Meeting Olivia Joffrey is like stepping into a beam of pure light. She greets you with amazingly clear blue eyes and an instant sense of warmth. The feeling of entering her home is the same, with ambient light, views of the Pacific Ocean in the distance, and some of the oldest houses and buildings in town tucked away in the neighborhood. around and below.
Olivia spends her days designing caftans and tunics for her eponymous collection, and her house is famous for the patterns, colors, and textures you see popping up over and over again in the pieces. hers. Olivia has only been in this home for a year, but she’s made it all her own, brimming with original artwork, books, colorful textiles, and personal touches throughout.
She lives here with her three young daughters, and her house is very homely and comfortable but clearly adult. The previous owners overhauled the second half of the home to become a shared kitchen and dining space, creating a perfect spot for friends to entertain while still being able to cook anything on the stove.
Olivia’s work and life exudes a nostalgic beauty of more idyllic times.
Deeply inspired by her Santa Cruz upbringing and her mother’s early years as an expat living in Spain, Olivia’s work and life exudes the beauty of nostalgia for those times. Simpler. Here, we spent an evening with friends and a meal inspired by — and in honor of — her mother’s dreamy Andalusian days spent with artists, writers and Spanish sun. Read on to learn about Olivia’s approach to food, her hosting and her version of the good life.
Olivia Joffrey on What Makes a Home
Tell us about your home and how you got there in Santa Barbara
My house is an old SoCal bungalow from the 1920s. I fell in love with it because the kitchen is actually half of the living space. The house aligns with my priorities: cook, talk, connect, drink, enjoy, read, play music, and live simply.
Returning to California is a homecoming for me on many levels.
My family moved to Santa Barbara in 2017. I’m a native of Santa Cruz, a similar kind of beach town with college and surf culture. But Santa Barbara has always appealed to me more architecturally and culturally. My twenties were my years: living in New York, London and San Francisco, where I worked in architecture and urban planning. In my thirties, I got married and moved to the suburbs of Chicago. I never felt at home there, despite the wonderful people and creative setting (and more affordable real estate). Returning to California is a homecoming for me on many levels.
What is your favorite part of your house?
I love the abode of my home and the specific sounds we know. The bell of the old church tower rings twice a day — it’s heavenly! If you close your eyes, you are in Santiago de Compostela. On summer evenings, my daughters and I take blankets in the rickety carriage and a portable dinner and we roll down to the rose garden. We often bring our friends to relax and enjoy the colors of the sunset.
Olivia Joffrey, Brand
Can you share the story and inspiration behind your business?
I started my caftan line in 2015 when my daughter Clementine was born. I was disappointed because I didn’t have anything in my wardrobe that felt luxurious, but also comfortable. I long for those graceful caftans that I remember my mother wore in the 1970s when I was a kid. At the time, my husband encouraged me to create my own caftans and connected me with a business coach.
I buy vintage caftan patterns from Etsy and eBay and hire a maker in Los Angeles who can make them for me. The entire inscription is a love letter to my mother, Anne-Marie, and some like hers of laid-back California elegance and a nod to her years away in Andalusia.
Food: A Family Affair
How did you learn to cook?
I learned to cook by watching my mother. She is a confident and sexy chef. In Santa Cruz, our kitchen is small and shabby. But from it, she will create great meals. My friends would be sitting around our old Spanish library table for dinner and she would prepare a meal of artichokes with homemade mayonnaise, avocado lettuce salad with vinegar, and have us grill cooked salmon in a fish tong. As a child, I was embarrassed by her extravagance, but my friends liked to eat at my house.
Food was as important to my mother as books and music were to her. We never had money, but we were filled with bookshelves, a wall of notes, and simple but sumptuous food.
What informs your approach to food?
I was looking for a sexy experience. The smells in the house as you sauté the onions, the light of the candles, the weight in the lap of a heavy linen napkin, the small glass of wine while you assemble the various parts, and the theater of the meal itself. All those ingredients together make the dish theatrical, ritual, and meaningful.
What does the typical dinner of the week look like to you?
When my kids are with me, I try to make dinner an act of cooperation. Each of my three daughters takes on different roles in food preparation and table setting. My dining room is actually inside my kitchen – a layout that suits my lifestyle. It’s normal and duplicated.
Do you promise any cookbooks?
I really like books Can not forget by Emily Thelin about the life and recipes of the great Paula Wolfert. I learned how to make ajvar (a Moroccan ratatouille) from that book — it’s in my monthly catalog. Ajvar is great with sourdough, or with grilled chicken.
Tried and true kitchen process and tools
What are your must-have kitchen tools?
My mother’s fine German knives, and her Danish enameled pots and pans. Dao sentimental, but also handsome. When I use her knives, I feel legit. Danish pans produce the most even heat and I love them as objects. I also can’t live without a really good garlic press.
What does a typical day look like to you?
I’m an early riser and usually wake up when the 6am duty bell rings. My daughter Clementine and I take our morning walk through the neighborhood, holding hands. When we got back home, it was a rush to wake up her sisters, get everyone dressed and ready for school, and pack lunch.
Once the kids got to school, I sped to my studio in downtown Santa Barbara, meditating a bit to focus my mind and dive into whatever project was driving me through that week. Some weeks take me to downtown Los Angeles (a two-hour drive away), where my production is located, and other weeks I write a lot for my copywriting clients.
In the evenings, I like to go to dinner with friends or to some of our favorite local places. In the summer, we pick up shrimp cakes in Cuernavaca and bring them down to the beach.
Do you have a go-to outfit?
I have three uniforms that help me get dressed in the morning efficiently. I either wear a jumpsuit (I like Al’s Big Deal), a caftan from my line, or corduroy bell bottoms and a fitted t-shirt. I almost always bring espadrilles.
What do you eat in the morning?
I make coffee in a French press. Then, for my daughters and I, I cut each of us a thick slice of sourdough from the Helena Avenue Bakery that I baked, buttered in a cast iron skillet. Sometimes, my girls love it covered with butter and a six-minute egg, but it’s just crunchy with butter.
What do you always keep in your fridge?
Avocado, cilantro, scallions, cabbage, Gruyère, eggs and chilled glass pitcher of tap water.
What’s your favorite product for the table?
How is Olivia Joffrey Entertains?
How would you describe your approach to entertainment?
Barefoot and lavish, warm and humble. Improvisation.
What does your ideal gathering look like?
Some of my favorite gatherings are fun dinners with creatives of all ages. I designed a simple table with candles and small vases jumbled in mismatched vases. I love it when the music doesn’t go with the food: a cheese and Dr.Dre soup, sushi and ska music, Yorkshire pudding and the Beastie Boys. I absolutely love it when someone breaks the guitar and dinner turns to music.
What scares you about entertainment?
I dread not being able to mingle with people at dinner when I’m distracted by the cooking. I’m not good at multitasking.
What brings you the most joy when spending time in the kitchen or gathering around the dinner table?
The fascination of the moment: candles, colors, scents, faces. I like when the meal is over and everyone has settled down and reclined in their chairs. There was a small palpable community that felt that some secrets were shared between us.
Do you have a signature dish for gatherings?
I’m kind of a salad queen. It starts with whatever greens tempt me at the farmers market, then I alternate with shredded/crumbed cheese and a toasted nut and my mom’s classic red wine vinegar recipe.
It’s like the coats are the little black dress, the cheese and nuts are the jewelry and shoes, and the salad dressing is the perfume that holds it all together.
Scroll to the bottom of this post for Olivia’s signature Ensalada Valenciana recipe.
Favorite question to get to know someone?
Where did you grow up?
Going to the center?
Eucalyptus from the divider outside my house.
Who are your dream dinner guests?
I can’t name anyone, but the mix of guests has a certain alchemy magic. I prefer a small dinner of 6-8 people max. That way, you can actually connect. It’s always a bonus to have different age groups represented, one eccentric, one funny, one funny and maybe someone you don’t know well yet.
What is one piece of advice you would share for people who want to organize on a budget?
Scattered on really gorgeous vegetables at the farmers market. They add color when you serve them on the table and can be as hearty as meat and a lot cheaper. I have made great meals with oven-roasted eggplant and spices. The atmosphere (candlelight, phonograph) and originality (what you serve) is much more memorable than how you try to make it. Cozy always takes precedence over grandiose.
What is your stress-free entertainment rule for living?
Get cheap, luxury glassware so you don’t get upset when the glass breaks. I use Borosil glasses. They are inexpensive and modern. Plus, if the party gets a little crazy, it’s not as traumatizing as wiping out the Waterford crystal at 2am.
Filling in the blank:
A perfect meal should… feels like a communion of body and soul.
INot a dinner party without… Music.
Every chef should know how to… sharpen their own knives.