“Design should make our lives better. It should increase the beauty and functionality of our spaces. Whether I’m designing for clients or for my personal home, I’m careful to select pieces that will enhance both the space and the daily lives of the people who live there,” says lifestyle expert Breegan Jane, whose signature style has catapulted into the world of interior design as an innovator who maximizes livable comfort, serenity and elegance with a modern aesthetic. In addition, she collaborates with national and global partners to promote brand awareness across social media and digital platforms to a constantly growing audience. She has been featured on HGTV and The Food Network as well as in publications such as Architectural Digest, Forbes & Elle Décor. She dedicates her time and support to local, national, and global humanitarian efforts, such as World Vision, which raises funds for impoverished women in Africa. Of the children’s book she wrote Breegan says, “With Carbie I wanted to share some of my own life lessons with young children and show them the importance of never giving up—no matter how bad things might get. It’s an important lesson for all kids to learn and for all of us to remind ourselves of time and again. We should all shine like the diamonds we are.”
You currently serve as an ambassadorship to Hooker Furniture Company and have described similarities between the founder Clyde Hooker to your father. What are those characteristics and why are they important in business?
I love working with the Hooker company. It is a relationship that has existed for two years. Not only do they challenge me creatively, but the company aligns with my brand, which is the nature of good partnerships.
I learned a lot about business from my father. He bought his first property when he was a college student. He assumed the mortgage, gave his friends cheap rent, but was also able to build ownership in something as early as his twenties. This is the way that he conducts business. From an outsider’s perspective, I watched his honesty, trust in friendships, and his kindness. He was willing to assume risk in order to build something that serves other people. He was my first “real life example” who taught the lesson, your ability to create money, wealth or a business is not necessarily your paycheck. It is what you do with your paycheck.
If you read about Clyde Hooker, he founded his factories with similar principles which his legacy carries on. In today’s crazy world of business, with instant gratification, we forget that it takes years, building brick by brick, to truly have the foundation of a company of which you can be proud.
You are adopted and have siblings?
I do. I have two siblings. We each have different parents, so we are not birth related. We look alike, which is strange. My adoption was arranged before I was born. I grew up with a feeling of belonging to my family and connected. But there has also been a bigger longing for me to explain home. “Home” is so important to me. On a subconscious level I always had a feeling that I belonged, but I never quite felt I fit in perfectly. I became my own cookie cutter self.
Nature versus nurture, is that something you have experienced?
Very much so. I am often asked about my feelings on adoption. People have their own perceived notions. As an adopted child, it goes as far one way to say someone’s blood is pumping through your veins, to someone that you have never met. Imagine if you were standing at a train station. What if your natural mother would go right by you and you would never know she existed. On the other hand, kids do stupid things in the back of a car and out comes a baby which is not the heavy lifting. My parents changed my diapers from day one. They dealt with me as a teenager. I have had a full and complete sense of family. Undoubtedly, my desire and wonder to find myself, I think has been greater than some of my peers.
Did you ever want to find your natural mother?
I have thought about it and have a lot of information. My family has different stories, all three of us adopted with different circumstances leading to the adoption. My sister sought a relationship with her natural mother. My brother came with that relationship. For me, it’s something that, at this point, I have chosen not to pursue.
Did your parents openly speak with you and your siblings about being adopted? How?
Yes. I’m the oldest but I think one of the best things they did was communicating my birth story. I told my kids, “When you were in my tummy… and you were growing in there …” When my parents held and rocked me as a baby, they would say, “when you were in, “so, and so’s” tummy, we came and got you.” So, there was never this big discovery for me, nothing seemed unusual. When you are a kid, you think everybody else is exactly like you.
Your brother and sister, did they have challenges reconciling “natural versus adopted families”?
I think what is interesting in our family is that we have “relatability” because we are all adopted children. This unifies the family experience in an unusual way. But beyond that, we all grew and figured out who we are individually. Our parents allowed us to have those individual stories, expressions of what felt comfortable for us individually.
Both of your parents are Caucasian yet you and your siblings…
We are mixed.
Different racial ethnicities and backgrounds, how did your parents communicate and what was their messaging?
I don’t think there was much messaging, which was so interesting. We grew up in Hermosa Beach, which happens to be a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood. There was a huge spillover of athletes in Los Angeles. Members of the LA Kings and Los Angeles Lakers teams lived there. But there was a very affluent African American community inside Hermosa Beach. As I grew to adulthood, my parents talked to me more about their wanting to have experiences with me in my culture. My mom took me to every African American museum, every art event that came through LA because she always wanted to give me an outlet for expression and an understanding of where I came from. In my early twenties, I was definitely shocked when the realities of life and the world were unveiled to me. I am grateful that was hidden from me. I grew up as a full and complete self without the thought that I was different, or something was negative. I recognize that experience is not the case for most people. They don’t get to 20 years old without personally experiencing injustices surrounding skin color.
Your parents are enlightened. Tell me about your mom.
I give my mom a lot of credit when it comes to my creativity. I am what I have become in my career because of her. She wants to give herself none of the credit, but she is creative. She lays mosaics around our houses and is always painting. She creates with my children now. When they went to our family home for Christmas this year, they had made us snow Globes with antique figurines at the bottom… those creative experiences are what I grew up with. Those experiences unquestionably shaped my career.
Your children, are they creative as well?
It’s very interesting for me to watch their creative expression. Creativity, for our family, is central to who we are individually and as a unit, it becomes something we do together. My son will walk me over in a restaurant and go, “Mommy, did you see that gold light on the wall?” He actually can identify beauty and pull it back to what I do. It’s really weird. The first time he did it, I thought, “I am rubbing off on you.” I like that they recognize beauty. I think that’s what’s happening in our family.
What do your parents attribute to enduring years and years of marriage?
For them, marriage is very much based in their faith. Over the years they consistently created a bond despite challenges at times. I think that that is what they would attribute it to.
“Faith” in the institution of marriage or “faith” in terms of religion?
Faith in Christianity.
Is that faith strong for you as well?
Faith is a big part of my life and the way I do things. Spirituality for me is at the core of those understandings. I grew up in a family, where my grandfather was a pastor, so Christianity was our foundation. Recognizing the fundamental truth of right and wrong and helping your neighbor can be a great way to shape what your values are as an adult.
How do you balance and recalibrate?
For me, the thing called “balance” looks heavy to most people. As much as I work, I maintain personal relationships. As much as I spend time on the floor with the kids, I stay up till two am doing emails. I have let go of the perception of other people’s definition of balance. I thought balance meant taking something off my plate or removing things. And then I realized that for me, it is different. I feel most balanced, when I am doing everything a hundred percent and I find my personal comfort in that space.
What fills you up?
What is really important to me is that my struggle and growth is done in a way that I can be proud of. For me, as a leader, that means forging ahead for my kids, being an example to my staff, and being involved in my philanthropic work. I feel that at a certain point in our careers, we reach a stage where you go, “Okay, this could be the top of the mountain if I wanted it to be. The views are nice, everybody is safe, it is clean, the air is fresh around us and we all have our health.”
How do you make yourself strive for that next peak? At least for myself, it has to be about going beyond yourself, because this stage is not my landing. There is more I can do if I push further for the people behind me. That for me is the biggest fulfillment and what continues to keep me going.
How many people do you employ?
Right now, it’s smaller than it used to be, about eight full time. I have worked with the same team for 10 years, same contractor, same framers, glass guy, we’re going on eight years. There is a constant group, many of whom are owners of their own companies, and we have been in business for years and years.
You have taken risks and shifted vision where opportunity led you, but are there still some things that you do want to accomplish?
Of course. I give that list breath to change and move. I think that that is important. You can’t be singularly focused either. Two things are at the root of what I want for my success. One is the ability to hire other people who wish to be a part of and contribute to the company’s growth. In return, I want them to have a job they love, a home, feed their family, put their kids through college. I want to be able to hire people, not a perfect resume. Ours is not your traditional employment role.
They are your family.
Yes, my family. To me this is important, especially with my past experience. I was lucky because I had the ability to leave my situation but there are many women who can’t leave a bad circumstance. There are many women who want to work, but that do not have a college degree or work experience in their field of interest. But their willingness to work is always what I hire first. Second is my ability to influence or be an inspiration to anyone who maybe doesn’t fit in. In many ways that was who I was as a child, I was allowed to be special and different. It wasn’t negative, but I was different than everybody else. I had the only curly hair in the room, and while I liked to be super girly l would wear Doc Martins. My parents allowed that. It was really important that I had other women as an example. I think there is a lack of diversity in representation in big box mass retail. I want to be that example for somebody else.
If you could take a crystal ball, would that be in fashion, home decor, design or books?
I think in home decor. The biggest influences in my career, setting the bar high, are Oprah, Beyoncé, Martha Stewart, and all of them are recognized for who they are, not what they do? I think that is why I keep jig sawing everywhere because it’s, it’s not about the career. It is what my company or my legacy will stand for and what it will mean.
The one thing that I’ve learned in different facets of my careers is if you can do something well and you’re good at it, you can always bring on people to grow it. I will follow where the opportunities continue to be. If they are in TV, it could look like a giant production company, which is not my dream at all now. If the opportunity is in home decor then we will need more people designing and turning out designs. It could be in residential real estate. I think it will land somewhere in between all of those.
Do you feel like you’ve made it?
No, I don’t think I ever will. For me, life is in the journey. The closest I get to “making it” is to check a mark off on the to-do list. I realize more and more that although the to-do list is what fuels me, it really is not about the list itself. It’s about the process of moving forward. When I think about the beginning of my career until now, not much has changed. You still get up, you still work, you still are on the computer, still taking calls. Nothing really has changed. The goal is to enjoy that journey and that everyday life and I think I’ll be doing that for a long time.
Do you exercise?
I do yoga right now which is new for me. I have not made that a priority, especially since having kids for the last eight years. I have realized that our health is really our wealth. It’s so cliché, but it’s true. Four days a week I do yoga and a little bit of cardio. I want my body to be able to carry me where my heart and mind want to go.
HGTV on a scale of one to 10, how was that experience?
A 10 because it is the dream, like getting into your favorite college. It has been this thing that I wanted to be a part of for so long. When you get there, you want to pinch yourself. You realize, you still have a lot of learning left to do.
Is there one home in particular that most touched your soul and why?
There is. Being on Extreme Makeover, Home Edition was an amazing experience. The Barobi family in Ogden, Utah had seen their parents and little sister murdered in front of them, they were all refugees. The ability to have a positive impact on their lives and to capture their resilience was inspiring… based on the talents you were given, and the position life puts you in. That work always stands out to me as “the one.” The stories go on for years and years.
You began your career in fashion?
I had grown up modeling and was exposed to creative people. I had saved money by doing that very early on so at 18 I opened a clothing store, which developed into a clothing line. “Why am I selling other people’s clothes when I can make prettier clothes than this?” I asked myself. It just started the career. The clothing line was Mosa which means beautiful. It was founded in Hermosa Beach where I lived at the time. I named the store Breegan. I was lucky my parents gave me a name that’s unique. Breegan is an Irish name and my great-grandmother on my dad’s side, obviously adopted, was Irish. It means strong.
What are you wearing?
One of the things about my fashion sense is that I am not that committed to the art of fashion. I just wear what I like. This is a piece from Rent the Runway. In the world of luxury that I have placed myself, there is a lot of scrutiny, teasing and pressure to be perfect. The truth is I wear so many clothes and I don’t need all that. I just need a good outfit for that one dinner party and then I’ll have another need for another one. Rent the Runway works great for me. There is too much consumerism, my closet gets too full when you wear that one dress, that one time.
Do you have haters?
Yes, and I am really sensitive. I want to be liked, so my feelings get really hurt sometimes. It is interesting to put yourself in the public by wanting the success that I desire.
The dichotomy between celebrity and sensitivity are two incompatible friends. How do you navigate around unkindness… because you are a gentle woman?
I typically “kill it with kindness.” There have been times when I have been told “don’t engage”. But something inside me needs to understand. I want to know “why”… what button did I hit? I question so I that I can learn. More often than not, kindness is felt and received. You really can kill, not always, but often, by just staying kind and curious.
On a personal note, you were divorced in 2016. That was a hard period in your life. What happened?
Yes. We separated when my youngest son was about three months old. I realized that my situation was not going change. We had tried therapist after therapist, and our marriage was not what I expected. On top of the pregnancy hormones and trying to find my own truth and reality, my whole world was turned upside down. I think when you are a new mom, it is hard to trust yourself. It took me about three years inside the marriage to realize that my internal voice and the truth for me meant that a life was not possible with their father. I needed to start building a life that was positive.
Do you ever regret that decision?
No, I never regret it. There are unique experiences that are challenging especially when you think you’re marrying your best friend. I like the saying, “nobody gets married to get divorced”. When you are a single mom with two kids under the age of two you soon learn that society often places you in these interesting boxes that don’t apply to you. I think, that judgement and pain can sometimes force women to stay in situations that they know are not right for their soul. But it is hard to get out of the marriage because the other side isn’t that easy either. I learned you have to push past it to grow, and to remind yourself, I am doing this and doing it the right way, for me. I have to be happy and healthy first.
What is Unchained at Last?
Unchained at Last is a charity I support and love that focuses on child marriage. We are talking 16-year-old girls who just can’t find a way out because they legally can’t work, they don’t have bank accounts or even cell phones in their own names. There are so many reasons why women can’t get out of bad marriages. Fundamentally the biggest challenge is that voice inside your heart and head where you really want to believe the fairy tale story that you make up and tell yourself. The only way through it, I think, is to find a different voice. You can find it in friends and especially legal support, and therapy. People that are not in your world and persuaded by one story or the other, somebody entirely out of your world and objective can bring you much needed perspective. Then just holding to your own truth and defining what is right or wrong for me.
The last two years you have been on a mercuric professional trajectory. How did that happen?
It really has been happening over 10 years, those years that are invisible and a part that people don’t see. I had to learn and understand everything possible about building and creating spaces. You only see the end result these last two years and the culmination. But there were eight intensive years before that… there are still a few mountain peaks ahead, and I am not stopping.
There are three projects currently on your horizon. The first is your relationship with HGTV – recently The House My Wedding Bought, can you tell me about this?
It is fun to have a singular hosted show. I really appreciate HGTV for giving me that opportunity and also just continuing their trust in me, with all sorts of opportunities. Staying on the network is definitely important. It began when an all-female owned production company approached me. They wanted to build a show and a story. People see me as an interior designer but really in order to create things for myself and my family I purchased real estate and made it beautiful and lived in it. That skillset is at the root of who I am. I have an ability to see and choose homes, looking past their imperfections while also making a good financial decision. A lot of times young people getting married don’t necessarily want to listen to their parents. They get stuck on minor things like, it doesn’t have a closet. That is where I say, yes, but you can add an Armoire. Look at this neighborhood that you won’t get if you get the other house with the perfect basement… It was nice to be able to talk to my peer group, I have bought and sold houses and none of them have been picture perfect. These life experiences have allowed me to make good financial decisions, have a home and the things that I want. To be able to coach them through that at a time where there’s so much pressure is something to which I relate.
You are also a children’s book author. Where are you with the second book?
Hopefully, there’ll be more to tell soon. It has been written. I never anticipated writing children’s books, but I don’t anticipate most of my businesses. They just come to me in the middle of the night. I had actually written the story in my early twenties and then lost it. I remembered it as I was about to give a speech to a large group of children. It propelled me into action and I just decided to rewrite it. I actually put pen to paper and published it. For me, the experience was an example of making struggle something attainable.
What are the names of both children’s books?
Carbie is the first and the second book is Are You My Friend? It is funny because no one really is pushing much for this book. But for me it is another story in the chapter of just living life as a parent. One of the things that I could never explain to my kids when they were at kindergarten drop off was why mommy was a single person. We live in Venice Beach with a lot of couples that looked different, from moms to dads. But there were rarely single parents in our community. I remember my son’s response because he would feel bad that I was lonely. He ran back inside once, when he was going with his dad and said, “but you are going to be alone.” I decided to tell a story through characters and especially animals. I am sure you remember as a parent a book is a great way to say something without saying it. That is the base of this story, an animal who is alone. He sees other animals, most that look the same or some look different, that book is about being okay with being alone. It was written and comes from a heart place, not necessarily a career decision.
Perhaps a mirror on you… forging your own path, which at times has to be lonely?
At times it does get very heavy. Yes, it does feel like, “am I okay?” I don’t look like everything around me, is that okay? But I am really happy just splashing in puddles. So, I will do that and just enjoy it. Wake up, accept and appreciate your reality.
The third project is this house. We literally are sitting in a framed, shell… a beautiful footprint for your “soon to be home”?
This house, but we could keep going. There are so many things happening in my world that are full of opportunity. We are sitting in the beautiful new kitchen of my forever home, which was my intention in building this home. I have lived in this community with my kids since they were born. We are literally within a five-minute walk from my current home. And it’s even closer to the house that my kids were in when they were first born. This tiny little block is our community. I liked the idea of bringing you here showing the community where design really starts. If you have ever built a house, it is not always the pretty finishes, the snap of the fingers, to the perfect new couch. I treasure the journey of taking something in this state and then creating something beautiful.
You talked a little bit about the philanthropy that you’ve been involved with since you were a child, World Vision?
World Vision is a charity that I’ve been involved in since I was a little girl. When I was 11, my mom took my best friend and me to Costa Rica to see their micro loans program. I thank my parents for those experiences because I’m sure they shaped me as an entrepreneur too. I saw women in developing countries who had been afforded a loan and turned a microloan into a bakery or any number of things. Some were able to put their kids in school. As they pay the loans back, the loan lives on. With a little bit of help people with a strong mind can create. In conditions where they shouldn’t be able to succeed, with just a little help, the whole community changes.
If you could ask God a question, what would that question be?
Where can I draw strength. I don’t question challenges but when times get hard, where do I draw my strength? I think that that’s the one that we tend to forget when things are hard.
Give me advice, something that could have changed your life’s “journey”. It can be a story. It can be anything.
Women need to hear three words, “You are capable.” I struggled internally without them. It is something society forgets to say. Tell other women, you are capable and can do anything.
When you find yourself a single mom with two little kids and you have to take out the trash, you realize it is not that hard. Finding spiders in my home triggered my self-doubt because it reminded me there was nobody there to catch or kill the spider. I realized I had to catch and kill the spider myself and that I was not going to die doing it. I know that seems so silly, but I think that this thought of our own limitations and capability sneaks in through society. We forget that we are big and brave enough to catch the spider, if we want to.
I ask the girls around me, what do you want? Just go get it.
You are capable.