Joy by Design

Senn & Sons is lighting up spaces and faces everywhere.

Any time a small-business owner includes a handwritten note tied with a ribbon in every order, you know she enjoys her work and brightening someone’s day.

That’s true, start to finish, for Edina resident Kimberly Senn, founder of Senn & Sons—a one-woman art studio gaining national attention. Senn combines fresh, vibrant color and handcrafted charm to create fine art prints, nursery décor, growth charts, notepads and other super-fun stuff designed to make you smile.

“For me, it’s those little punches of joy that help take away the monotony of the day-to-day,” Senn says.

Take, for example, the orange, pink and aqua meal planner with a tear-off grocery list. “Using the back of an envelope instead is totally fine,” Senn says. “But why not make that thing that is going to help me be more organized cute, too?”

Senn’s mission to make family spaces and daily life a little more colorful traces back to 2009, after she left a career in advertising while living in San Francisco with her husband, Marty. Naturally artistic, she painted three canvas panels of an airplane soaring away for her baby’s nursery and posted a picture on Facebook. Then lots of other people wanted them too, and her business took off.

Seven years later, Senn & Sons designs are sold in boutiques and on websites nationwide and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal. In 2015, the line of calendars and planners was a sell-out at Target during back-to-school season, and Senn was selected as a finalist for the Martha Stewart American Made Award.

“When somebody like Martha says your stuff is pretty good, it’s a great takeaway,” Senn says.

After the Senns’ second son was born in 2012, the couple moved out of their big-city condo to return to their Midwest roots. They now live in a quaint home with a cabin-up-north feel in Edina.

“We love it here,” Senn says. “As soon as the moving trucks pulled away, people all over the neighborhood came by to introduce themselves and drop off cookies. It’s like a storybook … Everybody opens their backyards in the summer. Every other house has an ice rink in the winter. And we can walk to 50th and France, an amazing little downtown that has everything you need.”

Senn not only garners inspiration from the community around her, but also from her husband, a writer and chief creative officer at Carmichael Lynch, and their sons Hugo and Freddie.

Hugo, 6, a creative force like his parents, writes and illustrates stories. Freddie, 3, doesn’t have much patience for sitting still yet, but he makes pretty cool stuff with Legos. “He’s mostly marshmallows and cuddles,” Senn says.

With two little boys, Senn, who manages all aspects of her business, has learned to be efficient and draw the line when it comes to her work hours. “When I’m with the boys, I don’t want to be worrying about responding to emails. …I’d rather build [my business] slowly and at my pace than sacrifice time with them,” she says.

Now that both boys are in school, however, her mind is brimming with ideas for 2016 including pillows, blankets, a matching game and flashcards. She’s also branching out into other creative endeavors, like telling stories on screen with filmmaker Maribeth Romslo of Hello Sunshine Films.

Last year, Senn and Romslo collaborated on a film called Dragonfly, shown at Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. Now they’re working on a collection of 15-second animated films based on alphabet characters, such as Freddie the Fox who frolics in a farfalle forest, Max the Moose who makes millions of mittens, and Hugo the Hippo who hangs from a hamburger helicopter.

Eventually they hope to combine the short films to create a software application or pitch the idea to kids’ television networks. But for now, they’re simply having fun one letter at a time. “Whatever makes us roll on the floor and laugh, that’s what we go with,” Senn says.

Clearly the small-business owner behind those personalized packages wrapped up in a bow from Senn & Sons is having a good time while spreading the cheer.

To view and order Senn & Sons products or to see a complete listing of boutiques where they’re sold, visit their website here.