The Bright & Busy World of Designer Jolene Kraus

Most people say separate work and pleasure, but when your husband is your partner — in both life and business— how do you draw a line between the two? For Jolene Kraus, who co-founded Park Studio, an LA-based lighting and interior design company, with husband Ben, the answer is simple: "We like that our lines are blurred. I think that’s what makes us successful." 

The duo are also parents to 13-month-old Arden, and work out of the studio in their backyard. But, according to Jolene, when you love what you do "it's not really work," so negotiating this territory is easier.  "Yes, we have to physically make every fixture, box it, answer all emails, work in quickbooks, etc," she says, "but I am beyond proud of the business Ben and I built in under two years." Beyond that Jolene notes that creativity doesn't operate on a 9-5 schedule, so bringing business home is part of the job. "It's impossible for us to automatically shut off our creative thinking caps at exactly 5 pm.” Based on the designs Park Studio is putting out, we wouldn’t want them to.     

We checked in with the multitasking maven to find out more about those blurred lines, busy days, and Park Studio’s bright future. 

HOW IMPORTANT IS COLLABORATION WHEN IT COMES TO CREATIVITY?

We are often building custom fixtures for our clients and we rely heavily on collaborating during that process. I truly believe every fixture has been the result of a successful collaboration. This could happen over months or just weeks, but we generally work from sketches to mock-ups to the final production run. We each speak up during the process.

IS THERE A DESIGNER (OR TWO) YOU'D LOVE TO COLLABORATE WITH?

Of course we would love to collaborate with commune. My product and color heroes are Scholten + Baijings--I would love to work with them!

HOW DO YOU BALANCE MOM LIFE AND WORK LIFE?

Our nanny works 9-5, so we are with Arden from when she wakes up until our nanny gets here. And the same in the evenings—when the nanny leaves at 5, we are with her until bedtime at 7. That doesn’t mean that one of us won’t take a phone call or answer an email. I want our daughter to see the importance of hard work and make sure she understands that mommy and daddy have businesses to run. Hopefully we are setting up a legacy for her. 

THAT SAID: MOM, WIFE, AND SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER--WHICH JOB IS HARDER?

That’s a tough one. They all have their challenges, but they are all also very rewarding. I am beyond proud of the business Ben and I have built (in just under 2 years); and our daughter is our obsession (also under 2). Ben makes it easy to be his wife. He would do anything for us, so thankfully that job is the easiest. Being a mom is hard knowing that she is at an impressionable age-- she’s now starting to say what we say (yikes) and we are really seeing her Scorpio personality these past couple of weeks. Being a mom also means I don’t get a lot of me time-- thank God for dry shampoo and granola bars. Being a small business owner is very hard. we don’t just wear many hats, we wear every hat. from dropping off packages at fed ex to writing every email reply to designing and building the fixtures. all of that said, we are very grateful for what we have and wouldn’t change a thing!

"We don’t just wear many hats, we wear every hat."

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HOW ESSENTIAL IS LIGHTING TO SETTING THE TONE OF A ROOM? WHAT GOES INTO CONSIDERING THE LIGHTING IN A ROOM?

Lighting is the most important aspect of a room, and I’m not saying that just because we have a lighting company. we can always remember that time we went into an overly lit room and could only think about how we must look in that harsh light (though maybe it’s a girl thing). lighting for a room needs to be the right scale and the right output. you don’t want a small fixture in a large room and you definitely don’t want too much light/output in a small space. That’s why we make multiple styles of fixtures that create adequate amount of ambient light to accommodate the majority of room sizes. 

   The Sonoma Chandelier , $1300. This chandelier hangs in the Create & Cultivate office. 

The Sonoma Chandelier, $1300. This chandelier hangs in the Create & Cultivate office. 

"Thank God for dry shampoo and granola bars."

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HOLIDAYS AND NYE PARTIES ARE HERE. WHAT IS THE BEST DINNER PARTY LIGHTING?

We always tell our clients to put their lights on a dimmer. The ability to create mood lighting is always a good thing.

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST INTERIOR DESING MISTAKE PEOPLE MAKE?

Scale and proportion. From too small of an area rug, to too large of a sofa. Scale and proportion are challenges for the untrained eye.

WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE THE "EYE" FOR INTERIOR DESIGN?

I think it’s important to hire professionals who do have expertise in the field. Though, if you are on a budget (as all of us are), there are definitely great resources that can help with that process. Homepolish is one of our favorite design consulting services. 

In general we like to follow these tips:

+Chandeliers should be 30” - 36” above a dining table. That helps create an intimate setting.

+Drapery should just skim the floor. 1/4” above the floor to be exact.

+Paint all of your walls, not just an accent. If you’re brave enough to paint one wall black, paint them all—or it will look like you ran out of paint. 

WHERE DO YOU SEE PARK STUDIOS EXPANDING?

Very soon we will be more than a lighting studio. We are in the process of manufacturing hardware (think drawer pulls and knobs) and updating our pillow offering. More than anything I would love to design furniture and rugs. We want to be a one-stop shop for affordable, great design.

FINALLY, TELL US! YOUR SECRET LA FURNITURE SHOP SPOTS?

A+R on La Brea,  Noir  / CFC,  all of the local flea markets, St. Vincent de Paul, and we are craigslist lovers.