As photo-drenched as our lives have all become, there is an essential nature to words which can comfort, inspire, alarm, and move us unlike any modern invention. It is a welcomed reprieve to rest over-stimulated eyes on a well-written text, and words remain the ablest storytellers even after images have made their suggestion. 

My roots have always twined firmly around words. 

I studied journalism in New York, long before the weddings and the family and the move to Hawaii. On every stop along the way, my affair with words served me and enhanced the narratives I told as a stylist and wedding professional. For family far away, for travel publications, for dreamy blogs, for lifestyle influencers, for fellow creatives and friends, I have always written. And I've found it has a special power, the likes of which no brand or publication or person of wit can abandon.

 

WRITTEN

WORD

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Surfer’s Short List, North Shore, Maui

     by Shaunna Nygren

In Maui, we rise with the sun and watch it drift above the Pacific with the waves at our back. Salty hair is fine by us. On a perfect North swell, we choose between our favorite four breaks off the Hana Highway, Hookipa Beach: The Point, Green Trees, Middles, and Pavils. Plan to rise early or end your day here when the wind subsides. After a morning ride, you’ll find me on the open-air lanai at Paia Bay Coffee, a small garden cafe tucked between jungle palms and quiet airy shops, drinking a double Americano.

The seasons on Maui are revealed by the fruits that fall from the trees—avocados in the springtime, mangoes in summer, lilikoi in late fall. We drink coconut water straight from its grainy, earthy source. Our world here is verdant and unruly, beautiful and abundant. Island life is slow and easy.

 

California Retreat, Kinfolk Magazine

     by Shaunna Nygren

When friends are scattered across the earth, it can take an alluring adventure to bring them all together. The romance of the open road and Northern California’s rugged coastline was the ticket this time. We were looking to be inspired by nature, the new and the unknown. It was a modest attempt at rediscovering America’s quaint, picturesque seaside towns of a bygone era. Northern California is one riveting mix freethinkers, vintners, farmers, surfers, home-brewers, underground diners, and intellects. We packed light for our journey; woven blankets, sweaters, and our favorite records.

Kicking off the voyage, we spent a hazy afternoon at Scribe Winery in Sonoma, roaming the wild grounds and exploring the beautifully distressed Mission Revival Style hacienda. There are treasures to unearth around every bend; Prohibition-era glass bottles, tattered books, poetry etched on the walls—vintage everything, basically. The Scribe experience is rich in rebel history, debonair taste, and natural splendor. From there, we called a picnic table home at Hog Island Oyster Farm, mastering the delicate art of shucking oysters. Brackish rivers flow into the salty Pacific Ocean. We breathed in Tomales Bay then hit the road, opting for the scenic route along California’s Highway 1. There is nothing quite like old friends and great adventures, drinking in the freedom of the open road.

Santa Cruz lured us in with its ease of life and famed surf culture. At dusk, we strolled the boardwalk for a dose of pure nostalgia. Our gaze landed on the most awe-inducing landscape. Vivid hues of melon yellow and gold punctuated the sky in Big Sur. Much like exploring Maui’s road to Hana, traveling to this California hamlet was about the journey, not the destination. 

With every end of the road, I think of Colette’s words penned in The Vagabond, “It is true that departures sadden and exhilarate me, and whatever I pass through—new countries, skies pure or cloudy, seas under rain the color of a grey pearl—something of myself catches on it and clings so passionately that I feel as though I were leaving behind me a thousand little phantoms in my images, rocked on the waves, cradled in the leaves, scattered among the clouds.”

 

Perfectly Imperfect, Pacific Weddings Magazine

     by Shaunna Nygren   

... Revelers took to the rose garden for hors d’oeuvres and classic cocktails courtesy of the gentlemen at Pharmacie. The al fresco scene was quintessentially Californian. “The estate is already so verdant and colorful with giant protea and birds-of-paradise,” the bride says. “We wanted to showcase and support the nature around us.” The color palette of the day was earthy yet refined: ivory, leather, sage, and midnight blue. The evening ended with a delicious seasonal meal catered by Bread & Water and “the feeling of a Tuscan dinner party” says Brooke. Long family-style tables were dressed in pale linens and adorned in lush garlands of greenery by florist Alise Marie Davis of Sweet Marie Designs. 

Party-goers mingled beneath cafe string lights then took to the dance floor for some serious celebrating. 

 

Tropical Chalet Style, Houzz

     by Shaunna Nygren

When Pascal Benoist and Tina Prior purchased a 2-acre palm tree plantation on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii, the first thing they did was raise a flag on the land. “You can’t build a home in Hawaii without observing the weather patterns,” says Benoist, a French surfer who settled in the Hawaiian islands 14 years ago. “We have to battle trade winds and heavy rain year-round. It’s much like building a boat to weather a storm.” 

There was no need to call in a contractor or architect (or even a boat builder). Benoist handled all of the design and construction with a small team of laborers over the course of seven months. He called on his experience running an import-export business in Indonesia to outfit the interiors. Prior, part owner of Café Des Amis in the beach town of Paia, has a penchant for minimalist design with a bohemian spirit, and it’s evident throughout the warm space. “We wanted to spend as much time outside as we do in,” says Benoist of the home’s easy indoor-outdoor flow. 

The couple spent a whirlwind three weeks in Bali sourcing enough custom-made teak furnishings and reclaimed boat wood to fill a 40-foot shipping container. “Finding a reliable source for quality wood in Bali was the biggest challenge,” Benoist says. “But we spent a small fraction considering what those materials would cost in Hawaii.” 

 

Allure, Pacific Weddings Magazine

     by Shaunna Nygren

Few architectural styles have a greater aura of romance and mystique than the Spanish colonial haciendas of the 18th-century. Tucked away in Mexico’s rural countryside of Jalisco with its ruggedly beautiful landscape, the Hacienda El Carmen Hotel & Spa is no exception. Constructed by the Carmelite monks in 1722, the former convent was passed through many hands over hundreds of years until the early 1960s when the current owner, Monica Baeza’s mother, fell in love with the enclave of Spanish colonial architecture and lush, ripe terrain. The estate was revitalized into a family country house until the day Monica took ownership of the residence. A consummate hostess, gardener and chef, Monica transformed the property into an exclusive resort with a sensitivity to its history. Fine art photographer Jose Villa traveled to this remembered paradise to capture a modern-day boudoir shoot amid the soft glow of candlelight and rustic elegance.

 

City Hall Soiree, Pacific Weddings Magazine

     by Shaunna Nygren

... The couple beckoned guests with stationery showcasing nautical elements and iconic San Francisco landmarks. The bride’s 80-year-old grandmother Mavis painted the Golden Gate Bridge rendered from one of Stephanie’s photographs which appeared on the invitations. The RSVP postcard showcases the famous row of colorful Victorian houses in San Francisco, known as “Painted Ladies.” The wedding day was warm and clear. Friends and family members from England, New York, Alabama and Washington, DC, gathered in San Francisco City Hall’s ceremonial rotunda marked by a grand staircase and pale pink marble floors. Upon entering, a coffee and donut bar featuring the couple’s favorite kiosk, Pebbles Donuts, offered guests a sweet wake-up call. And in the background, The Golden Gate String Quartet gave a fitting sense of place with hits like “California Dreamin’” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

 

A SURF SHACK IN THE HAWAIIAN JUNGLE, HOUZZ

     by Shaunna Nygren

An artist and the creative director at clothing retailer Sugarhigh LovestonedTami Snodgrass lives in a tiny surf shack in the verdant jungles of Haiku, Maui. After moving to Hawaii in 1999, she set out to live a humble, pared-down existence where nature, art and surf rule the days. 

The Minnesota native is no stranger to small spaces — she grew up in a compact cabin on Lake Minnetonka. Her 300-square-foot rental provides maximum inspiration for her creative endeavors, which include graphic design, illustration and art production. With wood-paneled walls, vaulted ceilings and a sleeping loft, the bungalow has a beachy warmth and casualness. That vibe is abetted by earthy details, including a dome-topped outhouse and an open-air kitchen overlooking a lush, expansive property that includes a waterfall and is replete with papaya and avocado trees ...

 
 

A Sense of Place, Pacific Weddings Magazine

     by Shaunna Nygren

The first time Mandy Grassini spotted Justin Willett, the owner and winemaker of Tyler Winery, he made quite an impression. “I couldn’t believe how handsome he was,” Mandy says. “I had to catch my breath. And that was it, we talked all night.” The memorable evening was in early 2011, when a blind set-up (as Mandy likes to call it), was smoothly orchestrated by a mutual friend at a neighborhood watering hole in Santa Ynez, California. Mandy and Justin quickly discovered they both hail from the world of winemaking—Mandy’s family owns Grassing Family Vineyards—and share an appreciation for good food, art, design, antiques, and the easygoing California lifestyle. “I never thought I’d meet a 30-year-old winemaker who was the man of my dreams,” she says. “It was a very pleasant surprise.”

 
 

Autumnal Ojai, Pacific Weddings Magazine

     by Shaunna Nygren

 

For John Lobato and Andrea Ambrose, it was love at second sight. When the recent law school graduates met at a less-than-charming dive bar in Los Angeles, John didn’t completely swoon the California girl with his characteristic wit and charisma. Luckily for him, there was a second encounter. Fast forward a year and a half, when the pair happened to be clerking for judges in the same courthouse. John didn’t miss his chance to impress the brunette beauty with a date to LACMA to check out the Salvador Dali exhibit. “He spent the whole time making up fake interpretations of the paintings,” recalls the art history major. “I really liked him.”