“Design must seduce, shape, and perhaps more importantly, evoke an emotional response.” I love this quote from artist April Greiman and couldn’t agree more. Good design is about more than just beauty. That’s why the foundational design philosophy at iconic Canadian design firm Les Ensembliers resonates so deeply with me. Their mission is to build meaning into beauty, and they do so with a refined elegance that is truly breathtaking.
So when your mission is to imbue meaning into your design work, where do you begin when starting with a concrete box, no architectural details, no client’s story to tell in the space, and only one month to design and execute? If you are the brilliant partners at Les Ensembliers – architect Maxime Vandal and interior designer Richard Ouelette – you begin with the classical elements of style, proportion and space planning and a trusted partnership with the construction team at Best & Co.
“We had to imagine our own story for the dressing room, so we envisioned what we would do if we were designing Lauren Bacall’s private retreat, the secret place where she would keep her most prized collection of treasured things. It became a secret garden, like the inside of a jewel box.”
As with any highly treasured jewel box, exquisite finishes tell the story. With classical space planning establishing the room’s perfect proportions, Vandal and Ouelette turned their attention to the decadent Art Deco-inspired details. The narrative began with the spectacular peacock finish on the door fronts of the closets, a collaboration with the talented Pellegrino Ebeniste. Inspired by a fabric woven out of the plumes of more than 200 birds, Les Ensemblier took the more compassionate route by choosing to create this custom finish instead. I’m sure you’ll agree, the end result (as seen in the close-up image above) is truly magical.
Were this the only stunning finish in the space it might read as too strong an element, but woven together with the Ralph Lauren Pearl Ray Shagreen wallpaper on the walls and the radiant Ralph Lauren Marella Plaster wallpaper in the insets of the ceiling treatment, it reads as a cohesive story told over time.
The ceiling treatment – one of my favourite design elements in the room – was inspired by a historically referenced Art Deco geometric pattern that Les Ensembliers then deconstructed to create the modern classic pattern. The elegant plaster work serves as the perfect visual balance to the strong geometry of the gorgeous Gabriel Scott light fixture.
Ceilings are often forgotten design opportunities, but in this case, the ceiling was designed to centre the room, making the space feel longer and taller by creating a focal point that lifts the eye (and the spirits) with a sense of wonder and delight.
The stunning vintage rug from Joseph Carini, with it’s blush and turquoise hues, infuses the space with femininity, history and style, giving voice to the well-traveled life Les Ensembliers imagined for the lady of the house. Design choices like this one serve to evoke the Europe-meets-the-Americas aesthetic that Les Ensembliers understand as uniquely Canadian. It is an aesthetic that values design history while charting its own course for the future, and Les Ensembliers are firmly at the helm.
The antechamber to the lady’s dressing room continues to tell the story of a well-traveled life. Inspired by fine luggage from the house of Goyard in Paris, the built-in dressers speak to the luxury travel cases of a bygone era with their textural wallpapered insets, stunning black horn Ochre handles, and decadent purple-velvet-lined drawers. The Fortuny hand-painted silk chandelier – one of my all-time favourite light fixtures – creates a soft and elegant counter-balance to the fiercely fashion-forward style of the Gabriel Scott fixture in the adjoining space. I adore the mix.
Suffice it to say, Les Ensembliers stole the show at this year’s Kips Bay Decorators Showhouse. The buzz about their decadent space reverberated across every floor of the home as guests explored the showcase, and rightfully so. With offices in Montreal, Toronto and New York, you can expect to see their spectacular work finding pride of place across the globe. I, for one, am waiting with bated breath to see what this incredible dream team will design next.
Be sure to pop back to The Curated House next week for more inspiration on how interior design can tell your story. Until then, may your dreams be fuelled by wanderlust and your days be filled with love.