Flash forward to the present and that young bedtime-defier is now an artist and designer whose work brings to life the intimate connections between people and the homes they live in, head of her own firm with eyes on making a broader impact through new lines of home décor and design elements.   ‘It’s a lucky thing to know what you want to do from such a young age,’ says Jen Dallas, ‘and to grow up in a family where having that purpose meant something – to have parents who encourage creativity and encourage who you are.’ Featuring design concepts that The World of Interiors calls ‘playful and fresh’, Dallas oversees the work in the Jen Dallas (opens in new tab) design studio which offers a growing line of products under the brand name Maple Jude & Co (opens in new tab) where she collaborates with her senior associate and creative partner Perry Helderman. ‘I’m more of an un-decorator,’ says Dallas. ‘I’m trying to serve the people who are my clients, not my own artistic interests.’ With interior design projects as far-flung as an English-inspired manor in Kentucky, a mountain retreat off the Malibu Coast, a posh Manhattan Beach country club, or a secluded bungalow in St. Barth’s, Dallas and her team focus on each client’s specific tastes and needs, guided by a spirit of collaboration and creativity.  ‘It’s really about knowing my clients and how they live their lives,’ she explains. ‘I like to ask them – how could your life work better? What do they value? Cleanliness? Comfort? Entertaining? Do they need places for people to sleep because they have a big family who likes to visit? Do they value their holiday china and always want it accessible? Do they have allergies?   ‘When you see a finished designed room on a DIY show on TV, it looks easy, but a good designer will work with the client to refine and personalize each space so the rooms are truly liveable and function the best for the people that live there.’ That kind of personal touch has been even more important the last couple of years, as the impact of the pandemic has made people re-think their priorities, and the connection between their bodies, the spaces they occupy and share, and the newly blurred lines between home, work, and social spaces. Dallas says of the current market, ‘There are a lot of multipurpose rooms, the family room becomes mom’s office. We’ve had to think about furniture differently: corners for desks, pin-up boards, and the goal is always to not make it look like it’s an add on, but has always been part of the room and part of the plan.’ Dallas credits her own native sensitivity and intuition for helping navigate the changes and demands of the past few years. ‘I’m a people person, and I’ve always been very sensitive,’ she says smiling. ‘I was teased about it as a kid, but now it’s such a blessing, because I know I can pick up on things my clients want and direct my questions the right way. I’ve always been into psychology and at one point thought about being an art therapist, and my son always says “mom, you’d be the best life coach."’   As Dallas points out, most people work with designers at moments of great importance or transition: ‘My clients are empty nesters, or have new babies, or have relocated for a job – there’s always a life-changing event going on when I’m meeting them, and I need to be ready to ask them the right questions and listen to their real needs.’ That creative spirit has also meant branching out into product lines – currently in textile and tiles, as offered by Maple Jude & Co. The idea for the product lines simply came as the logical next step from Dallas’ working process. Everything begins with hand drawings and custom detail that Dallas says offers so much more possibilities and meaning than standard pre-fab home décor elements.   ‘I was designing a pattern, and suddenly had the thought that the pattern would be perfect for ceramic tile,’ she recalls. ‘And I turned to Perry and said, ‘we’re making tile.’ We reached out to a friend in the tile business and started figuring out a way to make it happen.’   This fall, Maple Jude & Co will introduce their second collection of fabrics and ceramic tile with plans for Maple Jude’s first wallpaper collection to debut this fall. Dallas has her own namesake lighting collection launching in 2023 and is working on her own line of furniture for summer 2023. Dallas credits her creative spirit, success, and work ethic to the example set by her parents. Her father was a college art instructor; in the back of his classroom, young Jen would throw pottery and paint, and on weekends go with him to antique stores and flea markets. She found similar support and nurturing at the O’More College of Design (now part of Belmont University in Tennessee), which offered her many hands-on opportunities to explore her multiple creative passions in the areas of art and design.   ‘I’ve always been making my own stationery and gift wrap and envelopes. I was always the person taking the art classes, drawing for fun. Of course, that’s only maybe 40% of my job – I wear so many hats, there are so many things to do with the business and marketing sides – but it’s something I love and am passionate about.’ In her spare time, Dallas admits liking to get her hands dirty (literally) and ‘sculpting a garden’.  She’s also ‘obsessed’ with animals and dreams of a future where she has a farm that can sustain an ecosystem of goats, chickens, and dogs. ‘I really want an African grey parrot,’ she confesses. She keeps in shape through rowing and yoga, and has recently been getting back into travel with her teenage son. ‘We travel a lot together, and I’m really trying to lock in those memories.’ Ultimately, Jen Dallas finds most satisfaction in knowing that her work is a reflection of the kinds of connections and experiences people want to have in their most personal and sacred of spaces, whether that is in the form of a large design concept, or simply a lighting fixture or tile that speaks to the client’s deepest desires.   ‘Of course, it’s nice when people buy things that come out of my mind,’ Dallas says.  ‘But the main reason is to inspire people. With the things we design, we keep that need to inspire in mind.’ @MapleJude (opens in new tab)