Ventura Goes Green

Image courtesy of <a href="" target="_blank">Horton Group</a>

Image courtesy of Horton Group

Earth Day is April 22, but you can celebrate the earth every day of the year by incorporating green building and remodeling practices into your home. Allen Associates Green Resources Manager Karen Feeney shares these tips:

Take a look at your operating efficiency. You’ll save money on utilities by making greener choices for your home. For example, a remodel is the perfect opportunity to put in a high efficiency furnace. “There are so many energy efficient systems that are out there right now, that are 90 to 97 percent efficient, so if you can put in a new heating system it’s going to make your house more comfortable because it’s going to work really well and also it’s not burning up fossil fuels to operate.”

Green doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive. Especially when you look at your long-term costs. “You’ve got that house for several years of your life, so it’s really a wise choice to go ahead and make some of those adjustments in your home because if you look at the lifespan of a home, you’re bringing your costs down and saving money.”

Improved insulation is one of the most cost effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Even if you are not taking down any walls, but you are going to repaint, you can go into an old house and you can drill small holes at the top and the bottom of the walls and blow in cellulose, which is recycled newspaper, or foam insulation, and that fills up the entire cavity and makes the home more airtight. Then you simply patch the holes and repaint the walls.

Tighter windows also improve insulation, bringing down your heating and cooling costs. “You can go in and do replacement on windows and do it very inexpensively. You can take, let’s say an aluminum framed single paned window and put in a window that fits in that same place that’s double-paned that can be a very energy efficient window.”

Carpets can be one of your home’s biggest health hazards. In part due to dust, mold, lead, and asbestos in the home, more than 38 percent of Americans suffer from allergies. “When you put a new carpet in your home and then you take it out ten years later, it can weigh three times more than the original carpet, especially if you have a dog or a lot of dirt tracked in…there’s documentation that if you take a carpet out of the home where somebody has asthma or allergies that their health improves immensely.”

For more Earth Day green living tips, check out these special events.

Midtown Green Home and Garden Tour
A self-guided home tour emphasizing sustainable building and/or gardening practices to see how others in the community are already using “green” principles. Sponsored by the Midtown Ventura Community Council and the City of San Buenaventura. Saturday, April 19, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. $10. Tickets are available at Arketype Architects Inc., 275 S. San Clemente, 653.5088. For more information call Dan Long at 653.6573 or e-mail at

Earth Day Expo
Businesses and non-profit groups will share information that will help citizens “go green,” save energy, and save money. Sponsored by the Midtown Ventura Community Council and the City of San Buenaventura. Saturday, April 19, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Free. City of Ventura Sanjon Maintenance Yard, 336 Sanjon Road.

Free Green Building Workshop
Come celebrate Earth Day by learning from local building experts at Allen Associates how you can make your home healthier, energy efficient, more durable, and still stay within your budget. Tuesday, April 22, 7 to 9 P.M., Elizabeth Topping Room, E.P. Foster Library, 651 E. Main Street, Ventura. Free. Call 641.0839 to reserve a spot.

Originally published in Ventana Monthly in April 2008.

Image courtesy of Horton Group.

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.