Conversation With Anya Dinovich
“I think it was Mark Twain who said, ‘The coldest winter I’ve ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco,'” says the S.F.-based designer, Anya Dinovich. Craving poolside warmth and nature, she and her partner bought and renovated Casa and Casita Anush, two cozy, sun-drenched vacation rentals in Sonoma. The homes share the same two-acre playground, though Casa Anush is bigger and has a pool, while the casita is more of a cottage, with a hot tub.
Dinovich’s burgeoning business crafting warm and fuzzy homewares, Seven Sunday Studios, is an extension of that soft, summery lifestyle. It was born out of a love for working with her hands, of beautiful materials, and of the ease and laziness of the week’s final day. But it took a health scare – after years of designing apparel for Old Navy, Janie & Jack and Gymboree – to get her stitching once and for all.
We spoke to Dinovich about knitting that endless summer Sunday feeling into a brand.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START SEVEN SUNDAYS STUDIOS?
Anya Dinovich: “In 2015, I was really ready to leave retail, but I got an exciting job offer for a giant European retailer in Belgium. So we went and soon after, I had to have a surgery on my foot. The things is, a health scare in Belgium is wonderful. I got eight weeks off work, and ended up on my couch for two of them. And that’s when I thought ‘You know what? All of a sudden, out of blue, I have two months to kill and I can’t travel. And right about then, I found a yarn store in Antwerp that was selling knitting yarns.
“The store had an eye for nuance. Every color there was beautiful. Even if you don’t need lavender, or green… I can work with any color in that store. Belgium produces so many incredible designers for a small country to give us all these incredible fashion and interior designers, and I was blessed that I ended up with a job there, because otherwise I would have never discovered it. It was just very lucky.
“Knitting was one thing I always loved doing when I was younger. My mom taught me how, and that day I saw the yarn, I just started knitting again. The first thing was a mohair sweater. I wasn’t thinking about a brand at that point. I just knitted all of these mohair sweaters and some of my friends were like, ‘Oh my God, can you make me one?'”
I READ THAT SEVEN SUNDAYS STUDIOS STARTED WITH THESE SWEATERS, AND YOU NAMED EACH AFTER A WOMAN WHO HAD INSPIRED YOU. TELL US MORE!
AD: “Yes. Yvonne was a woman who I met in retail – she is this incredible, free-spirited, beautiful woman that became a dear friend. Another is Anne-Sophie, who I met in Belgium. She was my Belgian friend who let me in on all the secrets of places you can’t really find online. It’s all hidden and that’s how I found all the design treasures. And Nicole was another friend who I’ve known for over 20 years through retail. And she is this incredibly creative artist of whom I always say, ‘Oh my God, I wish I could have your eyes for a day!’ It’s these kinds of people who really influenced me.”
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGN?
AD: “The thing that inspires me the most is the material itself. Material guides me. Sometimes I get yarn that I order and it’s wrong, but a lot of times I call these beautiful mistakes – they actually inspire me. Like a hole in a piece of leather – I wonder, how can I incorporate this? I like the idea of combining materials, like working with wood dowels, which are very hard, and yarn, that’s very soft. How can they interact? How can they support each other? Imperfection is the king.
“Our ethos is to make things that remind you of Sunday. When you just stay in, you read a book, you have a cup of tea, and you’re just comfortable and cozy, basically. Seven Sunday Studios was an extension of our vacation rentals, because I always loved interiors.”
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PRODUCTS.
AD: “I would say the wall hangings are my favorite, and the sheepskins. I’ve also been making something I call ‘Woolly balls,’ basically the same wool I use for the wall hangings and I make them into pom poms. You can hang them from the ceiling, use them on your couch, or hang them on the wall. You get your own every time I make it – and that’s a quality that’s super important to me. Everything I make, even if it is reproduced, you get a true ownership of that product. You’ll find something that’s unique to your piece.”
HOW OFTEN DO YOU CHANGE OUT ITEMS IN THE STORE? AND DO YOU CHANGE THE PIECES IN CASA AND CASITA ANUSH?
AD: “Certain things have been there since the beginning, because customers like them and I like making them. Wall hangings are my most popular product, and there will be new wall hangings coming all the time. And some collections that are one of a kind – they’re there, they’re sold, they’re gone.
“As for in the rentals, it’s very much just about what feels right. In Casa Anush, it’s more of a summer house feel with the pool, so I have a lot of the leather products. The entire property is covered in succulents. So a lot of times I will sell the planter with the succulent from the property. And I have some of the thinner, yarn product and a bit brighter colors. I’m also mixing and putting other things by other artists in, with a little dedicated shelf. My friend, Yvonne, who I named the sweater after, is starting a little business. So we are thinking about her producing a robe that I might be able to sell at the house, because it’s perfect for a place with a pool and hot tub.”
WHAT IS THE PERFECT SUNDAY TO YOU?
AD: “I have to have sunlight. Sun just automatically puts me in a good mood. I like to have a really long, lazy breakfast with my partner of many years, who is a librarian by trade, but he’s also a great mixologist. We’ll have a two-hour breakfast and a favorite drink that he makes, either a champagne cocktail or this really old drink called Ramos gin fizz. And we’re not hitting an agenda. Maybe I want to just lounge on the couch all day. Great. Maybe we decide to go for a walk on the beach. I love being by the water. Sometimes we end up watching a movie on the couch with some ice cream. And it sounds so easy, but I’m so busy that I don’t get to do this a lot. This kind of Sunday is something that I really, really enjoy.”