A Sense of Calm With Joyce Lee
Whether it is in her work as the Head of Design at Madewell, her creative side projects with Quiltely by Dae Off Studio, or at home in her welcoming and wonderfully curated Brooklyn home, Joyce Lee prioritizes ease and simplicity. She notes that when someone walks into her space, the intention is for them to have an "immediate feeling of being at home. Comfy and cozy." As long-time admirers—some may recall we recently asked Joyce to select her favorite springtime styles—we were so excited to tour the Williamsburg home she shares with her husband James and two kids. We could not get enough of her living room set-up, especially the impressive collection of books, records, and curios on display. While we sat for a brief chat, she shared where she finds inspiration, advice on decorating with children, and how updating just one piece of furniture can completely transform your living space.
You are the Head of Design and one of our favorite brands, Madewell. Tell us about how you got there.
I started at Madewell as the Head of Accessories, designing the bags, footwear, and accessories—establishing the point of view of the non-apparel categories. Six years ago, my role evolved into overseeing the apparel side as well, and I love working on the broader look and feel of the product—it has been so much fun.
How has your style evolved over the 12 years you’ve been at the brand?
My style has always been casual and pretty easy—grounded in denim and neutrals, and that hasn’t changed over the years. I’ve gone through phases where my color palette evolves, but it’s always been about ease, simplicity, and playing with color and texture. I love monochromatic dressing, one-pieces, special accessories, classic stripes, and anything quilted and cozy.
Does that style differ from your at-home style? How would you describe it?
I would say that my home style echoes my personal style, from the choice of clean, neutral colors, to the subtle layering of patterns and textures, to the importance of comfort and ease. I also love to play with accessories and accents that easily change things up—which is also in line with how I dress.
How do you want people to feel when they walk into your home?
A sense of calm. That it’s inviting. The immediate feeling of being at home. Comfy and cozy.
Shop Joyce's Look
A few Lulu and Georgia pieces are layered into your space, is there one statement maker you still find yourself fawning over?
It’s a tough choice between the Kyra Media Console and the two rugs. They each ground the living room in their own way. I love the way the rugs are layered to play with pattern and texture, and the media console is a special focal piece alongside our bookshelves. It is a space where our family spends a lot of time listening to records, reading books, and for movie nights.
Speaking of your living room, what are some personal touches that are important to you?
I have a stone domino set that I picked up on a trip to Mexico many years ago—one of my favorite things to do when traveling is to find special things to bring home! And some of our old childhood photos on the bookshelf and little crafts that the kids have made.
Any advice for those looking to update their living room—including maybe a few folks wanting to recreate your space’s look?
Updating just one of the furniture pieces can make such a big difference in the space, whether it means a change in proportions, or a new pop of color, or added texture in the room. Rugs are also such an easy way to update a mood—with their pattern, color, even scale.
How do you balance having a functional living space for two young children while not compromising on design?
Luckily, I haven’t had to change much to accommodate the kids. There are lots of soft, cozy things in the living room that are naturally inviting to the kids, and we like to keep their toys and books organized and hidden when they aren’t using them. The media console has great storage, so their board games, puzzles, and books stay out of sight—for the most part!!
What is the overall feel you want to capture in not just your living room but throughout your home?
I think it’s the balance of simple yet interesting, comfortable but not messy, and peaceful energy.
Where do you look to find inspiration for your home?
I always love traveling and picking things up as I go, to add into the mix to keep it interesting. I also love looking at how other people live and utilize space—I’m especially fascinated with how people organize inside their spaces.
What do you love the most about New York City and Brooklyn in particular?
I love how much is always going on here, and even if we don’t choose to be in the middle of it all the time, we know there is something inspiring to do, whether it’s in our immediate neighborhood, or a quick drive or subway ride away to explore! We have incredible food options, the best art exhibitions, amazing outdoor spaces to wander—I can never say it’s boring. And if we want some quieter moments, we like to take little road trips upstate or to the beaches.
What are some at-home rituals you started in quarantine that you’ll continue?
The only way I was able to have some alone time this past year has been an extended time in the bathroom, and so I decided that bringing in the things that bring me joy would have to do. So, my favorite ritual has become bathtime with coffee and a podcast. I catch up on the news, wake up and relax my muscles with no kids or zoom meetings, meditate for a minute, and I’m ready to tackle the day. I don’t think I will ever stop doing this—it’s become a pretty vital ritual for me.
What’s next for you?
That’s a good question! I’m always interested in challenging myself outside of my comfort level and evolving, learning. I think anything could happen… which is exciting!