Designers & Artists

michele varian

Michele is a designer who loves being surrounded by provocative and beautiful things.
Especially if they have elements of historical, natural or social references.


Michele Varian

Where was your favorite place to live?

Resoundingly, NYC. I moved here when I was 18 to go to Parsons, and never looked back! As a designer and creative person, the kinds of opportunities that you can stumble upon while getting a cup of coffee cannot be matched.

What’s your favorite room in your home?

We call it “The Big Room.” We live in a loft with as few walls as possible. The Big Room is where both my husband and I work. We have desks that face each other. He’s usually playing and composing music, while I do computer work and sketch. It has enormous windows facing Broadway in SoHo with tons of light. We also have a swing next to one of the windows, so that we can take “porch breaks.”

In your opinion, what is the best designed item of all time?

I’m not good with superlatives. Best is a strong word, especially in an ever-changing world. One of my favorite things is a wood block knife sharpener with a handle on it. It has ceramic disks that you run the knife through to sharpen it. There’s no getting it wrong; it makes sharpening knives effortless. It went missing during a kitchen renovation for a few years, and I really mourned it, but when we recently had a plumbing repair, it was found behind the pipes! It’s so beautiful; it hangs on the wall with our wood cutting boards.

What one item do you wish you owned?

There’s a Mara Hoffman coat that I’ve been coveting. Big and graphic. I love it. I’m still on the hunt to replace a favorite vintage coat that had to be retired. It looked like it could have been designed by Paul Poiret in the 1920s – a cocoon shape in a graphic floral wood brocade with a fur collar and 3/4 sleeves. I had the best bronze leather gloves to wear with it.

What are your interests outside of design?

Well, I gotta say, I enjoy kickboxing. My trainer is a friend who I grew up with in Detroit. We talk politics and the challenges of being small business owners while I hit and kick him. It’s pretty cathartic and I feel pretty badass doing it, especially since he won the world bronze medal in Bangkok — even though he’s a white boy from Detroit!

Who are you design icons?

Where to start?
For furniture: Ray & Charles Eames.
For clothing: Paul Poiret, Alexander McQueen, Geoffrey Beene.
Style: Iris Apfel.
Architecture: Minoru Yamasaki.
The list goes on.

My personal decorating style?
“Maximalist, in spite of my best intentions.
I have no fear of mixing patterns, colors, or design styles.”

What was/is your biggest indulgence?

Time is what I hoard most of all. My biggest indulgence is cutting all cords and spending the day painting and drinking beer. I wish this happened more often than it does. Every time my husband goes on tour, I think I will spend a couple days painting, and it usually turns into a few hours stolen here and there.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Everything, everywhere — but I think that must be true of everyone. I love trolling through relics from different cultures and history to find inspiration. It’s always good to try to see things from other perspectives.

Do you have one low budget decorating tip?

Almost anything can go on the walls. It doesn’t have to be “art.” I have everything from machine parts (disk shaped rubber molds for jewelry making), messages from friends, feathers, bits of fabric, Brad’s guitars and jewelry hanging in our apartment. They’re all things that make me smile when I look at them.

What’s the best career advice you ever received? Ever gave?

Pick one of the many things that you’re involved in and focus on it. Although, I admit this never happens for me, as I’m always working on a million different projects, from design-related things to advocating for small businesses in NYC.

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