Jane Son is an architect living in a big ‘ol Victorian upper that she freely admits needs a complete reno. She’s had it for 7 years and hasn’t rushed into building her dream home because she wanted time to raise her son first. She became a free agent soon after giving birth and made easy sacrifices like scaling back on exotic vacations and designer clothes so she could afford to find more magic hours with her new babe. Let’s be clear though—she still gets courted to work on major commercial and residential projects (right now she’s designing a 6,000 square feet urban beauty overlooking the lake), she just keeps her workload manageable so she can spend a few days a week with August after school.
When he started kindergarten this past fall, she was gifted with the wiggle room to start-up a new dream, CASSON Hardware, which will bring ultra-modern fixtures to minimalist design buffs. Here’s how she manages to keep her head in the game while her heart is at home.
“When I was pregnant, I couldn’t imagine staying home with a baby. Then I became a mom and even though I felt like I should stay committed to my career, I decided to listen to my heart and work from home. It was a really hard decision and transition to go through. When I was younger, I had all this post-graduation ambition and my identity was completely wrapped up in my work. It was difficult to change that idea of myself and walk away from the high profile partners I was working with. Also, I was the only one of a few friends who wanted to stay home after having a baby.
I still wanted—and needed—to work and opened my own studio when August was still an infant. I was so tired and constantly wondered if I was doing the right thing. I quickly figured out I had collected all the skills I needed to run my own business and I became very good at multi-tasking with a baby in one arm. It’s also remarkable how much I can get done when there’s no watercooler talk interrupting my day. I feel like I can get 5 days of work done in 2 or 3 days. Admittedly, I did hire a few people to help move projects forward and I didn’t make a lot of money that first year but contracting out helped me keep up a steady business momentum.
If I didn’t have a baby, I don’t think I would’ve picked up and left my career path the way that I did. I likely would be working at a top firm—like I used to—and my house would be renovated because I would’ve had the time and income. That being said, I am a mom and I just didn’t see any options that would allow me the flexibility to come home whenever he was sick or give me the extra time with him that I wanted. I made a trade-off: I live with imperfect walls so I can be the kind of mom I want to be. I’m also very lucky I have a husband who is so supportive and willing to make sacrifices with me. These sacrifices are also giving me the financial stability to open up my new hardware business this summer.
Along with my CASSON partner, Megan Cassidy, I’m fortunate to know so many women who own their own businesses. We share such great friends who have taught us about shipping, distribution rights, warehousing and the many details that are very new to us. Their mentorship has been most eye opening. Now that I’m launching my second start-up, the best lesson I’ve learned is to lean into my husband, my family and my village of friends. I enjoy being a mother thoroughly and I enjoy having a career just as much; making them work together is a fact of life that I’m willing and happy to accept.
What’s really interesting is that although I’m an A-Type and trained perfectionist, motherhood has awakened my low-lying hippie personality. My son has his own room, but he’s barely in it. He often co-sleeps with us. I nursed him until he was two-and-a-half-years old and baby-wearing was a no-brainer for me. I took cues from what he needed and we’ve organically come to understand each other’s rhythms and emotions. This is what really works for us and I don’t expect others to take on my parenting style.
I think the best advice is to do what feels right. If that means going back to work right away—or not, if that means taking a day to yourself, if it means keeping to a schedule or giving your child a bottle…whatever it is, decide what’s comfortable for your family and stick to what makes everyone happy.”
Kid-size mid-century finds like this Bertoia chair are in almost every home of the house thanks to her good friend who happens to be the owner of popular vintage boite, Machine Age Modern
“We bought this from our friend and artist Kathryn Ruppert Dazai. She’s a textile artist and I just loved the story behind this piece. She made it while she was living in Paris apart from her husband and missed him. All the different fabrics come together to tell a great visual story.”
The living room has a trusty couch from Restoration Hardware. “We had a more modern sectional before but it was just too uncomfortable.” Rug, West Elm.
August’s bedroom is full of retro-fabulous personality.
There are plenty of sculptural moments like this ceramic French press which she picked up from her friend Juli (who owns a mid-century and Japanese/Scandinavian-inspired lifestyle shop Mjolk. You can see her home here).
To celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, her husband Andrew gave the traditional gift of wood with this Norman Cherner chair in walnut.
Jane loves #shoplocal finds including her go-to bags from Want Les Essentials (a local-gone-global success story) which is manned by Canadian designers Byron and Dexter Peart.
Clockwise from top left: A mirror August bought her at a street sale; assorted bangles (“When I do wear a statement piece, it’s always sculptural and usually a bracelet or a ring”); her engagement ring which belonged to her husband’s grandmother and the signet ring has his family’s coat of arms; a ribbon ring from artist Gaetano Pesce and a play on traditional Victorian ceramics from ceramist Julie Moon (look closely and you’ll see the shape of a brain).
Proof that art doesn’t have to be pricey: “My friend made me this wrapping paper for my birthday one year. He wrote the lyrics to Sweet Jane [by the Cowboy Junkies] on it. I had it for years then decided to frame it.”
Her biggest design inspiration: Eileen Gray whose contemporaries included Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Le Corbusier. “She was the only woman among her group and stood strong among them with her own forward-thinking designs.” Jane even made a pilgrimage to one of Gray’s homes in the South of France.
She admits she doesn’t have time for a 12-step Korean skincare routine. “I get a facial at my local Korean beauty salon every month and try to keep it up but then real life wins in the end. If I’m lucky, I’m able to wash my face at night.” At the same salon she picks up Korean skincare brands like Iope and Sulwhasoo and finishes her routine with La Mer Eye Concentrate.
“When I need to make an impression, a red lip colour does wonders, otherwise my makeup is pretty low-key.” Besides dressing up her lips, she’ll add a touch of blush and pump up her lashes. MAC Lipstick in Amplified, Nars Blush in Orgasm, Nars Lip Pencil in Chuella and La Neige Infinite Volume Setting Mascara (another find from her local beauty salon).