Although Richard Ouellette and Maxime Vandal run a successful design firm, Les Ensembliers, side by side, day in and day out, the couple were in total disagreement when they commenced the search for their dream pied-à-terre in New York City. Vandal envisioned a move in–ready, high-rise apartment—a temporary getaway from their life in Montréal. “It was not going to happen!” announces Ouellette. Instead, the duo ended up in quite the opposite space: a second-floor unit in an 1840s townhouse located in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood, graced with original crown moldings, parquet floors, and airy 12-foot-high ceilings.
To Vandal’s surprise, Ouellette immediately began to pluck his favorite pieces from their spots in the couple’s various other homes in preparation for a big shipment heading to Manhattan. Vandal saw them living in a minimalist environment—the one-bedroom place is only 750 square feet, after all—but Ouellette once again convinced his partner to go in different direction. “I have a bit of a problem with bare,” he admits. He embarked on decorating the apartment as if they lived there year-round and would do so for years to come. Rather than meticulously plan out the design, he honed in on objects with special significance. “It was really about collections: the art pieces, the meaningful urns and pillows, the things that we love.”
Although Ouellette was confident in his vision, the move wasn’t without moments of panic. “At the beginning, I remember Max was out trying to find stuff for the apartment and I was in the apartment trying to place the stuff, and I’m like, ‘What the hell did I get myself into? I have too much stuff, too many books.’ But all of a sudden, it found its essence.” Layered vignettes—on the bookcase, the ottoman, the chairs-turned-nightstands—tell the couple’s story. Near the front door, a vivid chartreuse sculpture of a rhino sits in front of a drawing of a canoe, which peeks out behind a photo of Liberace. “It’s a curated approach,” Vandal explains. “We acquire or fabricate things that resonate with us, and we accumulate them.” Clean white walls and neutral upholstery accentuate every treasure, no matter how small, and ensure the apartment doesn’t descend into over-decorated chaos. It’s a little like an art gallery, if an art gallery was also undeniably cozy. “It’s a cocoon,” says Vandal.
Since moving in a year ago, Ouellette and Vandal have aimed to visit the apartment once a month for a week or so, a time for them to recharge and get creative. And what’s more inspiring than their home’s vibrant, eclectic interiors? “It’s not just about New York and the pied-à-terre,” says Vandal. “It’s where we really feel we belong to our surroundings.”