Eat. Sleep. Repeat. When your home literally becomes your whole world, life’s most essential functions can arrest us with their power and sweet simplicity. Routine questions—What’s for dinner? Did you get a good night’s rest?—assume fresh importance and yet, are joined by a new one: How can I live a more beautiful, meaningful life in my own home, right here and right now?
For inspiration, we turn to Julia Berger, a grateful resident of Woodside’s historic and paradisiacal Green Gables estate, a 74-acre property that’s been in her husband’s family since the early 20th century. As purveyor of Julia B., her line of luxury linens, Julia is also well-poised to provide good advice on the how-tos of home appreciation.
“Many people tell me that they save their fine tablecloths, placemats and napkins for special occasions. I say, ‘Why?’ If we have learned anything in these troubling times, it’s that life is precious, and every day has the opportunity to be special,” she says.
Fortunate to be in such a bucolic locale, Julia’s home and setting provide ample opportunity for her to unleash her creative spirit.
“The lovely and ridiculously spacious dining room in our family home has become my creative sandbox,” she notes. “I view the dinner table as the ultimate expression of joy and beauty. In our home we are passionate about food and equally passionate about the linens that adorn our table. Depending upon the day or the season and my mood, I switch back and forth from soft and serenely coordinated sets, all matching and harmonious, to a vibrant, mix-and-match symphony of color.”
For the dining room, Julia suggests that a good starting point is paying attention to the details.
“A well-set table is richly filled with beauty. There are many, many ways to achieve this, yet from my perspective this requires thinking holistically about the setting and the occasion,” she advises. “Of course, it all starts with tablecloths and/or placemats and napkins as a foundational layer, yet it also extends to the dinnerware, glassware and cutlery that fill out the scene. The history and provenance of the accessories on the table add sparkle, dimension and depth. Mixing old and new adds layers of beauty and inspires stories to be shared. It is like painting and I often experiment with new colors, shapes and shades.”
Julia also offers expert advice for optimizing ever-so-vital, replenishing sleep.
“For me, getting into bed at night comes with two sets of feelings—the visual and the visceral. As I prepare for bed, my eyes are always dancing across the various patterns and colors and I often say a silent word of thanks to the amazing women embroiderers who bring my designs to life with such incredible skill and precision,” she says. “Then I truly relish that amazing tactile moment when I first slide under the covers. The softness, that feeling of absolute ‘yumminess,’ as I like to refer to it, of our fine cottons and linens, is simply delicious. It’s like butter.”
Julia says her penchant for choosing quality over quantity comes from her mother.
“I grew up with the philosophy my mother taught me, which is that you don’t have to have a lot, but what you do buy and what you do choose has to be excellent quality and last you a really long time,” she explains. “If you choose well, then you will continue to enjoy it and love it.”
A Bay Area native, Julia was born and raised in San Francisco by her Japanese mother and Jewish-American father. Before attending high school in Tokyo, she grew up just blocks away from her now-husband, Marc Fleishhacker, who is seven years her senior. Both attended Brown University, and each ended up marrying Italians before their paths intertwined later in life. Their lives seem as romantic as their home and their products.
“I studied in Italy my junior year at the encouragement of Marc, whom I had met my sophomore year of college. He was married to a Florentine woman at the time and Francesca and he both suggested that I go to study in Europe and specifically in Italy,” she recounts. “So I transferred out of Brown for a year and went to study textile design and art history. I learned the language and had an Italian boyfriend and there you go, my love for Italy started there.”
Later, when Marc and Julia reconnected, Italy remained a touchstone for their lives and for their new business, Julia B., founded in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 2002, while she lived on the East Coast.
“The incredibly skilled artisans who produce our hand-painted ceramics, hand-blown and -cut crystal and hand-forged silverware all hail from Italy, which to this day remains a major point of reference for the finest in handmade artistry,” Julia says. “Our cotton percale and cotton pique fabrics come to us from purveyors of the highest quality fabric in Italy.”
Before entering the world of luxury home goods, Julia enjoyed a successful career in fashion, with stints working for both Donna Karan and Calvin Klein in their heydays. Starting this year, Julia is re-entering fashion, with the introduction of Julia B.’s Angels of Bergamo nightgown collection. Her new products will be produced entirely in Bergamo, Italy—a community hit especially hard by the pandemic—in close collaboration with Martinelli Ginetto, Italy’s leading producer of luxury home fabrics. The items themselves will also be sewn and embroidered in Bergamo, with a sizable portion of the proceeds donated to directly support the healthcare and small business needs of the residents of Bergamo.
A key differentiator for Julia’s business and products is that they are all custom-made to order. “If you want something in our collection, and you want it in a different color or way, we can make it,” she says. “There’s a lot of value and worth in touching something and feeling something beautiful in your day-to-day life.”
Hailing from all over the world, Julia B.’s customers clearly embrace that idea. Mostly women, Julia describes them as textile lovers who understand how a good product can embellish the beauty of a room.
“They love flowers. They love nature. They love entertaining. They love and appreciate the tactile nature of our products,” expands Julia. “We have everybody from their mid-20s who are just getting married and starting their trousseau to married couples and grandmothers who are not necessarily buying things for themselves, but are buying things for their grandchildren or for their daughters or daughters-in-law.”
While Julia does see first-time home buyers embracing Julia B., she acknowledges that many of her customers are second-, third- and even fourth-time home buyers—customers who have multiple homes and are furnishing multiple environments. “They’re either designing them or having professional interior designers working with them to curate their homes,” she says.
As for her own dear and celebrated home, Julia and her family have been considering a new adventure; her husband’s family is open to selling Green Gables, introducing the possibility of a fresh, uncharted chapter ahead.
“When it comes to the potential sale of my husband’s family’s magnificent estate in Woodside, it is a bittersweet proposition and one which we are certainly in no rush to achieve,” she says. “As families grow and new generations emerge, the challenges in managing such a remarkable place are not simple ones. When we leave, we will do so with a profound sense of appreciation and incredible memories to last multiple lifetimes.”