Above: Phyllis Van Doren admires a display of John Robshaw pillows at Bixby & Ball in the Cedros Design District of Solana Beach.
San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine has been arriving at the La Jolla home where I grew up for almost as long as we have both been in existence (if that gives away my age, so be it). So it is rather surreal to find myself newly employed as the associate editor of the publication I used to peruse in my younger years and working just a stone’s throw away from where my father worked for Foodmaker near Montgomery Field Airport.
Even more exciting is the opportunity to carry the torch for Senior Editor Phyllis Van Doren and continue her signature feature, Hot Finds, Cool Stuff. The magazine’s consummate design expert is retiring after 35 years. I have lost count of how many times I have heard the phrase, “You have very big shoes to fill.” I am aware — what a career and what a lady!
The opportunity to shadow Phyllis has been priceless. Along the way, I have learned many little gems: that she used to save up all her allowance to buy fashion magazines as a young girl and that fashion is where much of her interior design inspiration comes from. On more than one occasion, I wish I had pulled out my recorder to capture conversations with Phyllis to detail her philosophies about life and design.
Journeying around town with her is like hobnobbing with a local celebrity. Everyone knows Phyllis and stops us on the street to say hello or to compliment her iconic vintage eyeglasses or Indian-inspired outfit. On a trip to North County, we stopped by Kris Lajeskie’s showroom, where the designer paid a thoughtful tribute to Phyllis by throwing her an intimate tea party, serving tea and bite-sized cakes on exquisite Fortuny china in a sumptuous setting. “I want to take the time to honor Phyllis for all she has done,” Kris said.
In Little Italy, Phyllis introduced me to all the trendiest places, such as the urban living-inspired James Coffee Co. warehouse shops, where she fits in with the hipsters in their beards and black much better than I do. We visited Boomerang, where Phyllis reminisced with store owner and mid-century modern furniture expert David Skelley, an old friend of many years.
At SoLo in the Design District in Solana Beach, Phyllis caught up with interior designer Sooz Noll as they thumbed through the vast selection of interior design books on display, both recalling how they met Jeffrey Alan Marks before he became a big-name designer and Bravo star. “I was the first one to publish Jeffrey’s work,” Phyllis coyly admitted. Indeed, she has a knack for discovering interior designers and artists on the rise and following the careers of established ones.
The reactions to her retirement are bittersweet to say the least, yet everyone is very excited to see what she will do during the next phase of her life. It’s an exciting time for both of us; when one door closes another one always opens.