Interview: Janell from Isabella and Max

I clapped with glee when Janell from the popular blog ISABELLA AND MAX and the e-zine HOUSE OF FIFTY agreed to an interview. If you aren't reading both, then you are missing out!

Janell has always been passionate about design. She studied painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Janell later extended her studies at the school's fashion design department for another three years. After working briefly for a clothing manufacturer, she then launched her own line, receiving accolades from WWD and The Chicago Tribune. Several years later, with a move to Oregon and the arrival of her wonderful children Isabella and Max, Janell's focus shifted to the home and interior design. In 2006, she started her current business creating warm and eclectic interiors and soon started a blog. From this came many writing opportunities and Janell's latest role as Founding Editor of the online magazine House of Fifty.

A few images of Janell's work

Want to learn more about Janell? I thought so...on to the interview.

How did you get in to design?
I have always been interested in design! I received my BFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, returning a few years later to study fashion design. I worked in that field for quite a while, designing and manufacturing a line of women's clothing. Once I took time off, after becoming a mom and purchasing our first home, I became very interested in home design via paint, decor, furnishings and DIY!

Two "must haves" when you entertain at home?
Great music and great lighting. We love playing music in our house nearly all the time, and music creates a wonderful backdrop when entertaining. Good lighting that isn't too bright is also key in creating a cozy and welcoming environment.

What is your greatest extravagance?
This has nothing to do with design or my home, but my greatest extravagance is taking Pilates classes each week. Sometimes it's a private, other days a duet or class of five. It has made all the difference in how I feel each day; happier and healthier with a LOT more energy!

Two famous people you would love to have at your next dinner party?
If this were possible, Audrey Hepburn: such kind grace and beauty, that I would love seeing in person. Second Rachel Zoe, my daughter is a fashionista with an original style that constantly amazes me. I would love to observe the two of them discussing their fashion perspectives...it would be a conversation not to forget I'm certain.

A few hot design trends that you think are fantastic?
Wallpaper, and wallpaper. If budget were not a concern I'd probably become an example of how too much of a good thing is NOT a good thing! Additionally, the trend to create individualized spaces that reflect the resident rather than the trends is a great trend.

And a few that you could leave behind?
I'm not a fan of purple, unless in very small doses, and too many mirrored surfaces just reminds me of bad 60's and 70's decor.

Two things you can't live without?
My family and my bathtub!

The best party you ever attended and why?
I once went to a party, a couple dozen years ago, in NYC where many legendary people were in attendance. It was like stepping into a book for a few brief hours.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
People would be surprised to learn I worked in an Alaskan Fisheries for seven summers to put myself through school. Tough job and tough job environment. The experience made me pretty tough and resilient, but I don't think this shows through on the outside.


  1. What's not to love about Janell - from her keen sense of style to the fact that she worked in Alaska! Her dream dinner party would be one I'd like to be invited to...

  2. Love it and love Janell....she is fascinating and I so enjoy her blog and House of fifty. Agree about wallpaper, boy how it can transform a space, not a fan of purple at all either, would love the same two famous people, wouldn't that be a hoot... and so agree about the great music and lighting, well done to both of you!

  3. Thank you so much for having me here today, you asked some fun questions to answer! Janell

  4. Great interview, Kate!
    Janell is so talented. Love House of Fifty and happy to learn that they now have an app for iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

  5. Great interview, but I'm more excited about your updated header/banner! It's so great! I love the new images and the new fuchsia font! Very cute,

  6. Great interview--Janelle is such an interesting person and of course, I'm such a fan of House of Fifty!

  7. What a great interview about someone that I admire even more now after learning more! Nicely done. :)

  8. She is obviously so creative on many levels! An Alaskan fishery? Yup, no one was guessing that one! Hmmm.... who knew pilates would increase energy levels? I might have to try a class! xo

  9. I love janell! She is such a great inspiration... and how she manages to do it all, and still be so kind is beyond me! Thank you for the interview! Always fun to take a little peek into peoples lives we admire!

    Tiffany {Living Savvy}