Whether they’re on or off the mat, Genell and Saer Huston— she’s the owner of Lila East End Yoga; he’s a furniture maker at Huston and Company—are playful, purposeful, and passionate about what they do.
Styling by Carrie Montgomery Hurlbutt
Photographed at the Victoria Mansion
Sitting cross-legged on a mat inside his wife’s Congress Street yoga studio, Saer Huston recalls one of the first lessons he learned as a furniture maker. He had just started working at Huston and Company, the Kennebunk-based family business where he is now a furniture maker, designer, and manager, when his father handed him a drawing for a credenza. Saer— whose name fittingly means “one who works with wood” in Welsh—promised he would make it perfect. “My dad told me, ‘You should stop saying that right now because there’s no such thing,’” he says. “I had to learn how to work with the imperfections of a piece in order to make it the perfect piece.”
That philosophy is one that his wife, Genell, understands well. Her studio’s name, Lila (pronounced LEE-la), means “divine play” in Sanskrit. “It’s the idea of not taking life too seriously or getting too attached to an outcome because it’s always shifting, always changing,” she says. She first encountered the theme during her original teacher training, after spending five years establishing and leading a girls’ wilderness camp. “Yoga helps us recognize our own imperfections,” she says. “When we do that, there is a state of ease and balance that can be achieved, and the experience of living becomes one of bliss, freedom, and unconditional joy.”
The 30-something couple met 14 years ago on Mount Desert Island, where Saer was attending College of the Atlantic, close to where Genell’s sister was working as a whale researcher. It was then, when he was in school making the frames for an oil painting series, that something about woodworking first sparked. “It was the first time that I’d ever taken raw lumber and turned it into a finished piece,” he says. “I’m still amazed that in a relatively short amount of time, you can turn raw wood into heirloom pieces of furniture that will be around for hundreds of years.” Around that same time, he and Genell began dating, and soon after, the couple spent six months traveling and surfing in New Zealand before eventually winding up in Willard Beach in South Portland, where they now live with their two boys, Keller, four and a half, and Riley, 18 months.
When it comes to fashion, Saer admits that he doesn’t pay much attention to trends. Still, he approaches it as he does his furniture, with an appreciation for items that are well-made and high quality. Genell shares his appreciation for the classics, but these days is stepping up her wardrobe game. Case in point: she’s sporting a pair of floral-abstract leggings made from recycled soda cans. “As I age, I think, ‘Why not? Bejewel yourself,’” she says, explaining how she might pair jeans with an organic cotton t-shirt, and then dress it all up with eye-catching earrings—when she’s not in yoga pants.
But with several new projects underway, Genell finds herself in yoga pants a lot. Lila will soon begin to offer workshops that extend beyond the mat and explore how to live the life of a yogi in other meaningful ways. “I love yoga because it’s making me a better person every day,” Genell says. “Being on the mat is just one aspect of it.” Saer, too, is being kept busy: Huston and Company is currently focused on fulfilling two large furniture contracts for universities.
Occasionally, the couple’s work will directly overlap: Saer and a buddy built out the studio’s cubbies, coat tree, and altar, and any Huston and Company employee and their family can take yoga classes for free at Lila. The couple also offers yoga-surf retreats, and Saer, recently certified as a yoga teacher, will now be able to teach both.
But even when they’re not working directly together, they’re still aligned: they both remind us of our connections—to our selves, to each other, and to our environment. Saer follows the grain of the wood to where it needs to go, subtly manipulating it into functional art that flows within people’s lives. Genell moves bodies to where they need to be, helping her clients find inner strength and ease. Both take immense joy in their work, but more importantly, they work to bring about joy in others.