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Whitney Lundeen's two-bedroom California apartment isn't just a sanctuary for herself and her sons. It's also the headquarters of her business.
The single mom of two launched the dress company Sonnet James from her kitchen floor two years ago, and she continues to run the booming business out of the same Palo Alto home where she lives with her boys.
"It's the way of startup in Palo Alto," she said. "Rent is too expensive so you do everything out of your home." Fortunately, juggling it all hasn’t made the home any less of a charmed space for the family of three.
Whitney recently let TODAY come by for a visit to the two-bedroom home, and like the whimsical mom, the space is imaginative.
On her favorite room: “My favorite part of our home is our kitchen, because it’s the center of our home. I love to sit and enjoy food with my boys. And it has the pink sofa in it!”
On her pink sofa in her kitchen: “It was originally intended for the Sonnet James office but that got moved back into my home. It’s really fun to shop and design for Sonnet James because it’s almost like this alter ego. What would Sonnet James have in her house? She’s way cooler than I am. She totally has a pink sofa in her house. That’s how it came about. And I’ve just always wanted a pink sofa."
"So many times with children, I feel like the instinct is to go with brown or microsuede because you can’t see anything that they got on it. You know what? I’m going to say no. I found it and decided I’m going to really live my life.”
On starting Sonnet James on her kitchen floor: "I started Sonnet James in January 2013. I was a single mom and after putting the boys to bed, I would come straight downstairs and would roll out the thing of butcher paper. I had bought a punch of books about how to draft patterns. It was the most aggravating, frustrating learning curve. But it all happened on my kitchen floor. I would use my little boy’s children books as weights to hold the pattern down. It was basically one month straight of me working from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. every night, doing things I never ever imagined I could do."
On the art in her home: “I want my home to be peaceful. That’s a huge, very important thing to me. My home was not a very peaceful place growing up, and I want my boys to feel safe, comfortable and at ease. The ocean has always given that to me. I feel the most myself when I’m around it, so most of my art is about the beach and the ocean. I have pictures of surfers out in the water in my kitchen. Over my sofa, I have an aerial view of the beach. It’s colorful and bright and I love the sunshine. The art really brings the room to life.”
Her favorite memory in her home: “One day, I had a ton of work to do packaging dresses. I remember I was on my bed folding and packing while the boys slid down the stairs in cardboard boxes. I felt so happy hearing them laugh together so hard.”
On her purple bed: “Once I was on my own, it was just me and the bed was kind of a statement piece. It was about getting back in touch with my own identity. It represented playfulness, youthfulness and life. From there, the whole room just came together. It feels like me right now.”
How her decorating style has changed since having kids: “I feel like it has gotten so much more meaningful and magical. Every thought about what I buy has to do with them.”
On creating a “playful” home: “I feel like education should constantly be happening and that curiosity should constantly be available to my boys. There should be enough materials around for them to explore whatever they’re curious about very easily. I want them to be able to have an imagination and pretend like we’re wherever they want to be. Having blocks, having train tracks, having paper, having crayons, having paint, it’s such a great opportunity as a mother. When there are a lot of materials around, you’re not scared to do a painting and mess up. There’s no fear of failure.”
(Photos: Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Leigh Noe)