Inside the colourful Notting Hill home of former British Vogue art director turned creator of the chic bespoke stationery brand, Romeo + Jules…
Jennifer moved from New York to London 11 years ago for her husband’s work for “the classic – just two years”. It’s now firmly become their home with children, Harrison and Oscar, and ‘fur baby’ Archie, who is definitely part of the family. Merging her love of fashion and colour with British good manners and a dash of American preppiness, designed with “a sense of whimsy blended with strength”, Romeo + Jules is a dreamy go-to for bespoke stationery, and a dream come true. “I adored my time at British Vogue, where I was able to combine my love of fashion, and tactile textures and where my creative juices flowed,” recalls Grant. “But as they say, all good things must come to an end and following the birth of my second son, I was craving creativity in my own right and thus Romeo + Jules bespoke stationery was born.” Jennifer is inspired by the strength of the female creative and entrepreneurial community in London, travel near and far, and so much of the beauty around her, loving to create and celebrate, whatever the reason or season… “I’ve certainly got the creative bug and I often inject that into everything I do,” reflects Grant from her beautifully styled home, “from pancakes with the kids, to birthday celebrations and stationery of course. I recently completed a labour-of-love project in which I hand-painted each of the tiles on our terrace. Then, I flooded every ounce of open space with huge potted hydrangeas and we planted sunflower seeds from Harry’s school project.” Becoming a mother, though, has been her greatest inspiration and teacher, “Motherhood has taught me that I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. Raising two humans, and in the process reevaluating myself along the way, has been life’s greatest and most fulfilling challenge.” We caught up with Jennifer at home in Notting Hill to talk candidly about life after Vogue, the strength of female friendships, raising two very different sons and how she makes time for self-care (hint – chakra balancing and cocktails!)… Photography: Helene Sandberg | Go to www.romeoandjulesstationery.com
When did you move to London?
My husband’s job brought us to London for the classic ‘just two years’. This was eleven years ago, so I believe we’ve found a home! I never envisioned us living outside of America, or even leaving New York for that matter! London was a bit of an adjustment at first, but now I’ve learned the British phrases, so Bob’s your uncle to take a page from the British phrasebook.
When did your art direction career begin?
From a young age, I knew I wanted to be involved in the arts. At the age of six, I announced to my mother that I would no longer need to attend school, as I wanted to be a ‘colour-er’. And just in case that didn’t work out, ‘Plan B’ business cards were created by hand to be the first woman President of the United States. But, I persevered and studied Graphic Design at university. Fast forward to an Art Director role at GQ in New York City and eventually a role as an Art Director at British Vogue.
Tell us about your time at British Vogue…
I adored my time at British Vogue, where I was able to combine my love of fashion, and tactile textures and where my creative juices flowed. As an Art Director, I was able to literally bring my visions to life by working with some of the most talented photographers and creative teams out there in the world right now. One of my favourite shoots had to be in Venice with Carmen Kass, where our make-shift location van was a rail of clothing floating along the beautiful Venetian waterways alongside gaggles of tourists. A beautiful sight indeed, not to mention the imagery and the resulting story that was created. But as they say, all good things must come to an end and following the birth of my second son, I was craving creativity in my own rite and thus Romeo + Jules bespoke stationery was born.
You seem to love all aspects of lifestyle - creating and celebrating the little things in life - what are your lifestyle passions?
You had me at celebrating the little things! Sometimes I wonder if my title should be ‘creator of aesthetically pleasing things’ albeit not that snappy? I’ve certainly got the creative bug and I often inject that into daily creations, from pancakes with the kids, to birthday celebrations and stationery of course. We’ve been in our house for less than a year so I feel like I’m still in set-up mode which I have positively adored. Even if I’m driving my husband crazy. I think it’s so important that our home has elements that reflect our personalities to shine through, from images and prints to the boys’ handmade art. I recently completed a labour-of-love project in which I hand-painted each of the tiles on our terrace. Then, I flooded every ounce of open space with huge potted hydrangeas and we planted sunflower seeds from Harry’s school project. It’s so important to have a green space if only to look at from indoors on those notoriously grey London days. Travel certainly offers me a space to clear my head and allow more creative juices to flow in. And I adore that I can bring my boys along for the ride to experience the colours and textures of a new location.
When did you launch Romeo + Jules?
Romeo + Jules softly launched in April of this year, however, it was certainly a side hustle for many, many years. Named to evoke emotions, in a modern sense, R+J’s design aesthetic revolves around a sense of whimsy blended with strength for stationery that leaves a lasting impression. And similar to the art of dressing, the stationery aims to present the writer in an equally fashionable approach. After all, life is too short for bad stationery!
How do you practice self-care?
Meditation, chakra cleansing, time to create and get my ideas out of my head, fish tacos and tequila cocktails. All of these add up to the perfect equation to keep me an even-keeled person. Only then can I be the best wife and mama I can be.
What has motherhood taught you?
Motherhood has taught me that I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. Raising two humans, and in the process reevaluating myself along the way, has been life’s greatest and most fulfilling challenge. It’s been a beautiful ride, but one that certainly has had its ups and downs for sure. And one that has proven to me that these children were sent to me for a reason…to make me a better person. Harry has brought with him a sense of calmness and wisdom that is much older than his being. Oscar is here to unleash our wild sides a bit more, all the while testing patience levels! Both bring more love and laughter into our world.
Has your fashion style changed since you became a mother?
Oh, boy has it, especially in those early days! But now that the boys are of a certain age where I don’t have to worry about spit-up on my shoulder, I feel like I can return to dressing for fun again. I adore dresses any time of year and often seek a collection of go-to dresses that I can slip on in five minutes before rushing out the door. When I have a bit more time, I’m an outfit planner by night, mixing and matching highs and lows for a bit of personality.
What has been your approach to decorating your children’s rooms?
With so many beautiful children’s brands, the decor of their bedroom has been such a joy to create. They share a room which I’ve filled with splashes of colour, from a wall devoted to their drawings and creations to the citrine velvet curtains to block out the early morning light (please sleep past 6 am!!). Handmade wire name signs hang above each of their beds, which are soft grey, and linens in neutrals with little star accents bring a sense of calm, yet again trying to encourage sleep past 6 am!! A little shout out: to the beautiful one-woman brands bringing a sense of chic to their (and my!) daily lives: edit58 baskets, Little Cloud, and Hello Henry hand-painted storage bags.
Favourite things to do with your children?
I find our most favourite thing to do is to be at home, hosting a silly dance party while Eye of the Tiger blares out of the speaker on repeat. Or getting creative and messy around our old school table turned into our dining table, complete with etchings from past children. We bought the table before the boys were born and astonishingly, Harry discovered the initials H+O one day while colouring. If you don’t believe in fate, you might now!
How do you keep your home tidy with children around?
With two young boys, the struggle is real. However, I’m lucky that my older son is quite organised like me and thus his legos always seem to find a place back in the drawers. But Oscar is literally a bull in a china shop so that tidy playroom is usually turned upside down by the end of the day. Thank goodness there is a door to hide away the mess.
What are your favourite travel destinations?
We’ve been lucky enough to take the boys to many different areas of the world. For easy sunshine, you can’t beat the beaches of Portugal or the winter sunshine of Morocco. Italian countryside in the summer holds a special place in my heart where the boys can simply swim and run around without a care, barefoot and rarely clothed. A weekend in Amsterdam is always a dream with its beautiful architecture and ease of biking around.
Please recommend five must-dos for families visiting London?
Skip the obvious children museums and save yourself the sweat and crowds. Take them to the V&A or the Royal Academy for some serious daydreamy wandering. And don’t forget to hit up the gift shops for a little treat for mamas and kiddos alike. 2. Take a taxi one direction, but then bus it on the way home. Cross all fingers to get the seats at the front of the bus on the top level. It truly feels like you are flying through London’s iconic streets, Peter Pan style. We once viewed Regent Streets Christmas lights in this manner and it was truly magical. 3. The Electric Cinema’s Saturday morning kids club is a dream way to spend a lazy weekend morning come darker and colder days. Snuggle up on lazy boy chairs with the little ones. They view a fab movie and you get to enjoy your flat white in peace. What more could one want? 4. I love London for its expansive green parks and we are lucky enough to be smack dab in between two of its Royal Parks. Viewing Holland Park’s resident peacocks roaming freely never gets old. And Hyde Park’s summer carousel always gets my youngest squealing in delight. 5. To experience true London life, visiting a fantastic pub is a must. Order fish & chips for the entire family and enjoy.
What are your day-to-day Notting Hill haunts?
I love living in Notting Hill with its buzz and visual delights. Our version of the morning school run involves scooting past the multicoloured houses along a little street the boys and I have re-named Rainbow Row. And the hand-painted signs of Portobello Road are such a thing of beauty to take in briefly as we whizz past. I realise it might sound completely cliche, but I actually do love strolling through the fruit and veg market on Monday mornings. I drop the boys off at school and scoop up Archie the dog for a wander to get our weekly essentials of blueberries, hydrangeas and other goodies. Another neighbourhood essential is the adorable wine bar Negozio Classica just steps from our front door. They welcome both kiddos and dogs alike so everyone is happy!
Goodness knows what the future holds for but I think we are open to the opportunities that await. With my recent launch of Romeo + Jules, my near future is a busy one! I feel so lucky to have been embraced by the creative community of women that I’ve met through the launch of R+J. I feel such a sense of support, empowerment and general good vibes for the success of my new business. There are so many brands that have been launched by a simple, yet beautiful concept and it’s truly amazing to see what women can do when we get going. Us girls have to stick together, no?
Jennifer’s little list of loves:
Dabs of essential oils throughout the day keeping my creative juices flowing and patience levels in check. I’m forever listening to podcasts galore, including my new fave ‘That’s so Retrograde’. Sunshine breaks to Little Beach House Barcelona, where I’m currently typing away. Pedicures at Cowshed. The selection of rainbow glassware at Summerill and Bishop. I want them all, please! The Seat of the Soul by Garay Zukan has been in my grips for about three months now, and hopefully, soon I’ll get past page 23. The good vibes from the creative community of London females. Indian takeout from our local favourite Malabar. We’ve been going for so many years that they know the sound of our voices on the phone and allow us to order from a secret menu.