Jenny Brennan, Owner/Integrated Interior Designer

Beginning with my earliest memories, I always wanted to escape to a safe and opulent place. At age 7, I built a “fort” deep within the woods where I would disappear for hours, hidden under Indian Sari fabric draped over the tree branches in such a way as to form a peaked-tent.

I lounged on a myriad of modern velvet and vintage embroidered pillows piled atop a period-appropriate Mohair shag rug, contemplating the hope of the daffs against the decaying leaves, and listening to the Grundig singing “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head”.

I would bathe in the luxurious colours and textures of my surroundings: those found in nature and those designed by man, and re-purposed from a garage sale or flea market. It was there I first created a look of “grounded-opulence” that would become my personal style. It was also there that I started my relationship with energy. I chose to surround myself with things that not only looked great but also felt great, things that nurtured, balanced and supported me. At that young age, I was subconsciously creating a space in which I felt cared for, in which I could take root, regenerate and breathe. The energy emanating from the objects in my curated environment seemed to shelter me from what I later learned was severe Narcissistic Abuse.

The only child of an English model, “Postcards From The Edge”- type mother and a Texas A&M /”Donald Draper”- type father, I grew up travelling between Europe & the States. My father was in the upper echelons of the US Steel business during the Alaska Pipeline deal, so we lived in Pittsburgh & Houston, vacationing with the D.C. crowd on the East Coast and occasionally in Europe with family in England & France. Not surprisingly, I developed an acute understanding of the differences in the ways people lived and viewed the world. I also learned to love Western saddles, English humour, the Steelers, Italian race cars, Petanqué and, of course, Design.

Design basically saved my life, allowing me to consistently create a protective environment for myself, blanketing and nourishing me with its beauty. Any form of art also lent itself to decorating my safe-rooms: I read spy novels, watched French cinema, and listened to rock & roll. And I wrote. I was always taking notes about my journey and making observations about life in general.

As I approached university, I originally planned to earn a degree in International Relations in preparation for a CIA career. Fortunately, during my studies, I came face-to-face with my true calling in the form of two Rugby-shirted lads from Cambridge. They taught me to get out of my (somewhat narrow by their estimation) mindset and by the time I graduated, my passion for beauty, travel, British music and the desire to be a part of the emerging global design culture, drove me to London instead, and a new life.

In the English capital, I found myself embraced by the international worlds of photography, design, music and production. I began Representing Models, then Photographers and finally Producing Commercials. Known as a Creative Producer, I interpreted the vision of the project and then brought together the necessary elements to make that vision a reality. Over the years, I travelled the world. From London to Ibiza, Paris to Capri, L.A. to St. Barts – I worked with the créme-de-la-créme and was surrounded by the influencers of the time.

No matter where I went I’d seek out the local designs in clothing, textiles, art and accessories; discovering music, food and things that I’d never seen or experienced, intrinsic and unique to that place/culture. Sometimes we would incorporate them into the our projects. I developed shopping/experience lists and would take extensive notes and photographs. Being an only child, I’d always found it easy (even vital) to talk to “strangers”. This tended to lead to unique experiences, and from there I’d find hidden gems, being drawn to things and places by feel, experiencing the energy of them, as well as by visual pleasure.

Although I loved the travel (and extracurricular exploration), I became disenchanted with the façade of advertising. I had entered into commercials at a time when it was a gateway into film and an art form unto itself—a way of beautifully (or humourously) communicating with the world on some level, which I yearned to do. Over the years, however, I found myself increasingly at odds with the energies surrounding me. I was interested in the art and “they” were interested in the commerce, but acting as if they were making art. Energetically it was exhausting, I could physically feel the energetic burden on my shoulders the minute I stepped through the revolving doors. Working in corporate America felt like I was connected to a vacuum cleaner, the tube of which was attached at my solar plexus, and it was sucking the life and soul out of me. I had also spent, by this time, many years pursuing therapeutic endeavors, and longed to find a life role with a more rooted sense of commitment.

As the universe would have it, I was called upon to become a full-time mother to my then 7 year-old stepson. And, as it turns out, the need was great. The abuse he had suffered (unbeknownst to us) directly mirrored my own, and it seemed I might be in a unique position to be of some help to this boy. But the situation was delicate and complex. I was going to have to leave my career and find something I could do part-time from home. After a bit of soul-searching (and a tiny push from life-long friends) I uncovered something I’d been connecting to all along, and I made the move into design.

“Everything is determined by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust-we all dance to the mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”

Albert Einstein, Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929

As my second career evolved, so did my “mothering” skills. As I was re-experiencing the trauma of my own childhood through my stepson’s relationship with his mother, I began to instinctively do anything I could to protect him. Listening, sharing & drawing from my own experiences, I was able to create a safe place for him to share, process and, hopefully, heal. At the same time my clients were responding favourably and things seemed to be shifting for them: a long-awaited adoption granted, a marriage healed, a vocation found. Operating somewhat on instinct, I was unaware that my approach might be unconventional. I was creating environments that tapped into that sense of feeling what was functionally right for the space, while at the same time deriving pleasure from the visual. My sense of wanting to help others was being fulfilled, but the pieces of the puzzle were yet to truly fall into place, for me.

Once my step-son was raised, and I’d divorced and relocated to Los Angeles, a chance encounter led to some work with teens on the Autism Spectrum and it was then that everything started to make sense. I began aiding teens with ASD, start their transition into some level of independence and societal interaction. We focused on socialization skills and every kind of relationship interaction skill you can imagine: at school, in the community and at home. Surprisingly, I found I could completely empathize. I could relate to feeling extremely sensitive to the, sometimes harsh, energies of the world.

Over time, the young adults I was working with blossomed. One non-verbal young man who could not write or type more than the occasional word began writing poetry. In our interactions, I could often hear in my head what he was going to “say” before he said it. Another young man went from no ability to interact with peers to holding court at school and having dates out in the community, talking about real-world issues and doing real-world things.

It was through this rewarding work and the incredible energy exchange I shared with this group of people, as well as my continued work on my own personal development, that I came to the realisation that it had all come full-circle. I found myself designing sensory rooms for the schools, counseling parents on ways to maintain equilibrium in the home and eventually to designing with choices that would be supportive, encourage healing and bring visual joy.

I became aware that the more well “regulated” (to use an ASD-term meaning balanced) these young people were at home, energetically-speaking, the better equipped they would be to deal with the chaotic energies in the world around them. That regulation/balance could be had by using a holistic-based design approach. In other words, once the home environment became peaceful & harmonious the ASD individuals became much more balanced when they then went outside of the home. Their behaviours decreased, they began to spend their time in receptive mode rather than reactive mode and they began to flourish.

This is the journey that has driven me to create Ava Suren Interiors: ID (Integrated Design). A mindful approach to design & life that’s grounded yet with élan. Creating environments that not only pass the “influencers” test, but also are psychologically and environmentally nourishing; supportive of who you are and who you want to become. A sort of Interior Design/Energy Reader/Life-Coach service rolled into one. Style that’s curated for you and resonates with the very core of your being. And a design partner who listens without prejudice, draws from a wealth of experience, hears you on a deep/global level and operates from a space of love and respect. At Ava Suren Interiors: ID we believe in creating integrated surroundings from which you derive gratitude, peace and joy. For as it is at home, so it is in the world.

Jenny Brennan lives in Topanga Canyon surrounded by grounded-opulence and with her Lab/Dane George. As a full member of BAFTA, she continues to be involved with Film/TV/Creative outreach and volunteering.

photographs courtesy of Heather CulpMiriam Geer & Jenny Brennan