Confined to Quarters, Not to Canvas

Confined to Quarters, Not to Canvas, photos by Erick Madrid. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

When the pandemic stuck Maryvonne LaParlière in her new Solvang home last spring, the white walls and unfinished surfaces didn’t stand a chance against the artist’s love of color. The French-born, École des Beaux-Arts–educated artist has specialized in decorative art for decades but focused primarily on commissions—like the three vibrant murals that grace the walls of Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital—and work for sale in galleries.

“When COVID arrived, it was not even like fight or flight, because we didn’t know what to fight exactly and we couldn’t fly anywhere,” said LaParlière, who closed her gallery in Amherst, Virginia, with the shutdown. “I had to figure out what to do.”

She looked around the house and spotted two nightstands in the bedroom that “were good quality but kind of blah.” So she painted them to match the botanical design on her
bedspread. Then it was on to faux painting a frieze of tiles in trompe l’oeil style, inspired by antique Spanish/Portuguese ceramic tiles.

Staying with Mediterranean-inspired vernacular, she hand-painted her patio and did an entire outdoor barbecue area. “I decided to do the wall near my iron gate and a little
barbecue sink, which I did painted in blue and white in the azulejos Portuguese style,” says the artist, whose work can be found in the collections of celebrities such as Priscilla Presley, Larry Hagman, Fannie Flagg, Julia Roberts, and Susan Sarandon, as well as the Orient Express Hotels chain, University of Virginia, and Alliance Française of Washington, D.C. In 2010, after a solo exhibition at the French Embassy, she was even decorated by the French Ambassador as a Knight in the Order of the Palms in recognition of her talent and for bringing French culture to so many in America.

Painting her way through the pandemic kept LaParlière’s spirits high, as did living in such a beautiful place. She transformed the steps leading up to her house into a colorful entryway, painting images of the nearby mission and gathering inspiration from all the local flora and fauna; “boring furniture” pieces like chests, trunks, and tables were transformed
into colorful works of art; and borders around her windows became showcases for more
hand-painted tilework.

Now that things are starting to open up, she is eager to work with new clients, as well as in her own home—if she can find an empty surface. Said LaParlière, “I will never stop.”


Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Get ready for another fun festival when the Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival returns to the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club on Saturday, September 8.

The festival combines polo, local wine, and music for a unique one-day experience that includes musical performances by ZZ Ward, Booker T. Jones, California Honeydrops, Quinn DeVeaux and DJ Sets by Soul Dust Productions.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Andrew Thill.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Andrew Thill.

The Festival features a careful curation of local food and wineries, including Jardesca, Lavender Oak Vineyard, Old Creek Ranch, Sanford Winery, Standing Sun Wines, Summerland Winery and more. In addition to a wine tasting hour from 1 -2 p.m. where attendees will having a chance to sample all of the featured wines, there’s also a VIP champagne and cheese hour from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

In addition, sommelier guided wine tasting tours will be available on a first come first serve basis and attendees will be guided across all of the wineries of the festival and given an overview, history, and tasting notes at each winery as well.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Andrew Thill.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Andrew Thill.

There are several different levels of experiences and perks available at the Festival, so visit for all of the specifics.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by David Lominska.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by David Lominska.

In addition, this year, the Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival is the kick-off event to the 8-goal polo series at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. This will be an official polo game of the series, and is sure to be an incredible match. While not mandatory, the game’s elegant atmosphere will encourage guests to get in touch with their inner Julia Roberts (think the polo match scene in Pretty Woman). The bigger and more elaborate the hat the better, although September 8 is my birthday, so I might just wear my tiara! 

Hope to see you there. Cheers!

Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is located at 3300 Via Real, Carpinteria.

Nick Waterhouse at Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Andrew Thill.

Nick Waterhouse at Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Andrew Thill.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival, photo by Jon Endow.

Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 3, 2018.

The Books of 2016

So many books, so little time—part ten.

My son started keeping a reading list in third grade, so I did too. This is the tenth year we’ve done this.

My favorite books of 2016 were probably You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, a mystery-thriller set in the world of women’s gymnastics; Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave, set in the world of wine-making; Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, which is about the restaurant business; Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes, a terrific collection of shot stories; and The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, who also wrote Fates and Furies, one of my favorite books I read last year.  

As usual, I tend to find an author I like and then read anything I can get my hands on. I adored Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple so much that I also read her two other novels, Today Will be Different (in development as a TV series with Julia Roberts) and This One is Mine, both of which I liked but didn’t LOVE the way I did Bernadette.

Anyway, I’d love to hear about other people’s favorite books this year.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake Anna Quindlen
Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling
Boys & Girls Together William Goldman
Fun Home Allison Bechdel
Precious Gifts Danielle Steel
23 Degrees South Neal Rabin
Last One Home Debbie Macomber
Feel This Ben Stiller & Janeane Garofalo
A Whole New Light Sandra Brown
All Fall Down Jennifer Weiner
The Children Act Ian McEwan
Purity Jonathan Franzen
Crooked Little Lies Barbara Taylor Sissel
The Rumor Elin Hildebrand
The Truth About Alice Jennifer Mathieu
Girl Tripping Gina Iamanna
Everything’s Relative Jenna McCarthy
The Clasp Sloane Crosley
The Guestbook Andrea Hurst
The Art of Peeling an Orange Victoria Avilan
What Alice Forgot Liane Moriarty
Bettyville George Hodgman
Between the Lines Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
Miss Adventure Geralyn Corcillo
Who Do You Love? Jennifer Weiner
Girl Waits With Gun Amy Stewart
The Tender Bar J.R. Moehringer
The Monsters of Templeton Lauren Groff
Connect the Stars Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
Barbara the Slut and Other People Lauren Holmes
The Moon and More Sarah Dessen
The Apartment Danielle Steel
Dead of Night J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas
The Swans of Fifth Avenue Melanie Benjamin
Lizzie Bennett Diaries Bernie Su and Kate Noble
The List Siobhan Vivan
One Plus One JoJo Moyes
Nora Roberts Land Miles Ava
Windfallen JoJo Moyes
Dear Mr. You Mary Louise Parker
The Sleuth Sisters Maggie Pill
Fireside Susan Wiggs
Sweetbitter Stephanie Danler
Tiny Pretty Things Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
My Favorite Husband Pam McCutcheon
The Fixer Upper Mary Kay Andrews
The Inn at Rose Harbor Debbie Macomber
I Was Told There Would be Cake Sloane Crosley
A Girl’s Guide to Moving on Debbie Macomber
Drinking Closer to Home Jessica Anya Blau
Identical Scott Turrow
If I Stay Gayle Forman
Euphoria Lily King
Eight Hundred Grapes Laura Dave
In the Unlikely Event Judy Blume
Remembrance Meg Cabot
Innocents & Others: A Novel Dana Spiotta
Calling Invisible Women Jeanne Ray
Royal Wedding Meg Cabot
Eligible Curtis Sittenfeld
The Man of the House Stephen McCauley
Be Frank With Me Julia Claiborne Johnson
Fallen in Love Lauren Kate
Four of a Kind Valerie Frankel
The Bridge Ladies Betsy Lerner
The Goodbye Quilt Susan Wiggs
French Roast Ava Miles
Behind Closed Doors B.A. Paris
Heat & Light Jennifer Haigh
The Grand Opening Ava Miles
Paris for One & Other Stories JoJo Moyes
My Kind of Perfect Hannah Ellis
Heroes Have Always Been My Weakness Susan Elizabeth Phillips
You Will Know Me Megan Abbott
The History of Love Nicole Krauss
Today Will Be Different Maria Semple
This One is Mine Maria Semple

Designing Woman

DeNai Jones, courtesy photo

DeNai Jones, courtesy photo

Some girls dream of being princesses, but DeNai Jones dreamed of being a bag lady.

Piercing aquamarine eyes peeking through a wild tumble of blonde curls are the first things that strike you about DeNai Jones. From the funky flare of her vintage dress to the toes of her Betty Boop shoes, she looks every inch the fashion designer that she is, known in chic circles for her combinations of bold, sophisticated color and unusual textures and textiles.

It’s no surprise that her bags grace the arms of A-list stars like Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Salma Hayek, Gwen Stefani and Heidi Klum–but they’re more likely to be found wearing them on the playground than the haute couture runways. DeNai has won over the shoulders of women all over the world with her stylish line of diaper bags.

When DeNai–who wasn’t yet a mom at the time–set out to find a gift for a pregnant friend and found shelves full of “pastel colors, teddy bears and cutesy stuff,” she recognized a market for high-end, fashionable diaper bags. She sewed the first prototypes in her parents’ garage in Ventura, and paid homage to her father’s childhood nickname for her by naming the venture Petunia Pickle Bottom.

DeNai started her career as a kindergarten teacher, but says, “I was always sketching and painting. The arts were always my passion.” Her parents encouraged her to choose a more stable career path, but part of her attraction to teaching kindergarten was getting to do so many fun art projects in class.

Her husband, Braden Jones, dreamed of starting his own companies. Driving up the coast to Ventura from San Luis Obispo, where he had recently graduated from Cal Poly, the young couple had a heart-to-heart talk, and DeNai confided that she had always wanted to be a designer.

“It was kind of one of those ideas that you just carry in your mind with you,” she says. “We decided to travel a bit. We just started having those kinds of conversations. If you could do anything what would you do? We didn’t have a mortgage, we didn’t have children, no commitments besides ourselves.”

Braden encouraged DeNai to go after her dreams. She quit teaching to focus on developing her first samples. Within six to eight months, her bags were on the shelves of local stores.

The business quickly grew and they turned to DeNai’s best friend from Ventura High School, Korie Conant, for help. I was completely stunned,” when DeNai invited me to her parent’s cabin in Mammoth and showed me the bags, says Conant. She came on as a partner, taking on responsibility for marketing and brand development. Since then, the company has grown exponentially, with moms all over the world carrying their diapers Petunia-style.

Jones says that it’s still exciting to walk down the street and see someone carrying one of her bags. “I still kind of panic, my breath gets taken away and I usually will hide a little bit and … and follow them a little bit,” she says. “It’s still just as exciting as it was the first time I saw a bag on the street.”

Little details like the filigree on a staircase or a carved wooden pattern from a church eave inspire DeNai’s designs. Travel is high on her list for both relaxation and design inspiration. “I love to travel so much and experience all the different cultures that are out there. The world can be very small if you let it be,” she says.

Costa Rica is a favorite place for family time with Braden and their son Sutton, age two. They’re expecting another baby (it’s a boy) in March, and DeNai now has the flexibility–and additional staff–to focus on her children and come into the office just two days a week to concentrate primarily on design.

Living in Ventura, where she can walk to her salvaged brick office on Kalorama Street from her home downtown, helps to keep things real for DeNai. “I do love when we go out to New York for trade show and we come back it’s like, ‘Oh a breath of fresh air.’ It’s good to go for inspiration and shopping and looking around. All of those things are definitely imperative to developing the product. But I do really appreciate that we are kind of in our own microclimate here. We’re protected from a lot of the vindictive nature you see in the fashion world.”

And what’s it like to be in business with your best friend and her husband? “It’s easy actually. We all have different talents that we bring to the table with a common thread of creativity,” says Conant, who became a mom to Beckett in October. “There are no egos in the room which helps us survive. Ultimately, we are friends first, business partners second. We make it a practice to spend time with each other outside of the office on a weekly basis, that’s one of the keys to our business relationship–we truly are the best of friends.”

Braden says he’s learned a lot being in business with his wife. “Because we have a relationship on many levels, she never ceases to surprise me. … Although she considers herself risk adverse compared to me, she really does take every risk needed to be successful in life and business. However, she would probably be modest and tell you otherwise. It’s really the best of both worlds to share success on every level with the love of your life.”

“I love being at work with my husband and being able to see him in the office. Korie’s been my best friend since high school. It’s always nice for the three of us, even when we have to go to trade shows or take trips for the company, that we actually enjoy being together. It’s really been a dream, ” says DeNai.

A very sweet dream indeed.

Originally published in Ventana Monthly. Read the article here.