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Meet Jean Marilla of Twenty/One/Seven in Glendale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jean Marilla.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jean. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My life journey took an unexpected turn when I met and married my husband.

He was raised here in LA while I breathed thirty years of my existence from the other side of the continent. Getting married to my husband meant having to reside in a different country with him. This also meant having to bid goodbye to kith and kin, to my passion in design and filmmaking, to the society and culture that I’ve learned to embrace and love. Adding to this, I had to say goodbye to my native tongue and although English is a universal language, it wasn’t really used on a daily basis back where I came from. I had to be a totally different person when I arrived to the United States. The first few years were a test of patience and confidence. My proactive self-started to dwindle when I gave birth to two beautiful girls, only twenty months apart, and I had to give up work. My world gyrated to the four corners of my home taking care of my girls while watching HGTV every single day. It did not help that my husband is in the car industry, as someone with this line of work has to spend more time with the people in the showroom than his own family. It felt like being in a long distance relationship even when his work was only seven miles away from our house. This alone did not make the transition easy – breezy.

At some point, I was already about to accept the fact that having a family here in Los Angeles would mean removing all traces of the well-defined career goal I have set for myself and throw my hard-earned degree into the waste bin except that the creative soul inside of me was just not ready to do that. I do understand that a maternal love is about putting my children’s welfare ahead of my own. But there was no golden rule that says I can’t be who I want to be when I accepted the role of a mother. To me, motherhood is to serve up a huge slice of myself for my children and keep an adequate portion for my husband and my life aspirations. So, it was year 2011 when I decided to go back to school and earned another degree for myself, and it opened many great opportunities that made me ultimately appreciate the life that I have here in LA.

I went to FIDM in Los Angeles to study Interior Design and finished it with a Cum Laude affixed to the end of my degree. I also had the opportunity to showcase my talent in designing when my chair design made it to FIDM’s Debut Runway Show/Chairing Styles in year 2013 and won third place. I took my internship at Hirsch Bedner Associates, an international hospitality design firm located in Santa Monica CA, that became my gateway to accepting part-time and full-time jobs in the hospitality/commercial design industry.

While making my family number one from the list of my main concerns, my husband and I decided to pluck up the courage to put up our own furniture store that also offers interior design services. We just opened our storefront with design studio in Glendale CA early this year and we recently launched our website for online selling. This gives me the opportunity to spend more time with my children while I enjoy my love for designing. My husband and I aspire to nurture our children in an environment where hard work and perseverance are given importance and help encourage them to become women with ambition when they grow older.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Going to school with two toddlers at home was an uphill struggle. My daughters were only two and three years old when I enrolled at FIDM.

Parenting was painstaking during my children’s formative years and having additional responsibility such as school was too exhausting to handle. I was only able to do homework or school projects when my husband was home from work and when the kids were already in deep slumber. I used to consider myself lucky if my husband was at home by 9pm. Otherwise, I started giving attention to school work as late as midnight or in between cooking and laundry. I did try to do homework while the kids were awake but I ended up with spilled milk on a finished project. I told myself it was not a good combination. Finding a permanent babysitter was also difficult. I remember asking favors from some friends to take care of my girls. There were times when my husband took them to his work too. And even when I was already working, there were instances when I still wouldn’t know who will take care of my kids or when I needed to stretch my hours but would be late picking up my kids from school. The fear of not knowing if your children are in good hands while you are away from them is as natural as any mother’s breathing.

But then I told myself I could not just throw in the towel. I had to master being the jack-of-all-trades to survive and succeed.

I have learned to accept that part of living is to face a blank wall. But I have also learned that I have the power to create anything I want with this wall. One, I can break the wall and set myself free. Two, I can leap over the wall and triumph over it. And three, I can allow the wall to remain in front of me.

But then I can add colors to it and give it a whole different look and meaning.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Twenty/One/Seven – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
TWENTY/ONE/SEVEN is a retail and online store that sells furniture, home goods, lights, and artworks. We have both ready-made items and custom furniture pieces. We sell items that I personally designed too. Apart from being a store, we offer design consultation to full-scale interior design services. Our style is actually sandwiched in between modern and eclectic. We try to battle the mainstream and would like to offer designs that would transcend season and style. Our designs are either simple with some bells and whistles or a mixture of everything but not necessarily over-the-top.

What sets TWENTY/ONE/SEVEN apart from others is the fact that we can provide exactly what a consumer wants. If for example, a customer finds a ready-made chair from our store, they can either buy it as is or modify it according to their personal preference. We can do it for them for an additional yet reasonable price. We are associated with different fabricators and manufacturers, making it easy for consumers to pull off the kind of look they want for any custom pieces. Our items are also unique, not something that you can easily find from stores within reach.

Another good thing to point out is that with our interior design services, we do not only design a client’s space but we also offer furniture that can be used for the space at a discounted price. This certainly helps the client save more time and money. Our store in Glendale is not a typical store where a customer just buys something and leaves. It’s also a venue for ideas relating to interior design. One can come to our store and show us a concept image of the furniture they want or a space design they want to achieve and through our resources, we can assist them in completing their design requirement.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My future plans include having a bigger showroom that will showcase more design options. I would like to be able to increase and encourage alternatives and choices in the design point of people and having a bigger showroom will help me achieve this desire.

Aside from our store in Glendale, Partners Trust, one of California’s large independent real estate brokerage, recently welcomed us by allowing our company to market our products through a pop-up installation in their Santa Monica office. This runs from August of this year until January of next year.

Their community outpost and retail concept called OPENHOUSE gives way to promising and established local designers to fills its space with products to showcase and sell. 10% of the total profit will be donated to Partners Trust Charitable Giving Fund. We are proud to partake in this kind of venture, as we are not only generating exposure and income, but we are also making humanitarianism a core part of our company’s identity.

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Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset


Image Credit:
Dean Castano

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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