If I could describe the Joyce Downing Pickens brand in three words, it’d be “small but mighty.” Her Laurel Canyon home, at just 1,500 square feet, is packed with thoughtful details at every turn. Her LA-based design firm, at 2 strong — 3 if you count four-legged mascot Mouse — churns out some of the most beautiful of-the-moment interiors we’ve ever seen. And Joyce herself, petite, but with a presence, draws you in with easy conversation, leaving you forgetful of the fact that you’re in the presence of your girl crush.
It’s no wonder that guests of Joyce’s home tend to stay a while. Whether it be to steal interior design ideas, to have just one more Lychee Martini, or sneak in a few more minutes of cuddling with Mouse, there’s no shortage of allure at a JDP dinner party. Read on to find out Joyce’s secrets to pulling one off with ease.
Joyce’s 1910 cottage is tucked into the Laurel Canyon cliffside. This view of the facade awaited us as we climbed a short gated stairway, and we fell in love with those scalloped shingles right away.
The entertaining rule you never break?
Always have music playing inside and out when guests arrive! I like the old school stuff or music you can still talk over. Michael Buble, Buena Vista Social Club, Billie Holiday or a great jazz playlist do the trick!
What would we never find at one of your parties?
A “No dogs allowed” policy. I’m a major dog person so at my house they are always invited too!
Is there anything that scares you about entertaining?
Every time I host, I worry that people aren’t going to have fun or that the group won’t mesh! But it always ends up being great so I don’t know why I worry so much!
We think we know the answer to this one, but what is your current favorite color palette for parties?
Greens, creams, and browns. I am really feeling the natural foraged look for the arrangements. Feels less cutesy and forced than a tight floral bouquet.
Those built-in shelves? That picture perfect fireplace? The wide planked floors? All already in place when Joyce bought her home. We wouldn’t have been able to pass on it either!
Describe your entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Laid-back, but thoughtful and well-designed.
Spot on. Who are your dream dinner guests?
A lot of my friends are spread out all over the country. I would love to have everyone in one spot for a night!
Spill: What’s your secret to a great dinner party?
A game, it gets everyone talking as a whole instead of in little pockets. I love the scene from Marie Antoinette where they play the old school version of that game Heads Up. I’d like to recreate that at a dinner party. A friend of mine is an author who always acts as an incredible moderator in that game Mafia. I love it because it’s not a board game so it’s a great ice breaker that gets everyone conversing as a whole instead of chatting in individual conversations.
Is there a certain guest habit that totally drives you nuts?
People who don’t know when to leave and hang around when youre ready to go to bed! Ha!
I don’t blame you. I’d be in a hurry to get to bed too if my bedroom looked like yours! What an absolute sanctuary.
Above, Joyce’s lofted guest room. Light filled and, of course, layered in textural neutrals, the space inspires serenity and the instant onset of a catnap.
You’re effortless in the kitchen! Where did you learn to cook?
My mom and my grandmother, but I still have a lot to learn!
Is there one ingredient you always keep in your refrigerator?
Fresh eggs-you can always whip up something with eggs whether it’s for breakfast, or a protein bowl with rice and leftover vegetables you’re trying to get rid of.
A woman after our own heart! We love a grain bowl any time of day — such a great way to utilize lots of ingredients and get your greens in too. As far as dining out, what’s the restaurant meal you’ll never forget?
Crossroads vegan oysters in LA blew my mind. I took my dad there and he thought they were real oysters and had no idea. They’re actually made with oyster mushrooms and are completely vegan but so good! I’m not even vegan!
What’s your go-to source for entertaining inspiration?
Your home is filled with so many unique vintage finds. Out of them all, what’s your favorite tabletop item you own?
My vintage french ceramic vase as a centerpiece. Filling it with olive branches or silver dollar eucalyptus always does the trick.
What’s your signature cocktail?
Lychee Martini. They are so simple to make at home and the ingredients are easy to keep in the house for an impromptu get together.
Fill in the blank: “It’s not a party without ____________.”
A good cocktail and great friends.
What taste are you always craving?
Salt! It’s so bad, but I can’t get enough of salty foods.
What’s your go-to source for recipes?
The recipe book I made for my mom for her birthday one year with all of my grandmother’s recipes. My Nana had previously handwritten everything and the pages were falling apart. Those recipes have been handed down for generations and I get excited about the history behind them and cooking something that’s been in the family so long.
Your signature dish for parties?
My grandmother’s cheese rounds as an appetizer. They are super southern and old school and people go crazy for them! It’s also nice to have a finger food when people arrive so they can stand and continue talking. I always find it frustrating to carry on a conversation while struggling with a cheese platter for instance.