All eyes are on retail’s “hot spots” as the market has cooled — and for creatures of comfort during COVID-19, that means steeper spending on athleisurewear, alcohol, and, naturally, interior design and home furnishings.
Coined “the decade of home” by designer, entrepreneur, investor and author Christiane Lemieux, the concept is that consumers can engage in a “360-degree view” of interior design that involves a deeper, more sensory experience woven throughout purchases, renovations and other aspects of creating or changing a space.
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That’s why Lemieux’s soft-toned, minimalist collection “Artisanal Modernism,” which recently launched at Anthropologie under her brand Lemieux et Cie, is apropos. The designer is also the founder of Dwell Studio, which she later sold to Wayfair; founder of The Inside, a direct-to-consumer home furnishings brand, and a two-time published author.
Now Lemieux looks ahead to a double debut of a New York-based in-person atelier à la showroom and design laboratory, alongside an “amped-up” virtual showroom, where consumers can shop directly with a personalized look and feel, sans decorator. Both projects are in the works, and slated to launch later this year under the Lemieux et Cie brand.
Lemieux told WWD, “As we entered 2020 and the pandemic hit, the importance of ‘home’ was dramatically elevated. I began to describe this new focus as ‘the decade of home’ and it was a catch phrase that truly resonated with clients, industry and colleagues.”
“Now and going forward into 2021, the ‘360 of home,’ therefore, is not just the new sofa you finally purchased for your space after years of fantasizing about a design upgrade (sight) or a beautifully scented candle you’ve been burning to soothe and relax you (smell) or any of our usual five senses,” Lemieux explained. “The 360 of home hinges on the sixth sense — namely, overall, how does your home make you ‘feel’?”
Here, Lemieux talks to WWD about significant growth in the interior design industry, consumers’ evolving relationship with the outdoors, and her “Decade of Home/360 of Home” concept.
WWD: How has COVID-19 influenced interior design market dynamics?
Christiane Lemieux: There’s been a lot of talk around how important the idea of “home” has become, but as we entered 2020 and certainly as the reality of the pandemic hit, I started to describe this new focus and this new era as “the decade of home” and it not only stuck as a catchphrase, but it truly resonated with everyone in the ongoing conversation about how we live today. Interior design and home furnishings are one of the thriving sectors today, one of the retail hot spots, which include athleisurewear, naturally, and alcohol. So as a designer with multiple home lines at market, I’m very grateful to be part of a thriving industry right now.
Everyone has a new relationship with home and wants to make their world more beautiful. I’m getting texts, messages and calls all day long [from people asking], ”Can you recommend an interior designer near me? Where did you get that chair? I see this product is sold out; when will it be back in stock?” These queries are coming in from friends and colleagues, clients and strangers alike.
And as we approach what seems like another lockdown, or at least, a true slowdown for [this year], almost no one is traveling. They are all, literally, going home or staying home.
There’s something very poignant and lovely about this “road to home.” Home means something different to each of us, but what unifies all of us right now is that around the world, we are all indeed on the road home. Some may call that a “gift” of sorts and I don’t mean to trivialize the pandemic in any way, but the way we are all living now has caused us to slow down, walk back or retreat to what we call our safe place: home.
That safety, that beautiful stability, that’s where we want to lavish more attention these days. And that is where my concept of the “360 of home” comes in. It’s not just the four walls around you — it’s about the layering and dimensionality of your personal space and really your whole life. Your home is all of those things and how it makes you feel.
When you’re home and you’re comfortable, you can get through anything. None of this is meant to be trite, believe me. Because here we go again. The next 10 to 12 weeks are going to be dark ones, but we are going to come through it all and by spring, I believe we will be walking out of this. But in order to get to the light, we do have to walk through the tunnel, so to speak.
WWD: What is the concept behind “decade of home?” Why is this time different than any other for the interior design industry? Has social media played a meaningful role in its evolution?
C.L.: Let’s discuss social media first. In isolation, we turn to social media the way others would have turned to TV in decades past.
TikTok — a defining moment of COVID-19 — is fascinating to me. I’m dabbling in it a little bit, figuring out the algorithms. But my kids are the ones to watch on this and they’re not watching cartoons; they are on their phones and it is the most amazing, really deep adaptation for something that is so relatively new. The generation that precedes my kids is looking at Instagram and the generation prior to that is looking at Facebook. But looking ahead, TikTok is definitely where Gen Z is going to live.
This moment in time is different from others in that interior design and home design, in general, must take into account the relationship between indoors and outdoors. Outdoor spaces, landscaping, etc., are truly an extension of your living room or bedroom or gym. In urban settings — New York and other major cities — interior design is literally unfolding and blooming on the street corners, with all the restaurants that have smartly set up outdoor seating, even into the winter. For example, I live in SoHo and I’m watching restaurants like Carbone or Sadelle’s or Raoul’s thoughtfully moving their businesses out to the curb and maintain a truly beautiful and high level of design. Outdoors has become the new indoors.
WWD: How has the interior design shopper evolved, and how are these changes reflected in what you’ve envisioned for your upcoming atelier/design laboratory in New York City?
C.L.: It’s all about the very personal — people are looking at their spaces, at what they need, how things make them feel, which is not necessarily a new thing but what is happening — and I go back to this again and again — I don’t think overarching trends mean anything to anyone right now.
No one cares about which animal print is hot, or similar. No, people want to invest in their homes or spaces and have those environments reflect who they are because, one, that feels great and two, when you live in a space where everything is considered and entirely hand-picked or edited with great meaning, it’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment and way to solidify “who am I?” in the midst of some real uncertainty. With everything going on right now, we continue to turn to the person. How you feel right now matters, more than ever.
WWD: Tell us about your partnership with Anthropologie. What was the genesis of this collaboration?
C.L.: Anthropologie has been a partner of mine for years via DwellStudio and they are always a pleasure to work with — when they walked into the High Point, N.C., showroom and said, “We want to launch your brand!” it was a no-brainer and an immediate “yes.” My relationship with Anthropologie spans more than a decade and feels really great and organic to me. It’s an honor to work with them again.
WWD: What are some influential trends/changes in the interior design market we can expect to see in 2021?
C.L.: Focusing on the personal aspect of things will continue to grow more and more important — in shelter magazines and blogs and all the things that we read, that’s the same feeling tone that gets echoed again and again. What best represents you? So, I think that we’ll see more and more focus on the outdoors and how to continually get that “fix” — how to make our indoor and outdoor spaces work together and how to keep our spaces holistically healthy.
The outdoors is the only environment in which we can socialize, so our relationship with the outdoors is even more important than before and that will continue to grow in magnitude. And I don’t want to get entirely “woo woo” on this because it’s not a trend, but rather what feels like a fact: the universe seems to be asking us to finally appreciate this planet. This may be the true profound silver lining of COVID-19 — how we are now, I hope, really listening to the planet.
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