Inside Cookbook Author Julia Sherman's Mid-Century Marvel in Pasadena
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 tour Julia Sherman aka Salad For President's leafy mid-century modern home in LA's Pasadena.
Los Angeles-based creative Julia Sherman wears more than one hat. As a writer, cook, photographer, and mother of two, she's a woman of many talents, doing everything from creating gardens at museums to writing books. To her audience though, she is perhaps best known as the creator of blog 'Salad for President'.
Each charming Salad for President blog post centres around a salad recipe made in collaboration with an artist, musician, writer, or creative professional. "I love to surround myself with eccentric storytellers, people who inspire me to live my life according to my own design," Julia shares with Bed Threads Journal. "The fact that I built a project around that has made me a very happy and fulfilled person, and landed me in some very special places for some unforgettable meals, all over the world."
Last year, Julia released her second cookbook 'Arty Parties: An Entertaining Cookbook' that features over 100 original recipes for cooking for a group, and some of her favourites artists’ ideas for unconventional get-togethers. Julia is also the founder and creator of Jus Jus Verjus, a low ABV sparkling wine made in collaboration with natural winemaker and friend Martha Stoumen. She has also created two limited edition vinegars with Acid League.
Julia's creative energy flows through to beautiful family home; a modernist marvel surrounded by lush greenery. "It feels like a treehouse in the middle of the desert," she says. Drenched in sunlight which streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows, this home has an airy and calming feel to it.
A kaleidoscopic range of furniture and decor injects each room with playfulness, from the bold blue L-shaped sofa in the sunken living room to the bright yellow potbelly stove in the primary bedroom. This broad colour palette feels perfect for a young family, yet sophisticated and in-keeping with the home's mid-century origin. "Living in a mid-century home inspires me to de-clutter, so we really try and be selective about what gets to be in the house," she says.
The kitchen, which doubles as Julia's studio, is unsurprisingly handsome and spacious. Here, a large central island bench with an olive green underside that beautifully echoes the surrounding landscape, becomes the stage for her delicious creations. The open-plan design and spaciousness of the home makes it ideal for hosting and entertaining family and friends.
We spoke to Julia about and her career journey to date, how she knew this was the home for her, and her favourite pieces within.
Hi Julia! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
What don’t I make? Ha! I am a compulsive tinkerer and maker, it’s rather insufferable. I am known for making salads and other produce-driven, colourful food, but my kitchen is my studio. I make kombucha and ferment pickles, I dehydrate fruits and veg, I forage elderberries to make syrup, I harvest spices from the garden and make my own spice blends....the list goes on. I am also a photographer and writer, so I am always working in that capacity, making books, and publishing my work in magazines.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I have boundless energy, so the ability to make things with my hands is what keeps me sane. I have to do something creative every single day, or I start to lose myself. The most challenging thing for me is to do nothing. Having children has helped me with that, since there are moments where you just need to be fully present and let go of any notion of “productivity” (although I most often have one foot on a rocker, and a hand on the frying pan).
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
No! I was raised in the art world, and studied and worked as a fine artist and photographer until I turned 30. Food and gardening had always been my hobbies, the pursuits that absorbed excess creative energy once I left the studio. But as I got older and realised the commercial art world was a whole lot more restrictive than I had imagined, I started to pay attention to the work I was doing in the kitchen.
When I was cooking or hosting, I was surrounded by artists, sharing with them instead of competing with them for curators’ attention. It was ideal in many ways, and I felt so excited about how much I could learn. Now, I feel like I can use my platform to do any number of projects, from creating gardens at museums, to writing books.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
My creative process doesn’t really start and stop, it’s a continuum.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
I don’t assume the worst if I don’t hear back from someone, but instead, I assume they are busy and appreciate a nudge. Now that I am a little older, further along in my career, and a mum of two, I have become the person who needs the “just wanted to check in on this,” email, and I really respect people who are tenacious enough to follow through.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
Specificity is an asset. The fact that I hitched my horse to salad, of all things, made me stand out in the crowd. Also, the value of a good name - Salad for President has meaning for me, but it also verges on the absurd in a way that gets your attention.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
The wonderful people I have met, for sure. I love to surround myself with eccentric storytellers, people who inspire me to live my life according to my own design. The fact that I built a project around that has made me a very happy and fulfilled person, and landed me in some very special places for some unforgettable meals, all over the world.
Recreate Julia's look with our Olive Throw.
Recreate Julia's look with our Terracotta Hand and Face Towel.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Relationships are everything. There is room in this world for all of us, and the best thing you can do is promote and bolster the people whose work you admire, or are even jealous of!
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
Almost two years since we renovated, but we had the house for a couple of years prior, and sort of camped out here for the winters while we lived in NYC.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
My brother in law came for the open house and Facetimed us in NYC. The second he walked in, we knew it was the one. The house is very unassuming from the front exterior, but when you open the door, the sunken living room and the glass walls surrounded by trees are real jaw-droppers.
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Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
We did a year-long renovation with architect Emily Farnham and contractors Bronstruction, a killer team that enabled us to work on this from across the country. We like to joke that we took the whole house apart and put it back together again exactly as it was. It was a historic restoration, so we didn’t change much about the layout, just updated the guts and replaced the old materials.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
Not much thought to be honest. We are very intuitive about the way we put together a space. We wanted it to be realistic for our way of life - lots of hosting and entertaining, and kids running around. Living in a mid-century home inspires me to de-clutter, so we really try and be selective about what gets to be in the house.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
We have a custom bench that was original to the house in the living room. My husband sanded it and painted it black, and we translated paintings by my dear friend Ruby Stiler into tapestry fabric to upholster the cushions. They make me think of her, and they are really so unique. It’s the next best thing to owning her paintings. I also love the light dimmer in the living room, a bronze casting of my daughter’s foot that I made when she was about 3 months old, and the yellow potbelly stove in our bedroom. We converted it from wood burning to gas, and it’s wonderful in the winter.
Recreate Julia's look with Olive Stripe and Oatmeal in our Build Your Own Bundle.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
We need some great vintage stools for the granny flat, but we haven’t been going to flea markets or furniture shops during the pandemic, so it’s taking a long time to find them.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
I love our bathroom. It’s flooded with light and looks out onto the orchard. The sunken tub was a signature move for the architect, Boyd Georgi, and the tile gives the space a lot of texture and vibe without feeling busy.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
I hate anything that feels formulaic or prescribed. You can tell when someone hired a designer to do their interior as opposed to building and collecting the pieces themselves. A home should tell stories.
For more from Julia, follow her @Saladforpresident