You may recognize Jen Patterson from her recent piece on how our quarantine pursuits are contributing to our wholeness both at home and at work. The single mother of one, to three-year-old babe aptly named Kismet, is a strategist and executive coach. And we can personally attest, her coaching is unlike any we have experienced: part therapy, part meditation, all internally motivated, Jen helps her clients identify and open their blocks not just around their professional goals, but their lives - and this is just in the first session.
This same vision and opening can be seen and felt in the home she has created, initially just for herself, and now for her and Kismet. Full of beautiful art, rich textiles and lots of color, juxtaposed against a midcentury modern backdrop; the space feels centered, light and joyful. This is very much, pardon the pun, on brand for this former advertising exec whose approach to decorating mirrors her approach to life and coaching, "I always want to be in ease and flow and meaning so I am constantly weeding out what's no longer necessary and rearranging to bring forward something that is calling."
Read on to tour Jen and Kismet's home and pay close attention as she discusses her professional, personal and maternal evolution... though her insights on collecting art, cultivating comfort for clients and the importance of tuning into your child and out of social media (+ much more) are all noteworthy as well.
How did you find this space? Who lives in your home and how long have you been there?
I had been living in LA and toying with the idea of moving to Seattle. I was coming to Seattle for work and every time I flew in I was drawn in by the trees and the water. I was just getting divorced and had taken a trip to Sedona for a solo Xmas. On the drive home I can only say I had a transformative cry - fortunately no one was on the road so I just drove and cried and drove. The next week, I was at focus groups in Chicago and found the house online. Or, it found me. A few weeks later I flew to Seattle to see it in person. I think my brother who came with me, and my realtor thought I was crazy. Everything was wood paneled and smelled old. But I could just see what it could become. I bought it 8 years ago.
What initially attracted you to your home? What have you updated or modified since you moved in?
In French there is this amazing expression about falling in love - a coup de foudre - that was me and this house. The thing that really got me were the flagstone floors and the offset niche in the fireplace - such a thoughtful detail. And then, the view of the lake. I'm a Capricorn and the sign is the Sea-goat - the goat with the fish's tail. I am pretty sure I was a fish in this lake in some life. When I bought the house I gutted it. That was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, walking into the house for the first time after the demo. I had just moved up from LA and walked into this shell of a house - not a single wall left. I could feel my heart racing. Over the course of the remodel, I kept telling my contractor, "Honda, not Mercedes!" at all the choices we were making. I was worried I wouldn't be able to do it all. In the end, I got down to my last $5K in my savings but eked it out. In hindsight I wished I'd been more choosy about some things, but great bones go a long way. Where I think I did best was paint - I just let the house talk to me and tell me what it wanted to be.
Since purchasing this home you have made some major life shifts. Tell us about those transitions and how/if they impacted your home/home life.
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I heard somewhere that Capricorns age in reverse and that's exactly how I feel. I moved into the house in November and I remember my divorce finalization coming the following month and thinking, "Well this just makes sense." And then I began again! I've spent most of my 40's in this house and in that time I've left a big corporate job as Chief Strategy Officer in advertising, I've adopted a baby who is now 3, I became a worklife coach. There has been some pretty big identity shifting held by this house. I think one of the advantages in having children later in life is that you can hold space for all your identities and not feel like you have to give up one to become a parent. I'm not one of those women that wants "mom" to be her lead identity. That's how I feel my house is - I want to preserve a sense of beauty and aesthetic that is true to me, even while I have bins of toys and excavators and dump trucks everywhere!
Did bringing Kismet into your life impact your aesthetic? If so, how?
I feel like parenting is such a test of an aesthetic. Like, there were waaaaay more functional high chairs I could have bought him, for example but I decided I couldn't look at such an ugly thing every day in my kitchen. A friend of mine whose husband is a photographer asked me what I wanted for a baby gift and I told her a print of his. So every time I went in to change his diaper I got to enjoy this beautiful print over his dresser.
Are there any myths about being single and/or a single mother (especially right now!) that you would like to dispel or clarify?
I came to single-mom-ing from a very privileged position. I had a lot of time to work on myself before K was born, and I had a lot of resources going into it. One of Kismet's teachers at daycare, also a single mom, asked me how I do it. She is probably 25 and works full time at the daycare. I told her, I'm a lot older than you. I have traveled, I have built a career - there wasn't anything I felt antsy to do. Plus I work a lot less. I have space for myself. And Kismet has been in daycare since day 1 of COVID. These are not small things. Because of COVID, the bottom is just falling out for many moms who are juggling work and childcare, especially moms of color. So I am lucky. A practitioner I saw a few times told me I was in my grandmother energy because in tribal societies by the time you're in your 40's you're a grandmother. I thought, yeah, that feels right. I'm not ruffled about that much, I try to just let him be and not get caught up in goals or pressures about his "achievements," or worry that I'm somehow failing him if we're having quesadillas again for dinner. My main goal for myself is to keep in abundance. I think single mom-ing it is so fraught with scarcity - we live in a patriarchal society that doesn't value women at all, much less moms. But it is our choice whether we too subscribe to this thinking. I try to see the time I spend with K as time that builds my business - calling in the connection between being a mom and financial wealth. Not seeing that time as a trade off. Right now, I find that if I can stay in gratitude, spaciousness and keep mostly off my phone (news and social media) everything tends to sail smoothly. This is hard work, don't get me wrong! But if I can't do it, how can I coach people on it?
You have a phenomenal art collection! Will you tell us about a few of your favorite pieces and why you chose them for your home?
Thank you! One of my first big purshases was a Malik Sibide photograph of a young man and woman dancing, called Nuit de Noel. I had just moved to Seattle and looked at the gallery listings and I saw this photo and went that same day to the gallery. It was great because Mariane Ibrahim, the gallery owner is from Bordeaux where I had lived in France so we started talking. She has an amazing eye and I would buy almost everything she represents if I could. I didn't know anything about Malik Sibide or African art but I was taken with the freshness and modernity of the work. I didn't find out until later that the dancers were siblings which was so perfect because I moved to Seattle to be near my brother.
My other favorite piece is a Peter Naughton photograph of a Herrero tribeswoman in full floral pink Victorian dress. The Herrero are a Namibian tribe who fought the German colonialists who were stealing their land. As part of this, they would appropriate European dress from their conquests.She is like the patron saint of the house, a warrior who is unapologetic in her gaze. It's like a visual of feminine energy. You think it's all floral and sweet, but it is steely, formidable and knowing. I have a friend who loves that piece - everytime he sees her he says she must be from West Africa because she has super long limbs. His people were from there too. I buy art very instinctually and I realized later how much the piece reminded me of Edward Curtis portraits taken of Native peoples wearing cavalry jackets, for example. My family is part Indigenous so there was a thematic link there somehow.
You are a coach and work with people to shift patterns, energy and ultimately help them identify and create their ideal work/life scenario. How do you want people to feel when they enter your home? What sort of energy do you cultivate in your own space?
I think I try to ride the line between intentionality - where everything has its place - and a relaxed sensibility. In my coaching studio I bought a fuzzy rug because I wanted people to be inspired to take their shoes off and be comfortable. I'm very sensitive to spaces. I used to see this therapist and every time I walked into his office I'd have him open his windows and air the place out - I could feel the trapped stale energy in there from the last person. I always want to be in ease and flow and meaning so I am constantly weeding out what's no longer necessary and rearranging to bring forward something that is calling. A friend recently gave me a jade Bodhisattva she got in Vietnam and felt she could no longer have in her home because they are becoming more Orthodox in their Judaism. At first I was like, um, no that's OK but she really insisted. I sat her in a few windows to see where she wanted to be and then finally built a little shrine around her at the kitchen window and it is like this little joyful corner amongst all the dirty dishes in the sink below.