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Chocolate Maker Emica Penklis' House Is a Luxurious Minimalist Dream

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to the perfectly styled home of Emica Penklis, founder of the brand Loco Love, in Suffolk Park in northern New South Wales.

Life has changed a lot in the year since Emica Penklis and her husband – owners of the lush vegan chocolate brand Loco Love – moved into their home in Suffolk Park.

First of all, they’ve had a baby. When the pair first viewed the house, Penklis was six months pregnant and the couple were searching for a bigger place for their growing family. When they set foot in the house in Suffolk Park for a viewing, what they saw was a home with great bones, despite the ‘80s red tiles and brick. This was a place that, with the right renovation, could become a family home. “We just went for it,” Penklis says. “And then renovated it as quickly as possible before Lennon was born.”

The resulting renovation was a major makeover: a two-month project that involved fixing up the kitchen, bathroom, floors, rendering the exterior and painting everything in a calming, soothing palette of whites and neutrals. In fact, the new bathroom, plastered in a Moroccan style, is now Penklis’ favourite room in the house. “It was the fastest renovation ever,” Penklis jokes. “Being heavily pregnant gave the tradesman a very real deadline.”

The chocolatier CEO picked her home’s neutral colour palette on a whim, wanting something that would be easy to work with from a decorating standpoint. Which is exactly what it is, a blank canvas against which the couple’s beloved pieces of furniture and art pop. Like their black velvet sofa from the late ‘60s. “It’s so different to anything else I have seen and kind of goes against the trend of social media at the moment,” Penklis says. “Probably not for long though. Lennon also loves to climb all over it and it’s super comfortable.”

Penklis is drawn to all things special, high quality, and unique, whether it’s in her home or in her business. Loco Love started with Penklis making sweet treats in her kitchen and is now a sprawling business. But the brand’s ethos remains the same: handmade, delicious, and good – both for you and for the planet. “Instead of the word ‘making’, I would say I am ‘creating’ a life for myself and my family that aligns with my values,” explains Penklis. “So the act of making/creating for me is what I am here to do on the planet at this time.”

Hi Emica! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?

We make delicious organic, fair-trade, vegan chocolate with benefits. Our chocolate is handmade from the cacao in its pure state, mixed with organic coconut blossom sugar to sweeten. We make interesting flavour combinations such as Salted Macadamia and Lemon with Turmeric, Peanut Butter Caramel with medicinal mushroom lion’s mane, and Wild Rose Ganache with goji extract to name a few.

Our chocolate is good for you and for the planet. Our mission is to encourage a state of pure presence in the consumer so that they can tap into the love/bliss beyond the busy mind.

How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?

I have never really thought about this, but I would say making chocolate really puts me in a flow state. Using my hands for some reason has been healing on many levels. The cacao has a special energy and I feel it has influenced my state of being.

These days I am ‘making’ in a different way as the CEO of Loco Love. We now have a team that helps make the chocolates, so I like to use my creativity to dream up new products, packaging, words, and the whole feel of Loco Love.

Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?

After school I studied fashion design and at age 22 started my own label called ‘Neverwhere’. I designed one collection sold it into a bunch of stores; though the investor and I had very different ideas of where we wanted to take it. I was too young and a little inexperienced at the time.

During the same time I also started working as a fashion model, which became quite demanding of my time very quickly. I had to make the choice to pursue fashion design or modelling and I chose to move to London and pursue modelling. I worked in London and Europe for a few years as a model.

The whole time I was modelling I felt a tad disconnected to myself and my purpose, I was looking for ways to give back and decided that by becoming a naturopath I could help others on their healing paths. This serendipitously led me to chocolate and I haven’t looked back since.

Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?

I guess there are so many different creative processes for me these days, it’s not just about creating chocolate flavours. Though if I want to do this, I generally think of something I would want to eat or something we have not done before. I then collect all of the ingredients that would work in the recipe, write down a rough list of ratios, and test it out.

Sometimes it works the first time and other times it takes ages and several attempts. I use a lot of intuition to make the recipes and guide my creative process. I’d say my creative process is mainly intuition.

What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative business?

There are a few, though intuition has definitely played a huge role. Also my ability to take responsibility for things that are hard and work through them even if I don’t want to. That’s probably been the biggest strategy I have used.

Another strategy is to seek the knowledge of someone more experienced to help guide and mentor, something we have been doing lately. As far as tools Instagram has definitely played a huge role in getting Loco Love noticed.

I would say another tool or strategy that has helped us grow is being unique, we have always done our own thing and stayed authentic to our values.

What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?

That I can’t do everything on my own. Also that my personal limitations will hold the company back if I don’t work on them. It’s challenging when you realise that your own inexperience is the thing that’s stunting the growth of the thing that you created. It’s also liberating to realise this and be humble enough to ask or seek help and advice.

Another challenging thing is being human, needing to sleep, look after myself and keep balance. I realise how crazy that sounds, but making constant decisions and not being able to switch off can be a little draining.

What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?

Having limitless possibilities and opportunities to expand the business if we want to. Being able to use my creativity in different ways and stepping back for a moment looking at how far Loco Love has come. Also, building our small team has been great. It's rewarding to provide good work for locals in Byron and I am grateful for our employees.

Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self/ someone looking to start their own business?

Be authentic, be true to you and never give up. Trust me you will want to at times, though it's always toughest before a break through. the only way out is through.

Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?

We have lived here for one year almost exactly. When we found out we were pregnant with Lennon we really wanted to find a place to stay for a while. Also that we could renovate and make it our own. Though we are almost ready to move again!

How did you initially know this was the space for you?

I was about six months pregnant at the time and we just really needed to find somewhere that was affordable and in a nice location. So when this home popped up and had only been on the market for a few days, we just went for it and then renovated it as quickly as possible before Lennon was born. I think we started renovating in June and were finished by the end of July.

Shop Emica's look with Fog and White in our Build-Your-Own Bundle.

What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?

Just generally went with things I liked at the time, though for me my style can change very quickly and currently I am vibing a more wabi sabi, Axel Vandervoort type look. I love antiques and European type styles, so I guess that was a bit of an inspiration, as well as natural materials and high quality finishes.

What are your favourite pieces in the home?

Our couch, which is from 1968 by Robert Pamio, Noti Massari and Renaro Toso. It’s so different to anything else I have seen and kind of goes against the trend of social media at the moment (probably not for long though). Lennon also loves to climb all over it and it’s super comfortable.

Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?

Yes, I have a few bids on an online auction at the moment. There is a provincial French Buffet from 1850, Murano glass shell-shaped wall sconces and a hand-carved Spanish side table. Hopefully I will be the only bidder on this auction. I love unique and well-crafted pieces that have a story.

Shop Emica's look with Fog and White in our Build-Your-Own Bundle.

What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?

Don’t follow trends because they change so fast. Invest in pieces you love and antiques which don’t lose value and you can resell. For a bedroom, keep it minimal with beautiful linen, nice mood lighting and splurge on a high quality bed so you sleep well.

Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

I feel like I am in such a phase of organising and refining Loco Love new projects are in the works though I am not in a rush for them to come to life. This year has definitely taught me patience. We do however have a few new gift boxes in the works! Hopefully in time for Christmas.

For more from Emica, follow her at @emicapenklis and @locolovechocolate

Loved this home tour? Sculptor Natalie Rosin's Alexandria Home Is Filled With Ceramic Treasures

Discover more of Australia's most beautiful homes in our series, The Makers.

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