In this edition of Intentional Spaces, we welcome Elisa Angelone, the founder of Den Mother, a neighborhood wellness retreat in Venice Beach, California. For those of you in the Los Angeles area, we strongly recommend a visit — even if you don’t have time for a treatment you can sit in their zen garden and enjoy a tonic or small, plant-based bite!
As an East Asian Medicine Practitioner that specializes in Japanese acupuncture and neuromuscular testing, understanding the connection between the natural world, our physicality, and our inner world is obviously a part of Elisa’s professional vocation — but as we learned it also infused the design and creation of the Den Mother wellness studio! Read on for more about the Den Mother space.
Q: What is Den Mother?
A: Den Mother is a healing house and social space that offers a myriad of services that are all designed to help down-regulate the nervous system, in order to help up-regulate health and healing. Our focus is to create a welcoming wellness space that counterbalances the stress of our modern day lives.
Our location on Abbot Kinney was converted from a 1930s craftsman home as we wanted guests to feel like they were entering into a cozy familiar space more so than a medical clinic or fancy spa. Hence, the feeling of a neighborhood wellness retreat: a refuge within the city for all to find some much needed healing and peace.
In the main house, we have our herbal and wellness apothecary along with our four treatment rooms (which were originally the house’s four bedrooms). We took the back parking lot and fully transformed it into an outdoor “garden den” where guests can relax before and after their services with a glass of wine or a cup of tea.
Q: What does creating an intentional space mean to you?
A: My major in college was Installation Art. I was obsessed with creating large physical spaces that people could enter into to incite feelings of connection and wonder. In particular, I was always bringing in elements of nature inside and building interactive structures to remind people of the wonder of our natural world and engaging with it.
There is so much magic and support surrounding us always, and I am constantly striving to weave little reminders of that magic into our modern day lives. For me, this is grounding, and an intentional space holds reminders of what it is you want to be tethered to.
Den Mother is a living, breathing, environmental installation. It is shrouded with plants, so much so that as I am writing these words there is a plant poking in my face! We covered the indoor walls with cedar planks and all of the light fixtures are made of natural rattan. We built every element of the space with intention, working to bring the warm elements of the natural world inside.
We are located on Abbot Kinney, right in the heart of Venice Beach, and yet when you enter the space you are completely transported into our peaceful oasis. Even hummingbirds and butterflies hang out with us everyday. Did you know that the sounds of birds singing helps to calm your nervous system? Through the process of evolution, birds only sing when they are safe from predators. So the sound of birds singing tells our brains that we too are safe, pulling us into that yummy parasympathetic state of “rest, digest, and healing.”
We wanted to extend this sense of calm throughout every aspect of our design and offerings, so we created outdoor gardens in the front and back of the house so that people (and birds) could rest, recharge, and reconnect.
Q: What tools and practices have you used in your space to bring your values and intentions to life?
A: All of the offerings at Den Mother incorporate the healing power of plants, so people can be nourished by the gifts of the earth.
For example, instead of just hot water, our Foot Soaks are made of coconut milk, fresh herbs from our local garden plot, and botanical tea blends that help relax the nervous system. Did you know that if you rub garlic on the soles of your feet you will be able to taste it in your mouth 20 minutes later? So even soaking your feet in healing baths will soak into your skin and have an impact on your entire body.
We infuse plants that help the body detoxify into teas that are then poured over the hot rocks in our sauna. The result is that the plant-infused steam can soak directly into the skin through the pores of the skin.
Our massage oils are cooked for multiple days with healing herbs so that the medicinal properties are pulled into the oil. As the warm oil is lathered onto the skin, the healing benefits are infused into the tissue.
Q: What are some of your most treasured rooms and areas in Den Mother? Why?
A: The treatment rooms that I work out of have over 200 different supplement bottles of various herbs from Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Western traditions. So to me, this room is just humming with support — all of these herbal allies have such unique properties and healing benefits. All of these botanicals can help you sleep, calm the nervous system, aid in digestion, and really assist with everything in between. There is so much personality and healing in these tinctures and tonics, I feel lucky that I get to play with them everyday.
My job is to learn to decode the symptoms that each person is presenting, and to determine which plants or foods their body needs to help up-level their system or regain an optimal state of balance and health.
Q: Are there any significant items and pieces in your space that hold particular meaning or fondness?
A: A Buddha statue sits at the entryway of Den Mother, helping to protect the space, and it came to me through divine means. Originally, I am from Toronto — and all of my family and teachers still are there to this day. However, I fell in love with a boy in California, so I followed my heart to San Francisco. Only problem is that I couldn’t practice my medicine in California before first passing their state Acupuncture Board exam (the most rigorous in all of North America). It was a trying year and in order to be with the one I loved, I was no longer able to practice my craft and help people. So I was caught in this horrible place of feeling like I had to choose my heart or my passion. There was one day where I was sitting in my car crying over my indecision and asking the universe for a sign. Then, I opened my car door and this gorgeous Buddha statue was sitting on the curb, right at my feet. That statue now sits in the entryway of Den Mother, the healing space that I opened together with my Californian husband.
Q: Do you think our external environments affect our inner world?
A: I am that crazy person that stays in a hotel room for one night and has to move around the furniture and lamps to make it feel just right — without this I cannot seem to settle. So, yes.
Q: How do you find creating a space for your business different from creating a space solely for yourself?
A: We had to think about everyone, not just ourselves. We all have things that we need to feel safe and grounded, and we wanted to be inclusive to all, knowing that some are more auditory while others are more tactile. Therefore, we made sure to touch upon all of the senses when embedding a sense of healing and calm into every aspect of our space.
We also recognize that everyone has a different connection and commitment to self-care, and wanted to meet everyone with where they were at. For some, healing comes from connection, so we created social spaces in the garden for strangers to lounge together. We also created two different 30-minute services that quickly help to down-regulate the nervous system, to help augment a state of healing. One is our Garden Massage with reflexology and foot soaks and the other is our Hot Sauna, Cold Plunge therapy. Knowing that not everyone has a lot of time, we wanted to provide quick ways to help calm the system down that didn’t require a lot of time or commitment. Whereas in the house, we offer longer, more in-depth services that really start to hone in on one’s bio-individual needs, so that we can start to address the underlying root cause of one’s stress and imbalance.