Decorating & Design

September 14, 2011

Interview: Christiane Lemieux

Christiane Lemieux could be forgiven for lying down on the job. As the founder and creative director of DwellStudio, the popular line of bedding she started in 1999, the Ottawa-born, Manhattan-based designer and entrepreneur has made it her mission to conquer the world of sheets, shams and coverlets, a market in which her products today stand out for their sumptuous shades, elegantly graphic patterns and determinedly modern appearance. Having firmly established that foothold, she has since expanded Dwell’s offerings to include Dwelltable, Dwellkids and Dwellbaby. Before starting Dwell, Lemieux worked as a fashion designer for Isaac Mizrahi and the Gap and was design director for luxury home goods maker Portico New York. She moved to Manhattan in 1994 to study fashion design at the Parsons School of Design after earning a BA in art history from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. It was in these early years in the city that she met and married fellow Canadian expat Joshua Young, a finance and real estate exec who now oversees Dwell’s business operations. The couple lives in a refurbished SoHo loft with their two children.

House & Home: What do you like most about your home?

Christiane Lemieux: The space. My husband and I bought a rundown loft and renovated it. Space is at such a premium here that having a little is the greatest luxury of all.

H&H: How would you describe your sense of style?

CL: New York by way of Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam. New York really inspires me, but I love the old world details and colouration of Northern European cities, especially the way they use greys and high-lacquer black. It’s muted but dramatic at the same time; it looks modern and new.

H&H: Do you have a favourite colour scheme?

CL: I love greys with browns. Mixing warm colours with cool ones creates a sophisticated contrast.

H&H: Do you collect anything?

CL: Since we started designing toys for Dwellbaby, I’ve become obsessed with vintage toys. I find them on eBay and especially love the clean lines of European toys from the 1960s and ’70s.

H&H: What’s your perfect getaway?

CL: Staying at a great hotel in Europe with my family. On my last trip to Europe, I stayed at The Dylan in Amsterdam. It was wonderful. All the rooms have wide-striped carpet in grey and cream and deep, dark lacquer contrasts; it’s a perfect balance between light and dark.

H&H: What country or culture inspires you right now?

CL: Belgium. I just came back from antique hunting there. It’s still relatively undiscovered as an antiques and design destination.

H&H: What’s your perfect night out?

CL: These days, giving my kids a bath and putting them to bed, then going out with my husband for a great meal and a glass of wine.

H&H: Do you have a current obsession?

CL: Out-of-print books by my favourite designers, such as Billy Baldwin and David Hicks. I look for them everywhere from flea markets to eBay. I’m trying to put together a great design library.

H&H: What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

CL: A trip to Morocco with my husband; we rented a car and drove across the Atlas Mountains.

H&H: Name three people you’d love to have at a dinner party?

CL: My great-great-great grandparents. I think it would be amazing to get them all in a room to truly see where I came from. I’m French and Mohawk on my father’s side and Irish on my mother’s.

H&H: What is your definition of beauty?

CL: Someone who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously; if someone is too studied in terms of personality or presentation, the result is affected. In a thing, the same: if it’s affected or overthought, the beauty is gone. The most beautiful things occur naturally.

H&H: What one item couldn’t you live without at home?

CL: I hate to say it: my computer. Having it at home allows me to leave the office.

H&H: Finish this sentence: I feel most comfortable when…

CL: … I’m doing something I’m passionate about.

H&H: What makes you feel rich, fulfilled and happy?

CL: My work, the people who work for me and my family. I have so many people who count on me and making sure that they’re happy, healthy and engaged is really fulfilling.

H&H: What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

CL: My kids — literally. Otherwise I’d sleep until noon.