Get your “Jones Fix!”
My intent when I walked into ‘Give Me Some Sugar’ (GMSS) awhile ago was just to learn how to frost a lot of cupcakes better. However from the moment I opened the door, I was immediately captivated. The creative details of the walls, decor, furniture and side dishes of humorous signage invited me in. All my senses were appealed to. I’ve never had a 360 degree experience quite like it before…even in some of the most artistic spaces. Anyone who has that ability to make a impression that you walk away with months and years later, well…is damn gifted.
So I was thrilled when owner of the ‘Jones Fix’ Layne Jones responsible for creating the masterpiece at GMSS agreed to set-up a meeting at her design studio in Chicago. Each detail of Layne’s design studio and home has been thought of from every angle and corner from the floors to the ceilings. It’s like turning a page of an exciting novel as you venture from one room to the next. Most of those fine details are followed with a memorable story. The beauty of her work is that she has the ability to get inside your brain and tap into your design soul so to speak. She proves even for the skeptics that there is a hidden creative persona lurking.
When I approached Layne’s house, she was already stepping out the front door. ‘Hunger Games’ soundtrack was playing pleasantly in the background and her cute dog Stevie eagerly came over for a friendly pat. Layne has quite the electric personality and friendly energy about her which makes her such a fun person to get to know. Since we are both vegetarian, born and raised in Michigan and share love for Anthropologie’s home goods section, it was easy to get chatting away…
FC: I am excited to finally meet you. So tell me what began your journey of the design world?
JF: I was actually a retail buyer for a Chicago based all natural beauty and health store called Merz Apothecary. I loved Merz and I loved that the products were all natural beauty and health care from all over the world. I was there for 3 years and rather fell into the job by striking a conversation with the owner who practically hired me on the spot. I also met my husband there. Then I worked for Phyto (luxury French haircare) for 2 years. At Merz and Phyto, I liked the retail styling aspect of those jobs more than anything else. I loved building displays and using props to make things look unexpected and interesting.
I also grew up with art and design around me. From my mom to my grandmother and ladies of our house, they didn’t have a lot to invest in modern furniture and design but they knew how to remake, upholster, paint and sew. I watched them do everything as a kid and learned if you want to do it, do it yourself. They knew that you didn’t have to spend a ton to have beautiful design in your home.
FC: When was the turning point for you?
JF: When my husband and I bought our house, I was super pumped. Everyone said it would take forever to do the improvements it needed and then after they saw what I did, people said you need to do this for a living. So I said, I will give it a try for 6 months. On another note, I was miserable at my job. I felt a lack of creativity. I realized that I am also not good at being policed or schooled creatively. I had all these ideas but could never do it because I wasn’t the boss. I always felt stifled like an artist that couldn’t touch the paint. I always felt limited and that I could do way more.
Chef Alekka Sweeney’s home was my real job. After she saw what I could do in her house she asked me to do her business 6 months later. It was a lot of fun for me.
FC: Of all the creative places in the country apart from obviously roots, why did you decide to plant your business here in Chicago?
JF: Chicago has vintage and mid-century modern market like no other. We really have the best home and vintage stores. I love going to Andersonville to visit places like ’Room Service’ and ‘Brumfield’ which are really cool. And I have considered Miami as a secondary market. It is very artistically driven there.
FC: What inspired you to launch a business which targets all consumers vs. setting a specific target market?
JF: Although I work with all clients, I wanted to gravitate towards people who have no design clue or a limited budget. I’ve had higher end clients at the Trump and the North Shore and that is a much harder job. So many options feels like trying on 300 wedding dresses. Too much. A budget makes more sense to me. I wanted to sell myself to people who I can also relate to. It worked for me in business because people responded to what I did. They would flip out and and they would ask to do the next thing. It defined itself.
“If a home is chaotic, so is your brain!”
FC: What sections is your business divided into?
JF: A huge part of my business is refinishing furniture although my core is interior styling. I do a ton of shopping for my clients and I style one room at a time for an hourly rate. So you name it. If you put in a request for me to find a dresser and do it up the way you want, for a certain price I can. Or, if you give me a piece of furniture you like and want me to give it a make-over, that’s what I’ll do. This includes painting and upholstering. I do paint interiors or can subcontract it out or give referrals. You can also shop or rent from my showroom for events or parties.
FC: From walking into your design studio to taking a tour of your office and home, I can’t really box the design into a specific category. What are your sources of inspiration?
JF: Nostalgic, vintage but with a modern sensibility. I love anything French and Indian. What else? Old movies and older women and a lot of Vanity Fair Magazines. And definitely global. You have to see everything in this business so traveling is huge.
FC: So just curious, why old women?
JF: Old women are the most underused resource in our countries. They hold a wealth of knowledge and resources.
FC: How to you formulate a color palette?
JF: I do a style diagnostic. I use my I-pad and use a series of 4 images from couches, wedding dresses and vacation destinations to name a few. I don’t know most clients. I need to know what they like quickly. It starts a conversation of likes and dislikes, do’s and don’ts to get started. The color palette is defined by loves. For example, if you like Ireland, I am not going to shoot for green and clovers but wood finishes and stone hues. I like to find the sub tones.
FC: How do you marry designs and themes to fit the client’s preferences without sacrificing creative control?
JF: It is my job to get into a client’s brain to see who they are. I always say, your home is your head. If a home is chaotic/boring, so is your life. I don’t put my style on others. I just see what they respond to most and make it real. For example, if Chef Alekka free-styled, she would have never said pink and green. She would have done orange, yellow and red because she is a child of the 70′s and that is where her heart is. I knew she had a girly side but it was gonna have to be a little punk rock and a little unusual. A lot of people are in the design world to impress by buying things that are really expensive. I don’t want expensive and my goal is not to be impressive. When people are impressed it’s not because I bought a bunch of pricey stuff, they are impressed because their space looks like them. I just look for what invokes a personal feeling and apply those personal touches. If we all just bought what was on trend we would all have the exact same house. Boring.
FC: What stood out to me from your work is your ability to bring a space to life and give it character and personality. So many commercial spaces don’t give you that feel of personable and individuality.
JF: I like to do that in a subtle approach. For example, I made curtains out of a type of material that was distinctly from Tahiti where my client went on her honeymoon. It was just a subtle reminder of a special memory for her. I’d find out where you had your first kiss whether it be a park or church and I will take a photograph of something that will remind you of it and incorporate it to the design process.
“You should update your home as often as you update your wardrobe.”
FC: If someone were to venture out to do their own style project, what stores or brands would you highly recommend?
JF: If they like vintage, ‘An Orange Moon’ which is mid-century modern and ‘Lincoln Antique Mall’. If not into vintage, then the ‘Anthropologie’ sale section. I also like ‘Home Goods’. I am there religiously 5 times a week. I like unique and am not so much of a label horn. I also suggest ‘Unique Thrift’ and ‘Kame County’ flea market.
FC: What projects were you most proud of?
JF: I’m proud of GMSS and BFO (Be Found Online). I recently completed a job in Miami and it was amazing to see the client so happy. Of course I love my house. I’ve done a lot of curtains and furniture pieces for people’s houses that were one of a kind and make me feel proud. I love when I can take an old messed up lamp and make it into a chandelier. That’s a triumph and cost $8 when people have tried to buy it for $500.
Although Layne is fond of vintage, I had to take this photo of her creative and cool staircase where she has a Tory Burch bag hanging on the rail. Though she is a vintage gal at heart, it doesn’t stop her from appreciating the beauty of modern designer labels.
FC: What aspects of your network do you enjoy?
JF: I love working with artists. I’ve done portraits of icons like Josephine Baker, James Dean and Marie Antoinette. You don’t have to buy art in stores. There are artists out there who just want to get paid and it doesn’t have to cost a lot to paint cool or unique art.
JC: I brought home a lamp that was perceived as ugly and hideous and for about $8. I turned it into a chandelier for my dining room table.
FC: What would you say is your signature trademark as a designer or sets you apart artistically?
JF: I don’t want to feel inaccessible especially for those who are even on the smallest budgets. The stereotype is that an interior stylist is only for affluent people. But, you don’t need a lot of money to create a masterpiece space or restyle furniture. I’ve been able to do a lot of big scale projects that would cost thousands for a fraction of the cost. I am also not the girl who is looking to make a buck of my clients or pay extra fees to contractors. All of the painters and electricians and people I work with bill the client directly- I don’t add in any extra charges for me and my time. Often, I like to go under anticipated budgets and save clients money.
FC: I was so impressed when I visited ‘Give Me Some Sugar’ recently. How did the idea unravel to do a vintage look with so much detail appealing to every visual sense?
JF: Alekka does not understand decor, she will not argue that. She is a chef. She speaks the language fondant and buttercream but not of color palettes and furniture scale. Her biggest concerns were wanting her space to look unique and cost effective. It costs a lot to start a business. I was inspired by Marie Antoinette because she is girly and a little bit punk rock at the same time. She had her head chopped off for being over the top and decadent. What is more decadent than cupcakes? It just made sense.
‘Give Me Some Sugar’ Culinary Instruction Center is where Layne worked her magic to bring the space to life with tremendous energy and character.
Layne shoots the raw structure below and in that exact order of the core instruction area, the foyer and front of the house retail/reception area.
FC: Walk us through the creative process.
JF: The color palette came first. I wanted it to be girly because the target market is women but Alekka is not a girly girl. I had to sell her on a punk rock fuschia pink not baby girl ballet pink. We did swatches in huge squares. I needed a more subtle tone too…so we went with Mermaid Tale by Behr. It is so french, and French and pastry go hand in hand. After the colors were decided, I wanted everything to feel luxurious in a flea market accessible way. That was why I did a ton of Ikat fabrics which exemplify luxury, gold finishes and decadent touches. If it didn’t seem decadent, I didn’t use it. I refused shelving from IKEA, and bought used pieces and painted them gold. Xza Louise Vintage provided all the vintage aprons. It was cost and aestetic. They wanted a retail selection but did not have a ton of money to use on merchandise. So I figured the same people who would like a french flea market would probably dig vintage aprons…
JF: I wanted something that would invoke your thoughts and give the place character. There needed to be fun and humor, hence I used a sign that says “Let them eat cake” and put additional signs in the bathroom and stuff. With all of the French decadence we didn’t want to feel formal so I used humor where I could.
I also knew there was a lot of wall space that I had to fill up. The aprons for students were functional to kept in a central location. The hooks represented Marie Antoinette getting her head cut off. Alekka wanted to time classes and was anticipating a clock. So I did a HUGE French clock. Yet there was still too much negative space. I was looking for cost effective way to fill it. I knew I wanted something metallic to catch the eye. So I went to the Salvation Army and saw the first of many vintage cake pans. I thought about how pans were hung on the walls with hooks in the old days and how it would be such a familiar sight to so many people. I bought dozens of them and now Alekka’s clients can grow that wall with their own vintage cake pans and cake molds. It was funny because that wall gets so much attention and it really was an after thought when we were at the end of the budget.
Layne creates a front of the house detailed masterpiece, cheerful classrooms, detailed walls and an ornate foyer.
Layne re-invents and remodels a tea cart which adds more character to the space she creates.
Layne creates the finest details. Below is one of her favorite signs that she incorporated into the GMSS project.
JF: It is funny to me when people say “I hate vintage” and then pull out a Restoration Hardware or West Elm catalogue. Everything in those stores is vintage inspired! I’ve noticed the trend of mid-century modern is coming back which is great because it blends seamlessly into any modern decor. I see lots of trends in textiles..I called the Ikat craze years ago! But now it is all about Chevrons and Zig Zags. Lots of trellis patterns.
Above and to the right are snapshots of Layne’s design studio.
FC: How does the trend forecasting help?
JF: Being on trend is important to most people, but yet they don’t exactly know how to bridge the gap between current styles and their stuff. I hold their hand through that process.
Top DIY Design Mistakes per Layne:
1. Expensive = good.
2. Pushing all your furniture against the wall to create a ‘dance hall’ space.
3. Not utilizing the ceiling or painting it.
4. Kids take over the house.
5. Vintage does not mean old ladies.
6. Living like a college student.
7. Thinking that functional and artistic cannot be combined artistically.
FC: So, I am curious about a couple of those so let’s break them apart. So elaborate more on the functional and artistic.
JF: When working with couples, I have to make sure everyone feels heard. I will have to be a design mediator. Men generally are more interested in functionality and cost, like the husband who has to have that ugly chair because it is so comfortable. Women are much more concerned with aestetic. Most couples who have different tastes just focus on their differences, I help remind them of what they both like.
FC: And Vintage?
JF: Vintage doesn’t have to mean old ladies or doilies and flower wallpaper. Most modern design is inspired by vintage looks. You can usually save money, get better quality and something less cookie cutter if you are open to vintage pieces.
I took a tour of Layne’s home and took these shots. There’s nothing like using a pretty sari to create elegant curtains.
Where magic happens (Layne’s workshop).
A hand painted and remodeled dresser in the guest bedroom.
Layne remodels her foyer to give you a warm welcome! Love these curtains and vases!
A symphony of animals in the kitchen.
Vintage kitchen table.
Dining room horse tango.
Collage of colorful vases.
To the right: French inspiration. Antique and custom paintings.
Below: The infamous make-over lamp turned $8 chandelier.
Far Below: Grandpa’s junk closet= Layne’s revamped treasure unicorn.
FC: What are you currently working on?
JF: Right now is peak spring season when I turn and remake furniture. I do a lot of patios. I am making furniture like a crazy person. Lots of painting and sewing. I have been making lots of curtains and getting ready to relaunch my etsy page.
FC: What is in store next for The Jones Fix?
JF: I want to progress to a storefront in a year.
FC: What is the best advice you can offer to someone ready to remodel or move to a new place?
JF: Your home is your head. Everything should be a reflection of you.
Layne is a wealth of resource from her knowledge of the vintage and resale markets, keen design sense and artistic ability. After a full consultation, you have the option to walk away with a carefully planned list of recommendations, styles, patterns and specific items and stores to purchase from. Or, you can work with Layne through the ends of the project.
Before I left, Layne insisted I take her diagnostic test. So, I plugged away making my choices on her I-pad from a butterfly vase, to a simple wedding gown and a Mercedes silver SUV among a handful of categories. Ironically I wanted that car 7 years ago but New Yorkers don’t need cars so I let that go.
My results = girly, clean, modern and ethereal. I was a bit surprised by the girly but maybe that’s just who I am.
FC: Thank you Layne for inviting me to the design studio and into your world. It has been a fun afternoon!
JF: Thank you FC!
Learn more about the ‘Jones Fix’ by visiting their website and blog!
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