In a spacious, naturally lit alcove, on the third floor of a house in Calgary’s Winston Heights neighbourhood, Jennifer Mehalko is busy at work. The interior designer and founder of fashion and accessories brand Parts + Labor runs her two businesses from her home studio, between early morning yoga classes (Mehalko instructs) and afternoon client meetings. “I really love having a full day,” she says, “because it’s full of really great things.”
In the past, Mehalko’s home offices have been spare bedrooms or dining room tables, but when she and husband Brad Mehalko moved to their current home, just over two years ago, the designer was able to properly set up shop, taking over the entire top floor. The space is functionally divided: an area is reserved for storing interior design samples and catalogues (in functional IKEA cabinets) and rolling out and reviewing blueprints (seated on an Umbra Shift saddle stool); another area is for clothing racks and a “nitty gritty station” for cutting fabrics and drawing. A central zone has a houndstooth sectional from Home Evolution and a vintage glass hexagon-shaped coffee table from Black Rooster Decor, for taking breaks in between. Mehalko hosts pop-up events for P + L in the space. “It’s creative chaos, to be honest, but I love it,” she says.
When it comes to styling, Mehalko favours pieces that are memory-driven and inspiring to her creative process. “You come to realize at a certain stage in your life that you choose the people and the things that you place in your life for a reason – that make life better,” says Mehalko. An art piece featuring the famous refrain “Que Sera Sera” reminds Mehalko of her mother, who sang the Doris Day song to her as a child. Sea glass beads from Laguna Beach and vintage pineapple bookends from a flea market hark back to the time Mehalko lived in southern California; she and her husband moved there after a year spent “living in the dark” in Helsinki, Finland. A neon sign is by a local Calgarian glass blower, with whom Mehalko worked to design a custom logo for her pop-ups and in celebration of her first collection. “Everything that I do, even from an interior design standpoint, is pretty symbolic,” she says. “When something has a story woven into its design details, I always find that really interesting.”
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Mehalko calls these special items her manifestation tools: “Little daily reminders that you’ve placed in your life,” she says, “[for] when you’re in the thick of things and can’t really see yourself clearly. Objects, for me, being so visual, really help a lot.” Some, like the beads and bookends, point to the future – “Living by the ocean is definitely one of those things on our long-term goals list,” she says. Other recurring symbols, like the eye and skull, remind Mehalko to seek connection, positivity and live life to the fullest – important reminders, especially on the eve of the May 5th release of her new collection of couture jackets, a first for the designer.
“I’m a very passionate, heart-driven person. I don’t follow a lot of trends,” says Mehalko, of her personality and her multi-faceted work. “So, essentially, that’s a pretty vulnerable process. Putting something out there that is truly like a little slice of your heart is scary,” but ultimately worth it, says Mehalko. “When you do put something out and you see the impact that it has in somebody’s life – whether they’re holding their head a little higher or leading with a little more kindness and positivity – that is why I do what I do, 100 per cent.”
Get the Look
Coiled stool, $300 at Umbra Shift.
Love LED neon sign, $82 at Urban Outfitters.
IKEA PS cabinet, $129 at IKEA.
Evil Eye indigo art print by THE AESTATE, $31.99 at Society6.
Agate bookends, $51 at West Elm.
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