Standing in the middle of the floor of her design store Zouk, Jenny Best is expertly wielding a sharp knife as she slices open a box filled with Kantha throws from India. Surrounding her are more than ten boxes of luxurious throws that she and her sister, Katharina Tagliaferre, hand-selected during their last trip to Asia. “I love the feeling of adventure,” says Best. “I can’t wait to see how people will react when they see these.”
As with almost every item Best and Tagliaferre bring back, the throws are a hit. But pleasing their customers is only part of the joy. About to open a second store in Sydney, Australia, Best (Tagliaferre is currently skiing) opens up about her love of traveling, her design philosophy and the motto both she and her sister live by.
Have you always been a risk-taker or did you get braver with age?
We both moved half across the world in our 20s, so we were probably always risk takers. But, of course, age will make you braver since you know yourself better and you’re not as intimidated by what other people think. It’s a liberating feeling. The main thing to consider is, what do you have to lose by taking a risk and going for your dream? And what may you gain?
You’ve never owned a retail store before Zouk. What gave you the idea?
Katharina worked as a journalist before moving to Australia. While raising her three children, one with Downs Syndrome, she started working with an orphanage for disabled teenagers in Cambodia, which she’s still involve with. I came to Los Angeles to study interior design and ran my own upholstery business. Then we both got divorced around the same time and wanted to spend more time together. We usually talk to each other five times a day and we love to travel, so it felt like a natural fit. We were stuck on names for a while until a friend of ours started asking questions about what we wanted to do, and the word Souk, which is the word for a Moroccan market place, came up.
What’s your most memorable trip?
That’s a tough one. All of our trips are so memorable, since we travel to exotic places. What makes them special are the people we meet. We have so little time to spend on tourist attractions. Then, of course, there’s India where the only thing you can plan on is that nothing will go according to plan! And come to think of it, we did get attacked by black faced monkeys in a palace in Jaipur!
What’s the last trip you took and what did you bring back?
Our last buying trip was to Mumbai, Jaipur, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Jaipur is the best place to buy textiles and jewelry. In Guangzhou, we found great ceramics and jade jewelry. Hong Kong is amazing for knick knacks and personal shopping, and it’s a lot of fun!
What design trend do you wish would go away?
I’m very tired of all the big upholstered pieces with patterned drapes, and rugs on top of rugs. Too many textiles!
Kantha throws and Moroccan poufs are the big trends right now – they’re everywhere. What do you think is the next must-have item?
I’m not really into trends. I think a Kantha and a Moroccan pouf can be timeless. I also wish more people would start appreciating one-of-a-kind pieces with character and flaws. Perfection is very boring to me.
What’s your own personal style when it comes to interior design?
I love mixing styles and textures. I love all things natural, wood, leather, stone, glass and different metals. I mix Asian with Swedish antiques, stainless steel with stuff I pick up from side walk sales. The only rule I stick to is that I have to love it. If I stay true to my taste, all things will harmonize.
When do you feel the happiest?
Katharina is probably happiest on top of a mountain with perfect powder, or boarding a plane. I’m happiest when I have a project to throw myself into full force, and I also love running on Zuma Beach [in Malibu, California] on a sunny morning.
Do you have a motto you live by?
We have the same one: “I’m never bored because I’m never boring.”
Photographs by Ulrica Wihlborg ©2012.