Barrett Prendergast

Story by Lia Aprile and Photography by Claudia Lucia

Barrett is one of those rare women who really know how to embrace change. When the handbag line she started with her husband was coming to an end, she took her beautiful sensibility, her love of food and people (and laughter) and turned it into a successful lifestyle business. At Valleybrink Road, Barrett creates beautifully curated gift boxes, all locally sourced...and her site is also one of my go-to’s for healthy family-friendly recipes.  Not only is Barrett one of my dear friends, our families are also close (we have that coveted family chemistry) and now that she is pregnant with son #2, I am thrilled that we’ll get to raise our boys together! I’m always inspired by Barrett’s warmth and thoughtfulness, her beautiful feminine aesthetic, and her true love for life.

- Rachel Pally

Can you talk briefly about your journey from design, to catering, to where you are now?

It’s been a crazy journey! I was in fashion in my 20’s for almost ten years. My husband André and I started a handbag line and we had that for about two-and-a-half years. It was amazing in a lot of ways, but it was also very hard to make any money. We got to a point where it just wasn’t smart to keep moving forward with it. We needed to figure out what we were going to do and what kind of life we wanted to have. So we closed it.

Was that a hard choice to make?

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to have my own line, so to get there and realize you can’t figure out a way to make it work and you have to let it go: that’s a hard thing. It was also difficult because I had been working for myself for two years. The idea of having to go back and be in an office and work for someone else was something I just could not wrap my head around.

So I started to look at things in my life that I really enjoyed, and everything kept coming back to having people over and cooking dinner for them: entertaining, going to the farmers’ markets, gardening—all these things that were my hobbies and made me feel good, but I never thought of as something you could do for work.

At that point, I talked to a few people who were chefs and who were in the cooking world. They all said, “Don’t go to cooking school! You know how to cook. Go work in a restaurant because that’s how you’ll gain experience and see if this is just something you like to do as your hobby, or if it’s something that you would want to do for profession. Because those are very different things.” Cooking for four at home and being on a line for ten hours are very different things.

Canele in Atwater Village was the first place I worked. It was great and it was also very eye-opening. The restaurant world is so intense. It’s so repetitive: you’re standing, the adrenaline is high, it’s hot, you’re over the fire, cooking, turning food out.

I also went and worked for two catering companies. One of the companies did parties at people’s homes. I quickly realized that I was inspired by this idea of trying to recreate what I did for my friends, in someone else’s home. Simultaneously, I started a food blog called “Valleybrink Road” where I was putting all my recipes.

One of my friends asked me to cater a party for her, and I just said yes. It was for maybe six people. I did it and I was terrified. Then, I did it again. And slowly, organically, I began catering for more people. And then one day I said, “I think I am going to send out letters and say that Valleybrink Road is now a catering company.”

Why are you laughing?

Because it’s just so crazy!

I would just say yes to opportunities. If I didn’t know how to do something, I wouldn’t say, “I’ve never cooked for 20 people.” I’d just say yes, and then I would spend the week trying to figure out how I was going to do it. Three months later, Valleybrink Road was a real company.

{ Barrett is wearing the Long Caftan in Bamboo }

Somewhere along the way, you moved away from the catering?

We were at a place after a few years where we were doing all these different things: catering, making gift boxes, and selling flowers. We took a step back and asked ourselves what we wanted to grow, and what kind of lifestyle we wanted to have. The catering, while it was wonderful, was also extremely difficult. I knew that I wanted to have another baby. We decided to focus on building Valleybrink Road as a lifestyle brand and a hub for content. That’s the phase we’re in now.

You’ve been asked about your personal style a lot. You’re a dress girl?

I’m 100% a dress girl.

Did you ever go through any weird fashion phases?

Didn’t we all? My husband always jokes that when he first met me, I was always wearing “head features.” I would have a hat or a scarf tied around my hair with a homemade little flower thing on top. When I was in high school, I used to make bobby pins that had butterflies on them and braid my hair and put these butterflies in my hair. I was always making something and putting it on my body.

I was raised by a single mom. We didn’t have any money, so the way I was able to dress in a more unique way was by going shopping and finding things and changing them.

{ Barrett is wearing the Rib Kizzy Dress in Black }

So, you’ve always been in the beautifying trade?

I guess so! I’ve always loved a little flair.

{ Barrett is wearing the Rib Bellatrix Dress in Maple Sugar }

Why do you wear Rachel Pally?

It really changes my day if I get dressed in the morning and put myself together, especially when I’m pregnant. As my belly gets bigger, I feel so heavy and tired. But if I take a little time to actually put together an outfit, even if I’m just going to the warehouse or to a meeting, it makes a big difference to feel put together. And Rachel’s stuff makes me feel that way. It’s not precious. It’s not like I’m wearing this silk dress that is going to snag if I’m making some gift boxes or flowers. I can exist in it. I can just be in it, and feel good.

{ Barrett is wearing the Rib Bellatrix Dress in Maple Sugar }

Do you have any products that you are relying on during this pregnancy?

I’ve been using this amazing Kerstin Florian bath and body oil for my whole body and on my belly. It’s super lightweight and it absorbs immediately and doesn’t feel greasy.

I also just started using this botanical face oil called Arch Glow that smells so incredible. It makes you look dewy and glow-y. People tell me, “You’re glowing!” And I tell them, “It’s not the pregnancy, it’s Arch Glow!”

Top of your head: If you were ever to write a self-help book, what would you title it?

Oh my God. A self-help book? I think I would call it, “Help yourself!” Don’t look at this book! Go help yourself!

There’s such a sense of coziness to your aesthetic. How would you define “cozy”?

It’s just a feeling: of warmth, of softness, of something that’s inviting. That’s what I try to put out there. Anyone can make a cup of tea that makes her feel better, or grab some flowers and put them on the mantle. It’s the little things that we can all do to warm up a space and make ourselves feel good. That’s coziness.

Do you feel cozy on the inside?

I do feel very cozy...and very cramped!