Jennifer & Her Home
Jennifer Kitsis is a believer that “things can be simple and still be elegant.” Here at Glitter Guide, we certainly agree! From her business, Oven Mitt Cookies to her contemporary home, this adage rings true in all areas of Jennifer’s life. In truth, it actually took three long years of searching before Jennifer and her husband found their Encino, California, dwelling. “Seeing the kitchen for the first time made me realize that we had found our home,” Jennifer told us.
As an avid baker and entertainer, Jennifer wanted her family’s home to feel open and inviting without comprising on style. She enlisted the expertise of interior designer, Jane Hallworth, to achieve the desired aesthetic. Many pool parties and happy house guests later, Jennifer couldn’t be happier with the end result—and we couldn’t be more in love.
We’re delighted to share the magic of Jennifer’s glamorous home with you today, along with her thoughts on entertaining essentials and crowd-pleasing dishes. Now if only we could stay for a dinner party!
How did you know your home was “the one”?
My husband and I had been looking for a new home for three years. I probably looked at more than 100 houses in that time period and nothing felt “right.” From the moment we stepped foot into this house, we knew it was the one. The family that we bought the house from spent three years building it with care and love. They made really well-thought-out choices that you can see everywhere.
For us, we needed a house that would be great for both our young child and our love of entertaining. There is a great loft space and open area upstairs, which we made into a playroom for our little one. She loves to have friends over and they feel like they have privacy up there, but they can also feel free to jump on every piece of furniture, play with toys, do art projects and get messy in the safety of their own space.
The downstairs area and backyard are open and ideal for hosting lots of people. I’m always in the kitchen, which is open, airy and a central area in the house. Seeing the kitchen for the first time made me realize that we had found our home.
Describe your style in three words.
Glamorous, vintage, unexpected.
Did you enlist the help of an interior designer or tackle the project yourself?
We used an interior designer. I had no interest in tackling this myself! My husband and I have strong opinions about what we like and generally have the same taste, which makes that part easy. But we are both terrible with the use of space and usually afraid of risk when it comes to design, so we knew we needed to enlist a pro.
When we bought this house, the idea was for it to be the “hangout house.” We wanted to always have friends and family feel wanted here…The vibrancy and warmth of having people around makes our house a home.
How did you make your vision for your home’s design come to life?
I can’t take any credit. Jane Hallworth is a brilliant designer and artist. She met with us and got to know our personalities quite a bit before actually touching the house. Once she got a feeling for who we are as a family, she brought in the most beautiful pieces—mostly vintage—for our approval.
She has a way of putting things together and bringing rooms to life that I would never be able to do. Sometimes you need to let an artist be an artist. Jane will pitch me an idea that sounds crazy like, “Let’s paint the floors white!” That sounded crazy to me, but once I saw the finished product, I could appreciate the brilliance of it. It’s so unique. It’s also still a work in progress. There are so many more things I want to do! There are still rooms we have yet to conquer. My 8-year-old’s room, for example. But at 8 years old, she has her own unique taste and ideas about decorating, so she takes pride in having made all of the choices in her room herself.
Do you have any go-to recipes you like to make with your kids?
Absolutely! My daughter loves to bake, but like most young kids, she gets antsy after a little while. The key is simplicity, so I try to make things with her and her friends that are simple. I have a “strawberry pizza” recipe, which is essentially a giant sugar cookie with cream cheese frosting and strawberries as the “pepperoni.” It’s easy enough for the kids and tastes delicious! My daughter loves decorating cakes, so usually I will bake something and let her decorate it herself.
Favorite activity to do together as a family: go!
We love being outdoors together. On the weekends, you will most likely find us in our pool, and luckily we live in Southern California so the pool is an option all year round. We also love taking family walks together. Rosie will put on her roller skates and we’ll explore the neighborhood. I always try to think of all of these fun activities around town, but the truth is my child and husband prefer to be home, so we have much more fun when we keep it low key, like a walk or swim. We get our best conversations in during those times, too. All three of us love to travel. This past winter, we went to Nicaragua and all took surfing lessons. It was such a great experience.
What are some of your essentials when entertaining?
Little choices make big differences. For example, if I’ve invited people over for swimming and a barbecue, I have pool towels out. When I invite people to my house, I want them to feel taken care of.
Music is a must for entertaining. It creates the vibe of the atmosphere. We have a great sound system in the house and my husband loves being in charge of the music. He has incredible taste and can come up with the perfect playlist for any occasion. He puts so much thought and effort into it.
Flowers are also important and make any surrounding more beautiful. It’s easy to grab a few bunches and scatter them throughout the house.
What are 2-3 things you incorporate into your routine to help you live a healthier lifestyle?
I’m really lucky to live in Los Angeles, where it’s easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle because of the beautiful weather and access to fresh foods. Exercise is important to me and it’s how I start my day every morning. It wakes me up, clears my head and makes me feel stronger. Healthy eating is really important to me, too. There is always a bowl of fresh fruit on my kitchen counter, making it easy to choose nutritious options when I need a snack. Sleep and rest are also imperative for physical and mental health. I have a nighttime routine that begins an hour before I go to bed. My phone is shut off, I take my end-of-day shower and read. It helps put my mind in a restful place and ready for sleep.
What do you love to serve at your gatherings?
I always have plenty of food. You never want to run out when entertaining. People also have a wide variety of taste and food. In LA, I feel like everyone has certain food restrictions and I don’t want anyone to feel like there’s nothing for them to eat. It’s also important to me to have a wide variety of drinks available. I have a stocked bar and love that generally, when people ask for a particular drink, I can always say, “Yes, I can make that!” I even have a wine fridge that I fill with different flavors of LaCroix sparkling water. Friends love that. It’s all about variety.
Depending on the occasion, I try to make seasonal cocktails. Maybe sangria for a summer barbecue or a bourbon-based cocktail for Thanksgiving. Whether it’s an intimate dinner party or a kid’s birthday party, people love a fun cocktail. My favorite one to make is a mix of Champagne, elderflower liqueur (like St. Germain), a splash of pomegranate juice and a wedge of lime. I need to name that one, but I haven’t come up with something I like yet. I also like to set up everything buffet style so there’s a nice casual atmosphere. A party can be beautiful and still feel cozy and comfortable.
I have an insatiable sweet tooth, and my passion is baking. So, for me, dessert is hugely important. It’s the last thing people eat before they leave and I always want it to be memorable. I will usually base the dinner menu on what I want to make for dessert. I notice even people that are healthy eaters or who claim to be on a diet will always eat dessert when it’s available. Although I love challenging myself to make something complicated, sometimes people just want a really great chocolate chip cookie. Things can be simple and still be elegant. As with drinks, variety is key. I love pies or anything fruit-based, but there are always people who would prefer chocolate. I will try to have a few choices so everyone is satisfied.
Tell us the story behind starting your business, Oven Mitt Cookies.
Baking has always been my passion and hobby. I started to notice that when I made cookies, they got a lot of positive attention. One day, my husband suggested I make a cookie based on an orange chocolate chip cake recipe he loved. So I used my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe and added the orange flavor. I was anxious to get back to work after having taken off a few years when I had my child. It made sense to head down the cookie path. My little one was three at the time and had this make-believe restaurant she called “Oven Mitt Bistro.” She would pretend to serve my cookies. That’s where the idea for the company name came from.
“You’re a great mom!” is the best compliment…My child is so important to me. I take a lot of pride in someone thinking I’m doing a good job.
In your opinion, what makes your house a home?
When we bought this house, the idea was for it to be the “hangout house.” We wanted to always have friends and family feel wanted here. We love having a full house. Whether people are stopping by to say hello or coming to stay from out of town, it’s important to us that they all feel welcome. Because we only have one child, we encourage her to have friends over as much as possible. The vibrancy and warmth of having people around makes our house a home.
Are you more of a homebody or social butterfly?
I’m a perfect combination of both! I’m extremely social, but I also like to be home. I hate driving in LA and being caught in traffic. My husband and daughter both love being around friends, but hate leaving the house. That’s the brilliance of this house. We can all be social butterflies without having to leave.
If you didn’t live in Encino, where would you choose to live?
I love Encino. The convenience of everyday life is here. I can run any errand in less than 15 minutes. My husband wanted to live on the east side and I wanted to live in Santa Monica. Somehow we ended up in Encino, but it’s very central and convenient to go anywhere in the city, which is another reason I love it. I love LA, in general, but wouldn’t mind living closer to the water one day.
What movie title best describes your life?
“Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”
How do you practice self-care?
I think self-care is fundamental for well-being, productivity and self-esteem. Being social is part of self-care to me. I love taking my morning run or hike with a friend. When I don’t make time for those things, I start to feel isolated. I love having dinner every night with my husband and daughter. No phones at the table, just conversation. I also try to make time once a week to have a meal with friends. My personal relationships are really important to me. That’s probably why I love entertaining so much!
I’m always in the kitchen, which is open, airy and a central area in the house. Seeing the kitchen for the first time made me realize that we had found our home.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
“You’re a great mom!” is the best compliment. Being a mother is so complicated and difficult and sometimes you feel like it’s so overwhelming and you’re making the wrong choices and basically messing up everything. My child is so important to me. I take a lot of pride in someone thinking I’m doing a good job.
After that, it has to be about my baking. I love doing it and work hard at it, so I always appreciate knowing someone is enjoying a treat I’ve made.
How do you like to relax after a busy day?
I find baking to be really relaxing for me. I love baking something that I surprise my family with for breakfast, like muffins. After that, it’s the same routine every night. I have a TV in my bathroom, so I take a bath and get in my TV time. It’s pretty much the only time I have all day to watch TV, which I love.
You’ve only got 30 minutes to exercise! What do you do?
This one is easy! I love to jog or walk and hike. I know I’m really fortunate to live where the weather allows me to do that outside almost every day. Although, I enjoy it even if it’s raining out. I’ve never been a gym person. I love being outdoors and moving around. It also makes exercise feel less like a chore. I like to run for about 30 to 40 minutes and then I do eight minutes of sit-ups (that part I actually don’t enjoy, but the habit has really changed the shape of my body as well as my posture).
There are lots of days when I only have 30 minutes, so I just go for a walk. On days when I’m really limited with time, I try to add steps to my day by choosing a parking space that’s further from my destination or taking stairs instead of using an elevator. I spend a lot of time in my car or at the computer, so it feels great to give my body as much movement as I can during the day.
Take us through your ideal Saturday!
My ideal (and pretty typical Saturday) starts with brunch. I love brunch and I love making brunch for my family. It’s usually eggs, bacon, fruit and either waffles or pancakes. But we all have different tastes, so I’m making a batch of blueberry banana for myself, chocolate chip for Rosie and plain for my husband. I don’t mind. Everyone should have what they like and my husband cleans up anyway.
After that, I usually go for a run and then spend the afternoon doing some activity with Rosie. If we’re not in the pool, you might find us at a farmers’ market or doing some sort of art project. Then my husband and I have a standing date every Saturday night. When we had a child, we decided that we would have a sitter every Saturday night, no matter what. So if we don’t have plans, we might just take a hike or do something really boring like go grocery shopping. It’s all about spending time together, but generally we like to spend time with friends or just have dinner, the two of us.