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Meet Jennifer Wallenstein of September Workshop in Toluca Lake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Wallenstein.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jennifer. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Interior design is actually my second career. After college, where I majored in international relations, I worked in the world of political advertising and issues-based communications. That job taught me so much, and I remain grateful to this day for the opportunities it provided and the lessons I learned from it. And while I remain passionate in my personal life about many of the issues we worked on, I ultimately didn’t feel like the corporate advertising and communications world played to my strengths career-wise.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect. My young brain didn’t understand exactly what that meant and it certainly didn’t understand the difference between architecture and interior design. I just had this strong sense of wanting to create spaces that had a transformative effect on the people living or working inside of them. Even though it took a back seat for a long time, it was the only thing I could think about when I started to feel that I wasn’t in the right field. My grandfather, who passed away before I was born, was an interior designer. I’ve been told my whole life how similar we are. So much so that when I told my dad I was interested in interior design, he wondered out loud what had taken me so long to get there and told me how proud my grandfather would’ve been. I decided to enroll in some classes and one class in, I knew I had made the right call. I haven’t looked back since.

I interned and worked my way through design school, and then worked for several years under some very talented LA designers. About four years ago, I began fantasizing about having my own company, but was terrified to make the leap. A few months later, a good friend of mine asked me to design his condo and it was the push I needed. He was September Workshop’s first client, and thankfully not our last! For the first two years it was just me working out of my home office, handling everything. From the obvious parts like sourcing, presentations, project management, and client communication to the backend aspects like bookkeeping, taxes, and contracts, and everything in between.

Flash forward to now, and we’re still small and scrappy, but we’re growing and setting big goals. I am so thankful to do a job I love.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t even know what a smooth road looks like! I suppose there have been short periods where everything seems to be suspiciously smooth sailing–new clients are coming in, projects are moving along nicely, our books are in good shape, etc. But that also seems to always be immediately followed by everything hitting the fan.

In the beginning, I found working alone from home to be really tough and isolating. I tend to draw my energy from other people, and it was just plain hard to turn on my brain when I hadn’t done much more than change out of my pajamas (I admittedly didn’t even always do that). I had to find new ways to motivate myself until I got to the point of bringing on more people, which has been a game changer.

The challenge that seems to be perpetual is how much we need to rely on third parties in this industry. I am so fortunate to have found amazing vendors, contractors, and salespeople. But it has not been always been so, and I appreciate them as much as I do because I have seen how bad it can be. Name it and I’ve had it happen or heard about it from another designer’s nightmare story. Nothing changes the relationship with clients faster than being the bearer of bad news, and once a project has turned south it is so hard to correct course.

September Workshop – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are a full-service interior design firm, working on both residential and commercial projects. We work on projects of every size and scope, from furnishing a single room to overseeing a full-home renovation in collaboration with architects and engineers. That diversity in our projects is one of the many things I love about working in this industry. I get as much joy from decorating a nursery for expectant parents as I do from poring over construction documents.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
We had a project featured on the cover of the weekend edition of the LA Times–that was pretty cool and definitely a “pinch me” moment!

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Image Credit:
Amy Bartlam
Claire Esparros
Mary Costa
Amy Bartlam

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