March 17, 2017
Q&A With the Men Behind Les Ensembliers
Maxime Vandal, a classical architect, and international fashion designer-turned-interior designer, Richard Ouellette, along with Eliane Bazelais, form the backbone of Les Ensembliers.
by New York Spaces
NYS: What is Les Ensembliers? What is your firm known for?
Les Ensembliers: An integrated architecture, design, and construction company specialized in high-end residential projects with offices in Toronto, Montreal and a creative pad in Chelsea NYC. Totalizing about 35 employees, Les Ensembliers is known for its sophisticated and understated elegance. Deeply rooted in North American culture, the signature of each project always has an essence of French flair.
NYS: What is each of your experience grounded in?
Les Ensembliers: Maxime Vandal is trained as a classical architect with a mastery of historical styles, proportions, and materials in addition to being a master builder. Richard Ouellette's first love and career was as an international fashion designer in the sports industry. Mastering creativity and project management in high pressure environment, Richard transferred his acquired skills in decor as his second career.
NYS: Maxime Vandal, how did you found three different companies at once (Vandal Architect Ensemblier architecture studio, Les Ensembliers design firm, and Gestion Les Ensembliers construction company)? What was the goal at the time?
Maxime Vandal: After working for eight years as a project manager for a construction company on major projects in Canada, I founded my architectural practice. Not been able to find a general contractor that would meet my expectations, I decided to build my own designs. The design company took off when Richard came into my life.
NYS: How did you both meet and decide to work together?
Les Ensembliers: After our first date, we knew we were meant for each other. We went to Paris for four days and moved in together within a month! We then started working together a few weeks after, mostly knowing that our relationship might not survive our incompatible schedules. Richard' skills were complementing perfectly the needs of our growing companies.
NYS: Richard Ouellette, How did you go from fashion design into the world of industrial urban design? How did one influence the other and vice versa?
Richard Ouellette: After 15 years in fashion, I needed a break and went back to University. I found my true calling in interior design where my passion for space gave a completely new meaning to my love of fashion.
NYS: Tell us about Nomade Immobilier, a group both of you founded in 2007!
Les Ensembliers: Nomade Immobilier was created when we bought a small hotel next to our country place in
order to save it from closing. It became a hobby; we renovated it, rebranded it, won several tourism awards and sold it after.
NYS: What are the type of projects you take on?
Les Ensembliers: We take on complex projects; mostly high-end apartments renovations and historical estates restorations. We love fast track design build projects with passionate clients that lean in with us in the creative process and let us handle the execution. Our vertical integration allows us to provide a complete experience to our clients, from conceptual sketches to a fully furnished home, right down to the last detail. It is a "one stop shop" studio and approach.
NYS: We love your artistic flat in Quebec...what was the directive here and what inspired the design?
Les Ensembliers: The artistic flat was our apartment in Montreal, a 2500-sq.-ft. unit on two levels in a historical mansion conversion. Inspiration came from Yves St-Laurent and Pierre Berge's flat in Paris; the approach was to introduce bold patterns, textures and colors juxtaposed to a curated collection of art, and objects and custom pieces that we love.
NYS: We love the staircases in the Montreal residence you designed. Can you tell us a bit about the concept?
Les Ensembliers: That staircase was the main feature of the architectural concept; that project was the unification of three condos penthouses on three levels in an old sugar factory. We use the staircase to create a vertical connection between the three floors. Since the main entrance was on the intermediate level that was a great opportunity to design two different stair cases leading to public and private spaces.
NYS: What and where would your dream project be?
Les Ensembliers: We are very lucky to have many exciting projects on the table including a new build on the Pacific Ocean, a contemporary mansion in Toronto, a French Manor in the country, an historical colonial farm estate in the townships, a plantation-style house in North Carolina and a regency villa in Palm Beach. We created amazing penthouses and recently, completed a 6000-sq.-ft. penthouse at the Ritz Carlton in Montreal. Each project is unique, each client is unique. Nevertheless, branding and creating a boutique hotel would be a dream come true!
NYS: What is on the horizon for Les Ensembliers?
Les Ensembliers: Next to a long list of unique projects, the highlights of 2017 are the launch of our fabric collection for Brunschwig & Fils in addition to the introduction of our carpet collection with W Studio and the development of our accessories collection. The year 2017 will surely be filled with exciting and unexpected adventures!
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