photographed by mia baxter
If I had to describe Julia Lake in one phrase it would be this: “Not afraid to be fabulous.” As the renowned event designer behind Julia Lake Parties!, Julia is one of those rare people who just instinctively knows how to turn a get-together into a magical, once-in-a-lifetime event. When Michael and I visited Julia and her husband Chris in Napa back in August, we experienced an unforgettable weekend full of surprises (including karaoke and a 6.0 earthquake!). But the best discovery of all was learning that Chris and Julia were expecting a child this spring. We knew straight away that we wanted full coverage of the shower, which would inevitably be something special. With the help of her dear friend Nicole Cari (who also happens to be the marketing maven behind the impossibly cool clothing line, Band of Outsiders) Julia hosted a small group of girls for a citrus-themed pajama brunch with her signature approach: confidence, whimsy, and a touch of the unexpected.
Julia’s hostess surprised her by having her favorite artist, Happy Menocal, hand paint the invitation suite for the party.
“Happy did the branding for my event design company Julia Lake Parties! so I was over the moon when I received this invite in the mail,” says Julia. “Happy’s work is my spirit animal. Seriously, it was like receiving the best gift ever because I’m a hard core Happy fan. Will I frame the invite? Yes, yes I will.”
18 guests joined Julia at her family’s picturesque home in Napa for a relaxing girls weekend leading up to the shower on Sunday. Julia’s hostess and dear friend, Nicole Cari, VP of Marketing and Communications at Band of Outsiders helped arrange everything:
“Planning a weekend with Julia (JLP!) was a dream come true,” says Nicole. “We just wanted everyone to feel super relaxed, cozy and have a great time. Getting to spend time on Spring Mountain is a real treat, so we wanted to be sure everyone was experiencing it just as they should, either for the first time or as a returning guest. I also wanted everyone to make Julia feel like she was coming home to a strong community of friends in California, since she’d been away in New York for so many years.”
“Everyone was asked to bring their best comfy clothes and slippers and suits for the hot tub,” adds Julia. “We didn’t want it to be fussy but rather a time to come together, snuggle, really talk and just be present, which is exactly how it ended up. It was re-charging rather than draining.”
When it came to choosing a theme for the shower, Julia and Nicole went for something simple and sweet:
“We went with a fruit theme!” says Julia. “When we chose the weekend we saw that the baby was going to be the size of a pineapple that weekend (according to those emails you get that track the size of your baby in terms of fruit). The Save the Dates and invites referenced the pineapple and we ran with it. I also craved citrus all through my pregnancy and ate Cara Cara oranges like it was my job, so I guess citrus had been on my mind. I wanted to keep a simple pallet using white linens, antique silver from my personal collection and then pop with the fruit, citrus and florals.”
The elegant buffet table was set with antique linens, taper candles, and citrus floral arrangements created by Julia herself.
A decadent brunch buffet consisted of ample cheese, roasted ham, eggs ramekin, fresh croissants and pain au chocolat, mixed berry parfaits, coffee cake, mimosas, and a bloody mary bar.
When it came to the croissants, Julia confessed her ‘dirty little secret’:
“They’re from the frozen section at Trader Joes! (Shhhh. Don’t tell.) You just let them pouf up over night and pop them in the oven in the morning. Always always a hit!”
Guests rolled straight out bed to the Sunday shower in their pajamas — now that’s our kind of party.
“I remember texting Nicole in LA and asking her if it was crazy to have a Pajama Party,” recalls Julia. “She was totally down. I’m a big fan of not taking oneself too seriously and I’m a big fan of wearing my PJ’s all day, so… it was a riot. Everyone wore different nightgowns, robes, PJ’s, slippers and it was just so cozy to lounge around the living room all morning.”
Julia’s dear friend Alexandra Phelps is also professional chef. She made several desserts for the party, including a delicious pancake cake.
“I’ve been a bit of a pancake queen through this pregnancy,” laughs Julia. “I had a bender month where I’d have a pancake almost every day for lunch. It was the most glorious month until my midwife told me I needed to chill out on the empty carbs or bebe would get too big!”
Nicole reminisced on her longstanding friendship with Julia:
“I’ve known Julia for 10 years now! We met in college our Junior year. I love her because she’s like no one else I know. Her imagination, positivity and enthusiasm for fun is unparalleled. Her life is like a fairytale. She’s also a fiercely loyal friend who doesn’t allow you to get away with anything. She also gives “California valley girl” the best meaning.”
Two tiny guests rocked the pajama theme at the Sunday shower.
Guests enjoyed a build-your-own bloody mary bar — the perfect cocktail for a pajama brunch.
Pajama-clad party goers enjoyed several decadent desserts, including a homemade coffee cake.
Julia, a self-confessed cheese lover, never hosts an event without a good cheese board:
“We take cheese pretty seriously in the Napa Valley so I always make sure to have more than enough. I’m always a sucker for a Saint Andre and pairing hard cheeses with membrillo. My mother has two quince trees in her orchard and makes a few highly-coveted batches each year.” she says.
Julia’s tight knit group of friends bonded over a women’s circle activity during the long weekend in Napa.
“It was arguably the best and most meaningful part of the weekend,” says Nicole. “It’s always nice to hear what people in your life actually think of you. For some reason we tend to only share thoughts like these at weddings and funerals. Whether you’ve known Julia for 30 years or 1 year everyone had a similar impression of her magic and amazingness.”
The citrus theme was carried throughout the entire house in fun and unexpected ways.
Mixed berry parfaits made for the perfectly light dessert during this leisurely Sunday affair.
Julia reflected on the friends who joined her for the special weekend:
“It was a mix of old and new friends from California and all over the US. I was touched by how many people flew in for it. More of my local friends joined for the shower itself and it was wonderful to bring all of my worlds together. Everyone is just so supportive and wonderful and full of loving energy. It created such a wonderful space and I’ve never felt so supported and strong in my life. It’s amazing what a bunch of strong women can do for one another.”
Citrus floral arrangements in antique silver vases were fun and dressy touch for this relaxed party.
Julia reflected on the best gift she received at the shower:
“Well Nicole planning everything and getting those invites really was the bees knees…”
Food and flowers aside, her favorite part of the weekend was taking a moment to share the deep connection she has with her best girl friends.
“I loved that it was such a powerful weekend of supportive women coming together. I really felt re-charged and strong and ready for this baby after the weekend. It was really sweet.”
Julia posed with her husband Chris and faithful dog Otto for a pre-baby portrait, snapped by her good friend Mia Baxter. Baby Lake, who is due March 6th, will be called Téo.
“Short for Theodor,” smiles Julia. When asked what she’s most excited about in regards to motherhood, Julia is her lovely and candid self: “Ouf! I’m mostly nervous but I guess I’m excited about having a mini Mr. Lake. I’m pretty in love with my husband so having a mini version of him seems precious. And raising a little gentlemen. Let’s hope at least!”
We can’t wait to meet him. Congrats Julia and Chris!