By Tomboy KC | Photography by Danielle Sabol
With degrees from both Georgetown and Harvard, Jean Liu is the founder of not one, but two thriving businesses – her own interior design firm, Jean Liu Design, and a brand new outdoor furniture company, Stori Modern (which we have been gushing over for weeks here at TKC). How she does it all? No one knows. Hell, the woman has run in ten marathons and aims to do yoga everyday, as if being a mother and interiors mogul wasn’t enough. Dear Jean, teach us your ways…
TKC: Talk about a woman with an interesting background. Tell us how you ended up in the interiors space.
JL: In college, I studied Foreign Service and Theology and always wanted to work for a think tank. Then reality set in, and I realized how little money I was going to make (at least in the short term). Around the same time, I got pulled into my family business and decided to move to Dallas to give it a shot. Once there, I remodeled a house, loved it and went on to do 3 more. My friend saw the last house and asked if I would help her with her own space. I eagerly agreed, and before her project was done, I had another one lined up. Before I knew it, I was in business.
TKC: Your interior design work is stunning and is so incredibly thoughtful. We’re sure this is such a cliche question, but what is your process?
JL: Acquaint, Cogitate and Create. My clients are my inspiration, so I try to get to know them well enough to create spaces that reflect their lifestyles, personalities, and interests. (Acquaint) Once I feel like I understand what makes them tick, I start “concept-ing” the rooms. This part takes the longest, and there’s a lot of “cogitating” that takes place. I often lay fabrics, swatches, and color schemes out across 5 tables and come back to them day after day until I feel like I’ve edited and honed in on one solid direction. Then I present it to the client, with fingers and toes crossed, to see if we get the greenlight to move forward.
TKC: You recently launched an outdoor furniture company, Stori Modern. HUGE congrats. The pieces are so different and truly gorgeous. How did that come about?
JL: In 2011, I got back involved with my family’s business, which had purchased an outdoor furniture company. It was a difficult integration and a tremendous learning experience. Three years into it, I really wanted to take the lessons I learned to try a line of my own, that is when Stori Modern was born. I wanted to see if I could be successful selling the same category of product to a different audience through a different channel of trade, and in this case, direct to consumer.
TKC: Do you have a favorite piece?
JL: The Fairy Tale Collection—it’s a little known fact, but this collection was designed for my daughter.
TKC: You’ve got a lot going on! How to you keep yourself centered?
JL: Eat, Sleep and Run. I’m a simple person and always try to stick to the basics, especially when my schedule feels like it’s spiraling out of control. First, I try never to skip dinner with my family. It’s not just about sustenance—it’s the social aspect and often the only time of day when I get to see my husband and daughter. Second, I love sleep. My mind can be a dark, dark place if I don’t sleep, and as my friend’s mother used to say, “Nothing good happens after 10pm.” Well, generally speaking, that is. Finally, I run. I used to run as a way to cross train; then I started to run for stress relief, and now I run to day dream. I put my ear phones in, get on the Katy Trail, and let my mind wander. Sometimes I think about work; sometimes I think about my next vacation, and sometimes I just people watch. The time to myself helps me recharge, time and time again.
TKC: Alright, moving on. How would you describe your personal style?
JL: 3 parts classic and 1 part punk.
TKC: Day to day, what are you wearing? Do you have a work uniform of sorts?
JL: These days, I’m sporting my COS trousers, tops from J. Crew and Derek Lam, paired with my Gucci Ghost slippers. Oh, and I never leave the house without my Facet & Co. bangles.
TKC: Outside of the studio, is there a particular designer or look that you tend to favor?
JL: I’m a lover of Dolce & Gabbana’s style. I admire their point of view and ability to translate everyday objects such as pasta and cats into their clothing. I’ve had the pleasure to meet them and immediately, you can tell they design with such gusto.
TKC: OK, here’s a fun one. What is one type or piece of furniture that is safe to buy on a budget?
JL: Buy a great chair. It’s sculptural and functional. Chances are you’ll always be able to find a spot for it, no matter the size of the house or how many times you move.
TKC: One worth splurging on?
JL: Ooh, I do love a good, antique Oushak rug. It can give any room such character.
TKC: What is one beauty product you can’t live without?
JL: D’Andra Simmons’ Hard Night Good Morning Facial Cleanser.
TKC: What’s your favorite emoji?
JL: The smiley face with sunglasses. I grew up in California and always wish I was outside more, but in reality, I’m usually in an office, so it’s a nice foil or sentiment when I’m texting friends.
TKC: Coffee or tea?
JL: Coffee—Starbucks tall mild, with room for milk, to be exact.
TKC: Instagram or Snapchat?
TKC: In high school you would have been voted most likely to….
JL: Become a lawyer.