F5: Jen Samson Treasures the Old, Well-Made + the Unexpected

Jen Samson is the founder and principal designer of Laguna, California-based design firm Jen Samson Design. Her creative style often results in unexpected design elements that highlight intrigue and self-expression through combined styles. JSD’s spaces are sophisticated but relaxed, playful, and always unique. A lot of inspiration for her “curated creative abandon” comes from world travel, culture, fashion, and interiors both new and old.

The interior designer keeps filing away ideas as she travels with her family. “Traveling is basically the only thing that forces me to truly disconnect from day to day work,” Jen admits. “My husband and I have definitely passed along the travel bug to our two adventurous teenage daughters. We love to take a deep dive into other cultures, traditions, and experiences. We’ve taken our girls to Thailand, (visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket), explored Peru (Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and climbed Machu Picchu), and spent time in Costa Rica and Panama in recent years and we’re headed to Spain as a family this summer. We love to explore art and architecture, and the whole family loves vintage/thrift and antique shopping, so that is always a must as well. These vacations allow me to check out from the day to day of the studio, shift my focus solely to my family, and fill up on inspiration for when I return!”

dark haired light-skinned woman sitting on the back of an ochre couch and smiling at the camera

Jen Samson Photo: Studio Mellon

Before starting JSD, Jen began her career in the fashion and lifestyle industries of Los Angeles. While her passion for all things visually inspiring and her eye for style grew, she helped to create lifestyle driven programming for E! and the Style Network. Jen’s next step was working for renowned luxury fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo as the Director of West Coast public relations. One last project before she jumped into interior design was a successful artisan-crafted, hand-crocheted shoe brand – Painted Bird. The footwear was designed by Jen and handmade in a small village outside of Pondicherry, India.

You get an even greater sense of Jen’s passion and love of all things design after hearing about a collection of rings that belonged to her grandmother. “They are definitely my most treasured possession. We had a very intimate and special bond – I was the oldest of six granddaughters, and we shared a deep connection throughout her life. I was the only granddaughter that had a true affinity for “old” things, so over the years she gifted me a variety of things, from china and coats to handbags and jewelry. When she got much older, she gave me a few rings that I had always admired and borrowed. Whenever I wear the rings, I see her hands so clearly. It is an extraordinary gift.”

This week, Jen Samson is joining us for Friday Five!

two views of a quilted jacket

My favorite coats EVER! The craftsmanship of each of their pieces is bar-none. The fit and the the details of these Italian-made garments coupled with the ability to add to, switch out, and reverse pieces to change the look and feel makes Marfa Stance truly original. As an interior designer who prides myself on being unique and rarely, if ever, repeating aspects of my design, I truly admire and respect the originality and the quality of their pieces.

interior room of a Korean spa

2. Korean Spa

It’s like the ultimate car wash for your body and all of the relaxing and re-invigorating one could possibly want. My favorite one is ISPA in Irvine, California. I usually start in the salt room and make my way through a few other favorites, including the forest and ice rooms, before heading to the wet side of the spa. Cold plunge, sauna, steam, and jacuzzi… and that is all before your number is called for the deepest body scrub down and massage. I’m talking total heaven, and when I leave it’s as if my skin has returned to the most incredible baby soft state, and all is good in the world.

round makeup compact with four shades of red-toned lipstick colors

Just because I love a bold lip! I also love all natural, beautiful makeup (and the packaging!!). All of Gucci Westman’s products are amazing. The Lip Suede is as bright or sultry as you want it to be – and I love that I can mix the colors to create my own perfect shade for whatever mood i’m in.

vessel with an oval-shaped bottom with an extending pipe-like shape on top

Rhea Luna Lava Vessel

4. Pottery

I am always collecting pottery for future projects and installations. I can’t seem to get enough of classic mid century studio pottery and Japanese ikebana vessels from the 60’s. I am also a huge fan of a handful of incredibly talented Los Angeles artisans creating moderns works. Two of my faves that I love to source from for clients are Bari Zipperstein (Zippy) BZippy and Heather Rosenmann. Both take a very nontraditional approach to their work, creating pieces that always bring a sense of modernism and an immense amount of creativity to what they make. Plus, both of these women are just plain cool.

neutral toned throw blanket on white background

Neeru Kumar’s textiles are beautiful, textural weaves using all-natural fibers. Her fabrics are relaxed and incredibly elegant at the same time, all hand loomed weaves that work beautifully as window coverings, pillows, and blankets. All of her patterns have a very organic feel to them and the natural vegetable dyes are to die for. Kumar’s handwoven textiles have been called “Antiques of the Future,” a design sensibility that is very much up my ally. We are currently using her fabrics in custom pillows, soft roman shades, and as bed blankets – a personal fave!

Work by Jen Samson:

colorful living space with ochre sofa, tall floor plant, and palm leaf wallpaper

As featured on the May/June 2023 cover of Luxe Los Angeles, this LA stunner boasts 14-foot ceilings and bold palette of color throughout. Every corner of this architecturally stunning home is filled with art and objects that spark curiosity and conversation.

bedroom with long wood headboard and built-in nightstand

A truly modern bedroom retreat. The primary bedroom was designed to create a relaxed and warm space while allowing for the texture of the walls, bench, bedding, and rug to truly sing.

colorful kitchen with light green backsplash, pink counter stools, and open wood shelving

Drawing inspiration from famed mid-century society photographer Slim Aarons, this kitchen in Indian Wells is a modern take on true mid-century style. It combines pops of color, playful patterns, and an undeniably chic aesthetic that was found in 1960’s design in both Palm Springs and Palm Beach.

wood and light filled sitting space with four lounge chairs and a coffee table

The Lake Tahoe home sits almost on top of the blue waters in Crystal Bay. The home has four levels, all of which have spectacular views of the mountains and the lake below. Tasked with creating a light a bright lake home for the clients, this entry to the home serves as a beautiful and natural welcome to a home designed for enjoying all summer long.

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she’s likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.

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