Gail E. Jamentz Of Soul Interiors Design: “Always be a “go-giver” first”

Always be a “go-giver” first. Approach any new relationship with the mindset of, “How can I help you and add value to your life?” Not what can I get from you to make me happier, more successful or whatever it is you desire. Changing your focus to one of service will ultimately lead to a […]

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Always be a “go-giver” first. Approach any new relationship with the mindset of, “How can I help you and add value to your life?” Not what can I get from you to make me happier, more successful or whatever it is you desire. Changing your focus to one of service will ultimately lead to a more rewarding career and life-long relationships.

Gail Jamentz is a 20-year residential interior designer with a passion for enhancing wellness through the power of the built environment. This belief in the ability of our surroundings to positively affect our wellbeing, happiness, energy level and productivity is what fuels her desire to amplify the message that “design is not just about creating pretty rooms.”

A graduate of UCLA’s Interior and Environmental Design Program, as well as the International WELL Building Institute, Ms. Jamentz brings science-backed knowledge to the design and construction industry with the goal of transforming interiors into healthy, beautiful, and highly personalized spaces that help people thrive.

Her formal training, complemented by years of commercial design work at several leading Los Angeles-area interior design firms, laid the foundation for her to open her Pasadena practice in 2001. Her aesthetic has been described as timeless, colorful, and curated, while imbued with an innate sense of elegance and respect for history.

She is an active member of the National Kitchen and Bath Institute (NKBA), the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), as well as a dedicated community volunteer. Her design work has been recognized by Dwell Magazine, HGTV, HOUZZ and numerous other industry media outlets.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Thank you for having me. Yes, I’ll be happy to share a bit about my past.

I was blessed to grow up surrounded by beautiful antiques, attending art auctions, and traveling as I was the granddaughter of one of Manhattan’s finest antique and oriental rug dealers. So, my appreciation for beauty and quality craftsmanship was honed from a very young age.

Unfortunately, right out of undergraduate school at UCSB I didn’t pursue the path of creating beauty for a living, but rather was encouraged to pursue a “practical” career. For 13 years I worked for various Los Angeles ad and public relations agencies promoting a variety of consumer products. Inside, however, I was dying. I wanted to create. I longed to work with color and texture. And I couldn’t bear the thought of another day writing press releases about telephone answering machines! So, after a lot of research, I chose to leave the corporate world and go back to school in my mid-thirties to study design and architecture at UCLA. I was in heaven.

Fast forward 20 years: After working in a variety of capacities in the design industry, I am now enjoying marrying my two passions — health and design — to offer clients a more holistic approach to creating a beautiful home that is their partner in their wellness journey.

I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to know that I am helping to improve someone’s life through thoughtful design choices.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Sure. I’ll tell you about a serendipitous event that took place this month.

I recently met an architect on social media platform Clubhouse as we were both participating in a room and speaking. Well, we really hit it off and seemed to share the same values about empowering homeowners in the remodeling process. We took our conversation offline as I told her I had some marketing ideas I’d love to share with her to help promote her proprietary construction project management software system.

I thought nothing of spending the time on the phone with her as I love to share marketing knowledge being a former corporate publicist. I went into the conversation with only the intent to serve and help a fellow female business owner. We spent an enjoyable hour on the phone in which I coached her, we shared a few laughs about construction nightmares, and she gave me feedback on my website.

The next day I sent a follow-up email summarizing my marketing recommendations and the response I received back just blew me away.

She asked if she could recommend my firm to her client to design the interiors for a new 7,000 square foot home. Wow! I thought that sounds like an amazing opportunity to create a beautiful, healthy family home and I felt honored to be asked.

Had I not initially approached this new business contact from a of place of giving, not “getting,” I think our phone call would have had a different outcome. So, I share this story not to boast, but to reinforce the idea that you never know where your next opportunity will come from so always treat new relationships with care.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

That’s a great question. Looking back on my growth as a young woman in my 30’s who left the corporate marketing world, went back to college and then embarked on a new career in interior design, I do regret that I did not actively seek out a professional mentor who could guide me in growing my design practice. Had I found a seasoned, savvy designer to act as a sounding board I think I would have shaved years of trial and error off my career trajectory, while eliminating a few sleepless nights.

Today, there is so much opportunity for young professionals to connect with wonderful coaches and mentors via the internet, or in person, and really garner the insider knowledge on how to work with clients, build a referral base and be an effective business owner. It would be short-sighted not to make the time investment in finding a mentor. I know it can be scary to ask, and the risk of being rejected is real, but if you find that special someone that says “yes, I’ll take you under my wing” that can be a life-long gift.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I know this sounds cliché, but I would have to say my dear 95-year-old mother Grace. Like her name implies, she has been such an example of elegance, generosity, kindness, and quiet strength my whole life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her as my role model.

My mother is particularly adept at making others feel special and cared for, and I think, as business owners, that high-touch skill is so needed, but can easily get lost in this current climate of doing everything digitally and quickly which is so sad. So, I always ask myself, “What would Grace do?” It helps me slow down and remember to show a gesture of kindness, be present and keep a positive attitude.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

My passion at this stage of my 20-year career is to amplify the message that the built environment has the power to support and enhance your physical and mental wellness daily.

After spending much of the last 18 months at home due to the pandemic I think we can all agree that our homes are SO much more than just a comfortable place to land at the end of the day. Today, we are asking our homes to serve as a school room, remote workspace, 24-hour restaurant, entertainment center, fitness space and place of respite from day-to-day stress. I believe that it is imperative that we design spaces that are not only attractive, but also elevate our physical well-being, happiness, comfort, and productivity so we can live an optimal life.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

If I have to narrow my suggested lifestyle changes to promote well-being to only five, I would encourage readers to focus on four key areas of their home that, if designed thoughtfully, can truly support their wellness and aid in the aging process.

  1. Let’s start with evaluating your kitchen, because I truly believe good health starts there, wouldn’t you agree? When I work with private clients, we always discuss ways to promote healthy cooking, enhance food preservation and increase the functionality in their space so they enjoy cooking meals with their family. Specifically, I encourage them to invest in a combi-steam oven if they don’t already have one. Steam ovens are a fabulous appliance in which to create moist and delicious meals that retain their nutritional value and don’t include any added bad fats. We also discuss how much fresh produce they purchase weekly and whether their current refrigerator has the capabilities to retain the freshness needed so they aren’t throwing out fruits and vegetables by week’s end and produce is retaining its’ nutritional value. And lastly, we assess their beverage consumption and suggest installing water systems that offer healthy filtered, flat, or sparkling water on demand which reduces the likelihood family members will reach for sugary drinks, while also decreasing plastic bottle waste.
  2. Next, we look at a homeowner’s master bathroom, which if designed correctly, can offer that relaxing spa experience at home and help reduce stress and promote rejuvenation. Design features such as steam showers, deep soaking tubs, massaging showerheads, towel warmers, soothing paint color palettes, chromotherapy lights, proper ventilation and adding fresh plants are just a few of the strategies we use to create an interior that supports wellness and relaxation.
  3. And speaking of feeling refreshed, creating a “sleep sanctuary” in your home will also pay huge dividends in improving your mental and physical health. Oftentimes clients tell me, “Nobody sees our bedroom, let’s address that last.” When in fact, your bedroom design and its’ ability to support deep, restorative sleep is vital to your health, mood, and energy level among others.
  4. Simple changes like investing in blackout drapes to minimize light creep, buying a quality mattress and natural bedding, eliminating blue light and noise from electronics, incorporating a relaxing scent, painting a beautiful wall color, and checking your thermostat’s functionality all contribute to a good night’s rest and improved long-term health.
  5. And lastly, I would encourage homeowners to make the investment in creating an inspiring and healthy home office. Since many professionals are opting to work from home as we continue to navigate the pandemic, it’s worth not regarding your remote workspace as an afterthought, and rather select and purchase quality pieces that support your performance and well-being. Items can include a sit-to-stand desk and anti-fatigue mat so you are not sitting all day, an ergonomically correct task chair to reduce neck and back strain, low-VOC floor coverings such as a wool area rug to absorb sound, adding window treatments and a piece of upholstered furniture to also reduce noise transmission, adequate lighting to aid in cognition and reduce eye strain, and lastly painting a pleasing wall color to elevate your mood and create an enjoyable atmosphere you love spending time in.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I think we would be a much more WELL society if we were taught more about nutrition and self-care in middle school.

If children aren’t seeing healthy habits modeled at home, most likely due to two parents working, and they are not learning about it in school, how are they going to know to make it a priority?

Unfortunately, they are not, until they mature and start experiencing some of the consequences of a diet high in processed food, a lack of exercise and too much exposure to environmental chemicals.

So, if I could start a “movement” I would support a push to make more public service announcements, literature, and education, in a multitude of languages, available to young students so they could grow on a foundation of health and well-being.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

I think this question would make a great book of inspiring round-up stories because I believe no business person gets it right all the time, and few proceeds in a linear path straight to success. We have all zigged and zagged our way here, and yes, there are certainly concepts I wish someone had told me before becoming an entrepreneur.

Let’s start with my favorite, the value of volunteering. Fortunately, I had parents who were active community volunteers, so the idea of giving back was instilled in me from a young age. About seven years into my interior design career, I started doing charitable work for a local women’s club that was preserving its’ historic 1905 clubhouse in Pasadena. I fell in love with the building. It was an architectural gem in the Prairie-school style and drew inspiration from renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For years I served on a variety of committees to raise funds for its renovation and met some wonderful, talented women who later became some of my best long-term clients and treasured friends. Without their continued support my business growth would have been much slower, so I see volunteering as a win-win on many levels.

Another concept I wish I had started earlier was the idea of setting up repeatable business systems and structures to improve time management. So many times, we are doing the same task monthly, such as on-boarding a new client, and it is a much more efficient process if you have templates, checklists and pre-written email copy already stored on your computer so you can just personalize, cut, paste, and send, rather than starting from scratch with each new job.

And when it comes to new clients if they say they don’t know what their budget is, they really don’t know what their budget is, and you need to take the statement seriously. I used to think homeowners were just being coy, but soon realized they really weren’t aware of current construction and product costs and needed to be educated. I believe your role as a business owner is to be your client’s guide, not a salesperson. No one likes being sold to and people appreciate help in spending their money wisely when they are ready to commit. That strategy will garner life-long fans.

And speaking of relationships, I wish I had learned sooner that you need to nurture your network every day! Nothing means more to someone, particularly in these days of constant digital disruptions, than to receive a hand-written note or card, a small gift, or a personal phone call. It sets you apart, is good for your soul and will be foundational to your success in life. Just fifteen minutes a day is all it takes.

And lastly, as mentioned previously, always be a “go-giver” first. Approach any new relationship with the mindset of, “How can I help you and add value to your life?” Not what can I get from you to make me happier, more successful or whatever it is you desire. Changing your focus to one of service will ultimately lead to a more rewarding career and life-long relationships.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

All of these topics are so important, but I think I would have to single out mental health as a key priority having had family members that suffer with this condition and witnessing how debilitating it can be.

As you know the level of depression and anxiety in our country has significantly risen due to extended periods of isolation, reduced community with others due to our hectic digital lifestyle, and of course familial and environmental factors all contribute to this sad statistic.

As a designer I have a lot of empathy for single homeowners who live alone, particularly if they are working remotely and not physically around their co-workers. So, I take extra care to help these clients create interiors that help reduce their stress, elevate their mood, and provide a sense of comfort and safety.

This can be done through simple steps such as incorporating beautiful, uplifting wall colors, hanging eye-catching art, incorporating meaningful pieces that remind them of pleasant times in their life, using soft, cozy fabrics on upholstered furnishings and displaying nicely framed photos of their loved ones and pets.

While these may sound like elementary design strategies, you’d be surprised what a big boost they can have to someone’s mental well-being when there is intentionality in all décor choices. It brings so much joy to see my clients happier and proud to invite people inside their home.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I would be happy to connect with any readers on Instagram, or they can visit our website and receive monthly WELL-living design tips by subscribing to our newsletter.

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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