Lucky for me, the talented and supportive Julia Wheeler of Gunn and Swain, a shop for the best collection of handmade and curated home goods for beach-loving people, lives right here in San Diego. Aside from running Gunn and Swain, Julia is also a mother to her rock and roll babe, Gram, and a spunky baby girl, Lizzy. Naturally, I had to get together with Julia in her perfectly styled bohemian home, filled with handmade and vintage treasures, and find out how she is able to make this motherhood and work thing work. Follow along below as we dive deep into the makings of this fabulous mother as well as her favorite places to shop, eat, and hang in San Diego.
What does healthy living mean to you? How did your view of healthy living change, if at all, after becoming a mother?
As a multitasking mom with two businesses and two small kids, my current view of healthy living is just doing the best I can to manage all the stress. Self care is a huge topic of conversation out there these days, and to be totally honest, I kind of roll my eyes when I see it. I feel like most days I barely have time to brush my teeth and hair, let alone have some intense self-care routine. But if I don’t find a little bit of time to take care of myself, I am not as good of a mom or wife and, in general, I just don’t feel good in my own skin. So I try to carve out little bits of time to do a few things for myself - a monthly mani/pedi or even just going to the grocery store alone so I can listen to a podcast in the car and not deal with a wiggly toddler trying to jump out of the cart! As far as healthy living in regards to our family, we get as much time outside as possible - mornings in the backyard sandbox, evening walks around the neighborhood, weekly trips to the beach, etc. The outdoor activity and fresh air help keep us all sane and healthy!
Tell us more about what you do and why you decided to start each of your shops?
I worked in digital marketing for years before I had my son. I had an idea to start Gunn & Swain to sell my husband’s woodworking projects as well as finds from our travels and thought I’d work on it during my “time off” on my maternity leave (oh the things you think before you have kids!!) The store took off way faster than I thought it would so I was able to use it as a way to transition into working from home to be with him. Once my son turned a year old, I realized there was nothing I liked on the market for kids swimwear so I partnered with my cousin who had worked in swimwear manufacturing for years. We started Seaesta Surf to give people options for stylish kids swimwear with a great fit. The brands kind of function as sister companies and are similar enough that I can manage them both fairly easily.
What did you do prior to venturing out on your own?
I started my career in action sports and was fortunate to land a job doing digital marketing for a magazine in the very early ages of that industry - the MySpace era! I had a few different jobs working in action sports or sports marketing in the digital space. Between blogging and my day job, it prepared me really well for starting my own e-commerce businesses.
What brought you to San Diego? What are some of your absolute favorite spots to Eat, Shop and hang in San Diego?
I grew up in Northern California but my parents grew up here so we spent summers and holidays here with the rest of our family. I always knew San Diego was the only place I wanted to live so SDSU was the only college I applied to. Thankfully that worked out for me, ha! I’m always looking for places that have really good vegetarian meals that will make my carnivore husband not feel like he’s missing out! We love Puesto, Cafe Gratitude and my personal new favorite is Peace Pies in Encinitas. My favorite shopping spots are Pigment, Mimi & Red, Aloha Beach Club and since I spend a lot of time there, I can do some damage at the co-op pop-up space I have in Encinitas! I spend most of my hang time with my kids these days so I’m stoked to live in such a kid-friendly town. We have memberships to the San Diego Zoo, Ruben H Fleet Science Center and San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum. And if I can break away for a few minutes solo, you can find me treating myself to a fancy mani pedi at Hello Birdie! We also enjoy a good burrito at the beach. Our main spots are Bird Rock, Chalcedony in PB and Seaside in Cardiff.
Favorite weekend getaway with the fam?
We love the Central Coast if we can do a bit of a longer trek! We were in Morro Bay earlier this year and our next visit to that area, we want to stay in Cambria. We also stayed at The Holidays last year and that was super fun and kid-friendly. We actually just inherited a vintage trailer so we’re planning on doing some beach camping trips in that!
How do you juggle raising two kids with all of your other gigs? Do you have help? What is a “typical” day for you like?
Oh man. This is always a struggle. I have a nanny 4 days a week and have slowly increased the amount of time I have her here. It’s hard because I feel constantly torn between wanting to be home so that I don’t miss anything with my kids and wanting to be productive on work projects. I recently started working outside of our house 3 to 4 days a week so that I can really focus on work. I leave the house at around 10 so I can do breakfast and have a slow morning with the kids and then leave to go work until 4. Once I get home, I try to stay away from technology after that until the kids go to bed. I’m solo with the kids all day on Friday so we try to do something fun on our full day together like a trip to the zoo or the beach.
What has been your biggest struggle with motherhood this week? How are you getting through it?
Our current struggle here has been working on the sibling transition with our son. He had such a hard time when the baby was born and didn’t want much to do with her for the first 5 months or so. Now that she’s almost 18 months old, she can walk and talk and scream and steal his toys. It’s exhausting trying to referee them. When they play together happily, it makes my heart burst. I get through the tough times by reminding myself that it WILL get easier and talking to other parents about it so that I feel normal. It’s easy for me to go on a crazy downward spiral into thinking my kids will never be friends or that one of them is going to grow up to be a serial killer so talking to other moms helps ground me in reality and reminds me that most kids are just as crazy as mine.
Now for the fun part. Please describe each of your babes style and some of your favorite pieces from Noble Carriage right now and why?
My 4 year old son is a little long-haired rock and roller who loves heavy metal and has always been a little shredder. He is super into accessorizing and likes picking out a hat to wear everyday. The other day he dressed himself in a tie dye tee, tie dye pants, a fisherman cap and a giant beaded necklace and was so proud! I discovered the LAS Collective line through Noble Carriage and it’s hands-down my favorite for him. I love how unique each piece is and that it combines original artwork with vintage or hand-distressed clothing. My son loves the rock and roll look of her artwork too! My daughter is really fair-skinned so she looks best in pastel colors but her blue eyes really pop in anything blue. She loves accessorizing like her brother and always wants to wear bracelets and sunglasses. My absolute favorite line from Noble Carriage is Misha and Puff. I think I bought almost every piece from the last collection! She gets so many compliments on them and I’m saving everything for my grand babies - they’re beautiful heirloom pieces. I also love Billie Blooms bloomers because the fabric is so comfy and sturdy so it can hold up to all of the washing I have to do with my messy toddler.
If you could have given yourself one piece of advice when you were pregnant with your first babe, what would it have been?
Sleep as much as you can now!!! Ha! I honestly think it’s pretty impossible to wrap your head around the way parenthood will change you until you are actually walking through it. There are so many things that you need to have actual context for to understand - the intense love and overwhelming fear about all of the things that could hurt them, the end of personal space, the inevitable shift in priorities. I usually just tell people to do your best to surrender to the moment and embrace the chaos as best you can. And ask for help from family and friends - say yes to meals, cleaning, laundry, etc!