Hi Folks! I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself. A lot of you may be new followers, and while the “About” section of our website gives a good synopsis, it doesn’t tell you the full story of me Jess Davis.
I’ve always been a design geek so to speak. I grew up moving a lot and have never felt like I fully fit in. My mother is Chinese and my dad is from Texas. While I’m a US citizen, I was born in Sydney Australia and spent most of my childhood in Hong Kong with a brief stint in LA. Needless to say, as a child when people asked where I was “from” I often didn’t really know how to respond. In fact, my brother and I must have asked our parents this question enough times that they purchased us the book Where did I come from for us which actually was about the birds and the bees, rather than nationality 🙂 Whoops!
I’ve also always been self-conscious and shy and for as long as I can remember, the imaginary world has been a safe haven for me. In elementary school I would spend hours reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books, filling in all of the visual details of the sisters’ homes and their prairie setting in my mind’s eye . I grew up appreciating the Chinese antiques that my parents collected, but also loving the floral chintz that adorned the homes of my British friends and the international style modernism and steel framed windows (so popular now) of many a Hong Kong apartment building of that era.
In middle school, my family moved from Hong Kong to Dallas, Texas. I went from a melting pot of a city to a community where everyone had grown up together and where my brother and I together made up the single Asian person in our school. To say it was culture shock would be an understatement. But somehow I survived, coming out stronger, appreciating Southern culture and maintaining a strong core of creative artistic friends that I still have to this day. And as always, I would retreat into my imaginary world. I was lucky to have an amazing art teacher and mentor in high school and I spent a lot of time drawing and sketching, daydreaming about houses, and creating one-day life scenarios of owning a grand old house that operated as a B and B.
College at Princeton University was when I really started to come out of my shell, but even then I always struggled to figure out where I fit in, straddling the world of my close-knit a cappella group and the want to be in the right social circles, eating clubs etc. I studied architectural history and really dove into the idea of the New Urbanism and modern day residential architecture in my senior thesis – perhaps my rather nomadic childhood had led me to really value the idea of “home”.
After college I did a brief stint at Bob Vila‘s TV show Home Again, helping with product placement and content. It was fun to work for someone who I had long admired – and the home improvement nerd in me got a real kick out of meeting all of Bob’s carpenter friends in person. My job with Home Again made me realize that I had an itch to be on the design side – where I was creating the actual spaces versus documenting them. A couple years in, I went back to school at the New England School of Design to get my masters in Interior Design.
Along the way, I met my husband Scott and we got married. It felt like I was finally hitting my stride and feeling like I was starting to understand where I fit in this great big world. After grad school we moved to New York where I began my design career with Wilson Associates. I worked on many a fun and large scale hospitality project, from the MGM Grand at Foxwoods to residential clubhouses in China. Lucky for me, when the economy tanked and all of our domestic projects dried up, I was able to parlay my Chinese language skills into helping with our projects in China.
As my job wore on, I began to tire of hospitality projects – especially those overseas where often it would take years to see the final product and the interpretation of our original design intent had a tendency to be very off key. And the idea of “home” kept tugging at my heartstrings – designing and decorating my own home had always been where my passion was. During that time, we were living in LA and had our first child Bryan. We purchased a tudor cottage in Eagle Rock and I was really enjoying fixing up our house, delving into the landscaping and DIY projects. I also had started my blog and designed some hardware on a whim.
Around that time Scott’s job took us back to the East Coast and we settled in Millburn, New Jersey. This move is what spurred me to take the plunge and venture out on my own. Bryan was still a baby and I didn’t want to commute to the city. I wanted to be doing something more in the residential sphere and that was truly my own. I invested in a small production run of the hardware I had designed and started selling online – gradually growing a following and showroom presenve. Living in Millburn was a lot like living in Texas where I had gone to high school. While the community was in theory more diverse, it seemed like everyone was in finance and there was a social climbing aspect that I wasn’t into.
A few years down the road, our house was “done” and we had another kid and my home-based business had expanded so we decided to move to a larger house in neighboring South Orange where the vibe is decidedly more artsy. I had the opportunity to fix up our amazing Victorian home, run an Airbnb and really engage in the creative community – mild childhood dreams were coming to life! And for the first time I really felt like I was maybe going to truly fit in. Funnily though, you come to realize that nobody ever truly fits in and fitting in is not the name of the game. While our new community was more our style, there were still the snobby cliquey moms, this time with more tattoos and hipster fashion sense, and there was still an element of elitism, this time more of the super liberal bent.
Now my family resides Atlanta – we moved here a couple months ago for Scott’s job. We are in Buckhead where it’s definitely more like where I grew up in Texas. There is a Southern gentility and sorority girl vibe for sure. I could be scared off by the “Buckhead Betties” but I feel like I finally get who I am and can ways to connect with people no matter where I go, and I also love that they really appreciate design down here.
The whole life process of figuring out where I fit in and observing the dynamics behind different communities and groups, means that I now have a real understanding of who I am and where my priorities are. I am a Asian Texan, tattoo wearing (but not totally tatted), somewhat liberal, creative interior designer mom of two. I hate snobbery of all kinds whether it’s political, social, design related and most especially when it comes to food. I love interiors and architecture and appreciate fine things, but I also feel that good design should be for the masses and can be achieved on any budget. I love a good pair of hipster mamma clogs but also think that the Southern art of monogramming has a place at home. You can live your dreams without making huge sacrifices if you know how to work hard, work efficiently and prioritize. So that’s me. Hopefully this gives you an idea of how I got to be where I am and who I am. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have and let me know what you would like to see more of over here at the Nest.