Emily Susanin Kessinger
WHAT DO YOU DO
I run Yellow Door Gallery, an alternative contemporary space with my husband, Mason, out of our home. We love visual and performance art and music. And we love bringing people together. With Yellow Door Gallery, I set out to expose people to words, music, art, food, and culture, that they might know or that they wouldn't otherwise see. We have events called ‘salons’ where people come together to get to know each other but also to hear from artists, musicians, writers, comedians, local business owners, makers, and more. We’ve had 12 salons so far and the rest for 2018 are planned. I actively run our website/Instagram so anyone can sign up/find out more on our website, www.yellowdoordsm.com. Curating shows, organizing and promoting events, and connecting with creators are some of the things in life that bring me a lot of joy.
By day, I work at The Weitz Company as a Marketing and Communications Manager. Weitz is a construction company founded 163 years ago in Des Moines, Iowa. The long history of the company tied back to a place I know and love (Des Moines!), means a lot to me. No day is the same though I work in InDesign often, focus on our proposals, presentations, and pursuits, and do some business development. It's perfect for me. Surrounding yourself with people smarter than you and who see the world in a different way is a pretty cool thing. I also serve on the Bravo Board of Directors and am actively pursuing joining another board that aligns with my some of my passions: art and education.
The word beauty is one I will forever associate with the John Keats poem "Endymion" which my dad sent me in high school and I used to have printed and hung on my wall. It opens with a famous line "A thing of beauty is a joy forever..." It may be more about beauty in nature than beauty within thyself, but I read it as the latter. For me, beauty is two things: acceptance and love of one’s self-mixed with simplicity.
My routine is minimal. Washing my face = splashing cool water on it in the AM and PM (though I use toner now and then). Moisturizing is crucial for me; good eye and night cream a must. Same with hand and body lotion...100% required. Water -- I drink at least 64 ounces of throughout the day -- and carry a HydroFlask around with me wherever I go. My mother-in-law gave me a nice Mason Pearson hairbrush for my bridal shower and I use few hair products with the exception of whatever Aveda spray is in my cupboard for wavy hair.
Brands I like within the beauty realm are Nars, Bobbi Brown, Philosophy, M.A.C. (because 9th grade was real and some things never change), Aveda, and Fresh. I wear make-up maybe 2 days a week when I have the time/remember to do it in the AM. Some days, when I come out wearing make-up, my husband asks "Who are you meeting with today?" -- it's a joke in our household that I must be going somewhere fancy if I'm wearing eyeliner. Drug-store waterproof mascara is my jam (even though it's probably 'bad' for me) and maybe a dash of eyeliner or swoop of my Nars stick/Philosophy bronzer. Also, white eye-shadow in the corners of my eyes to 'brighten' it all up and boom. I'm out the door.
Mason and I bought our *first* house in November 2016. It has been so fun owning a home (and SO much work). He works for a mid-century modern auction house and we both love mid-century modern design and style so when we found the ranch we now live in (after looking at 30 houses in 3 months!) we felt like it was meant to be. We have all kinds of stories behind our furniture, art, and decor. Some from Craigslist, some from my parents or my aunt and uncle, some from E-Bay or thrift stores, and some new (but not much). Most of our art is from friends. We're super into cooking, hosting, and making things so our home revolves around our kitchen.
I make kombucha, sourdough bread, and pickle a variety of veggies. Mason and I made our own cider this year and it turned out bomb.com Nothing makes us happier than sitting around a fire doing crosswords. We also like being outside and enjoy our patio area, chiminea, gardening, and apple picking.
My closet is a mixed bag of old and new (with lots of black). When I find an article of clothing I like, I tend to buy it in multiples (if practical and not an arm and a leg!). I have 4 pairs of the same Bitte Kai Rand 'Magic' pants; 4 BCBG wrap dresses; a couple Alexander Wang shirt dresses; and various Uniqlo shirts/dresses in the same cut but different print/color. Practical dress has shifted for me as I've gotten older and entered a more professional and traditional career path. I want to wear overall shorts and rompers every day of the summer but feel like that has phased out for now. I still do wear fun dresses and as many rompers/onesies as much as I can get away with. Also, OVERALLS are my fave. I wore some to work one (casual) Friday at Weitz and people asked me if I bought them just because I started working at a construction company. UM....NO! Style, baby! Also, I am a hand-me-down queen. I have clothes from at least 12 different family members or friends, including some of the men in my life.
Preservation is my favorite shop in town for that very reason -- there is a great mix of new brands and vintage styles. Nicole has such a great eye -- and is great at helping me pick out things that I feel comfortable in and that work for my body. Dressing up is always enjoyable too. I love going to events and throwing on a vintage number or a silk dress and some heels, though you'll never catch me in heels unless it's a fancy party/wedding.
My friend Alma has made some incredible dressy pieces for me and is a super talented designer (her brand is called Renovar). My other friend Eric designed and made my wedding outfit (a yo-yo form top with high-waisted silk pants). What I wear sometimes reflects my mood or my 'theme' for the day...so if I’m going for 'soccer mom', I wear my most comfortable pair of 2008 North Face swoosh pants, a hoodie from Against the Grain Brewery, and a vintage tee from Preservation.
- As told to Preservation
Emily Susanin Kessinger was photographed at her home in Des Moines, Iowa by Nicole Lorenson