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Meet Jen-Lan Lou of A Circle Home in Elysian Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jen-Lan Lou.

Jen-Lan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always been an artsy-crafty-creative person and finally signed up for an upholstery class. I had been laid off from as I decided then, the last garment manufacturing job I would ever pursue, and perhaps the start of the ideal second career. I’ve made lots of stuff but avoided upholstery due to the amount of manual labor. But when I walked into the class, it was mostly retired women and senior citizens stripping chairs and working on the table saw. I realized that I too could actually learn this craft.

Since I was unemployed, I planned to reupholster my own furniture. My doctor cousin mentioned that furniture foam had flame retardants; the smoke from the burning foam more toxic than the actual burning building. This begun an unplanned journey into non-toxic furniture beginning by watching the HBO documentary ‘The Toxic Hot Seat’, seeking non-petroleum materials for my own projects, and is now the life purpose to inform the public about this crucial information.

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?
The biggest struggles so far have been about knowing myself. To be successful at anything, you have to know what you want. As one of my mentors stated, “Well…how bad do you want it?”

Also, the practical skills like sourcing, costing, construction, process and flow, all came from my first career. Doing what I do would be so much harder without that foundation. I struggle in applying it to the shape of my business and as a solopreneur. But, it’s all a learning process that I’m happy to have!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with A Circle Home – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in green upholstery using custom techniques.
The materials I use are actually what we used before plastic was invented. Materials like coconut coir, cotton, feathers, and burlap. I’ve seen natural rubber latex foam in really old antique cars, and mostly today in mattresses. You don’t see natural latex in furniture much since the wholesale minimums are high, and reupholsters have little demand due to higher cost. I only use natural latex foam in my projects, and you can buy just the foam itself to replace your own cushions at home. This is how the general public can access this material, a small investment in creating their own healthy home. I feel natural materials will eventually be mainstream–we’re still realizing the effects of cheap materials and mass manufacturing.

The techniques of custom, traditional upholstery utilize hand tied springs and hand sewing. I’ve been sewing for two decades, but upholstery is a totally different school of thought. I enjoy focusing on quality, never cost, and this allows me to be an artist and offer an extraordinary piece.

The best part of my business is that it really IS me. My lifestyle, beliefs, love of beauty, and the life purpose of helping people and the planet are what I’ve built A Circle Home’s brand on. I have to call it a business and need branding to create an identity, but it’s just me doing my thing as a human being on this earth.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I want to stay small so that I can always control quality and my art. I consider myself an artist and do this for my own creative sake. To have a store, manage people, and go big is not how I want to spend my time. I consider myself an artist selling art. I have a lot of ideas that I’m looking forward to developing and materializing in 2017.

My ultimate goal is to offer classes since upholstery classes are actually hard to find. Green upholstery is not mainstream and classes are one way to bring it to the masses.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jen-Lan Lou

1 Comment

  1. Yolanda Hearn

    January 31, 2017 at 08:41

    Jen Lan is an amazing person with so much heart and integrity. Her work is top notch and she is so easy to work with.

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