LES ENSEMBLIERS SHARE THEIR STORY IN ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST
As part of Architectural Digest’s Designer Takeover, Les Ensembliers’ Richard Ouellette had the chance to share his and Maxime Vandal’s story to their success.
When Max and I met, he had already started his architecture practice. I quickly joined the team and started the design and decor branch within a year of our relationship. It was an exciting beginning and everything was rolling along—until the 2008 financial crisis hit. Most of our clients at the time were bankers, and within ten days of the financial meltdown our projects calendar went from overbooked to almost nothing; most projects were canceled and the office went to idle within a few weeks.
We had to do something and we had to do it fast. So, we decided on something that seemed crazy at the time but that we saw as a great marketing opportunity: We decided to invest everything we had to purchase the worst and smallest house in the best neighborhood of Westmount, Montreal. It was originally the coach house of one of the oldest and largest estates of the area in the 1800s. The house was in really bad shape but had potential (plus, it was all we could afford anyway). The project was an undertaking of passion, blood, sweat, and lots of tears! At one point in the project, I remember walking through the front door and all that was left inside was the empty shell; that’s when you start thinking, What did we get ourselves into?
After a few months and with the help of each and every member of the team, piece by piece the puzzle came together. Every decision was taken with attention to detail, and in the end, it was all worth it. We received a Heritage Emeritus Architecture Award for this ugly duckling that became the hidden gem on the street. To jump-start our business, we decided to go door to door in the neighborhood and give out invitations to gatherings and cocktails at the space—15 cocktails within three weeks, to be precise.
Everyone loved the opportunity to visit our home. We began signing on basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms, one at a time…. We had to go back to the beginning and really build back our business one basement renovation at a time!
One thing Max and I know for sure is that we will do just about anything to make our dream come to life. We are very proud of our business and know too well the efforts and sacrifices it took to get to where we are today. I think this experience has kept us humble and down-to-earth. We never take any of this for granted; we believe the only road to real, lasting success is hard work … and a little talent.