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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Jenna Wilson

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

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By David Land

Far from the Maddening Crowd

FASHION DESIGNERS ARE SUPPOSED TO LIVE IN GRITTY, light-filled lofts in Bushwick or funky bungalows in Silver Lake. But Jenna Wilson isn’t that interested in what she’s supposed to do. So it’s fitting that Wilson, who cut her teeth as one of the partners behind LaRok, moved on to a gig as head designer of Hurley, and was not long ago tapped by Nike to launch Nike 6.0, lives far from the cool kids, on a sleepy, tree-lined street in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

“Ditmas Park represented a new adventure,” says Wilson. “I’ve done the walk-ups on St. Marks and the Lower East Side…I love the way this neighborhood is pretty and historic but still really gritty. There’s something so surprising about how all these old houses just rise out of the urban tangle of apartment buildings.”

Her street is indeed a surprise amidst the sprawl of Brooklyn, and feels very much a refuge from the surrounding city. Inside this rambling, seven-bedroom (yes: seven) Victorian manse, Wilson, husband Mark, and the couple’s toddler son James have created a home that’s marked by the same qualities that define her latest fashion endeavor—chic but comfortable, modern yet rooted in the past, stylish but still sensible.

This is where Wilson both lives and works—certainly there’s ample space, and, as she herself acknowledges, “It’s impossible for me to separate my work from my life—they’re so intertwined.” That’s partly a function of the fact that the creative process isn’t a nine-to-five proposition, and it’s even more complicated by the fact that Jenna, based in New York, coordinates with the Nike team, based in Oregon, as well as a slew of athletes (among them snowboarder Ellery Hollingsworth and surfers Carissa Moore and Monyca Byrne-Wickey) based wherever in the world their game takes them, all the while managing life as a working mom.

Immediately upon entering the home, visitors get a sense of Wilson’s approach to style: “I love unique things with a sense of history, a story to tell,” she says. Found items rich with age are comfortably paired with new things here, and Wilson explains she enjoys employing contrast “when getting dressed, as well as when decorating.” That characteristic mix is on display in the foyer, where a handsome padded-leather bench found at Manhattan’s HousingWorks thrift store is paired with a bright aluminum side table from West Elm. It’s an unlikely combo that just works somehow, nicely offsetting one of the home’s stunning original stained-glass windows.

Wilson similarly and deftly mixes old and new in the living room, where the steamer trunk coffee table is a very personal nod to the past (it accompanied Wilson’s grandmother as she emigrated from Scotland to Canada) while the Mid-Century armchair—found at Pasadena’s storied Rose Bowl flea market—keeps the space feeling vibrant. The sunny walls and her son’s scattered toys make it clear that this is a living room actually designed for living.

As a true testament to Wilson’s dedication to her work, consider the fact that she keeps not one but two offices at home. The second floor space is simple and bright, with a pair of desks—one for computing, one for working the old-fashioned way—and not much ornament beyond the festive paper garland, from Chinatown emporium Pearl River, and the flowing curtains, crafted from stitched-together Indian scarves. It’s here that Wilson takes care of the emails and IMs that are the stuff of the modern workplace, even for a fashion designer. It’s the upstairs studio where she gets in touch with her creative side.

“Attic rooms are the best,” Wilson says. “They feel so intimate and removed.” She proclaims this upstairs space her favorite spot in the house. It’s simply designed, but the white walls and sloping ceilings make excellent inspiration boards. In this relative seclusion, Wilson plays with ideas and themes for coming collections and pieces. Plus the big bed is perfect for a quick power nap in the sun. “One day I’ll get around to painting and beautifying this room,” Wilson says. “But for now it’s just a big creative mess, which is perfect.”



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Originally published in August/September 2010


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