By Shani Silver

Published on April 19, 2016

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Photography by MICHAEL WILTBANK

text by SHANI SILVER
photography by MICHAEL WILTBANK

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You know we love a good small space–especially when that space serves more than one purpose. The live/work trend is alive and well, and is perhaps never more popular than in New York. Nicole Heim, Founder of Cienne NY, knows how to make smart use of space, and she’ll prove it. If you can take your eyes off of her stunning designs (and with her new spring/summer pieces stealing the spotlight, it’ll be tough), notice how she’s seamlessly combined her work, and her home sweet home, in one place. If there’s a trick to it, it’s discipline (and plenty of vertical shelving)!

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TELL US ABOUT CIENNE. HOW DID YOUR BRAND COME TO LIFE?

I founded Cienne in May 2014 and we launched in June 2015. I was really driven to create a modern fashion brand where ethics and aesthetics could co-exist, and where quality product and experience was the backbone of all that we did. We make four edited collections a year, which are designed and made in New York.

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Our novelty lies in our textiles, as most of our fabrics are custom-designed and handmade by artisans from Ethiopia, India, and Peru, along with modern fabrics sourced from Japan and Italy. We connect directly with our customers through our website and offline events like trunk shows, pop-ups, and retail collaborations
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.HOW DID YOU FIND THIS LIVE/WORK SPACE?

I’ve been living in my apartment for a little over five years, and I found the apartment through a broker on Craigslist. Over the course of the five years, the apartment has had so many transformations. I’ve had several roommates move in and out, my now-husband moved in a few years back, and I started my business from the space about two years ago. One thing that’s remained constant…I love its convenient location in Chelsea. I can easily be across town or downtown, and the Garment District and Cienne’s factory is only one subway stop away.

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WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER WHEN SHARING A SPACE WITH YOUR BUSINESS?

When you have your own business, you’re literally always working, and even more so if your work/life space is combined. So regardless of size, making efforts to separate work and life, and having a workspace that I can close or section off, has been the most important element in sharing where I live with where I work.

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While my apartment is small, it has two separate bedrooms and a living space, which has been really helpful in making the setup work. While I work most weekends, I make a conscious effort to have at least one day of the week where our living space is (visually) void of the business. I also have one rule that I live by – my computer never enters my bedroom.

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WHAT WAS THE MOST USEFUL ADDITION YOU MADE TO YOUR SPACE TO MAKE IT FUNCTIONAL FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

Adding the showroom and ample racks for hanging the collection was such an upgrade – although keeping it clean is tough! Prior to the showroom, the second bedroom was an office, and being that we’re a creative business with a lot of tangible necessities, the room slowly became a storage closet for everything from fabric to mood boards to shipping boxes. 

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The room was the larger of the two and had the best light in the apartment, and I started to get really frustrated with it being a storage closet and not a creative, pleasant space to be in. That’s when I decided to redo the room into a tiny studio/showroom, giving the collection a much better platform, and myself a creative place to work. Also, go vertical with shelving and storage solutions!

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WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF HAVING YOUR SHOWROOM IN YOUR HOME?

I have tons of people in and out of the space everyday, so keeping it clean for appointments and meetings is tough. It’s often pristine at 8am, and a complete disaster by noon!

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WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF HAVING YOUR SHOWROOM IN YOUR HOME?

Storage and working space has been the toughest part. Being that we’re a creative business, we have a lot of tangible items that we work with, like fabric rolls, bulky hangers, and moodboards. Awhile back I decided to get a storage unit, because having the space clean and uncluttered did a lot for my personal space and creative process, and my patience overall!

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There have also been really fun things that have come out of a shared work/life space. My work and life completely coexist, and each aesthetically influences the other. For example, antique textiles are a big inspiration for Cienne. We search all over for just the right ones, and I’ve managed to acquire a really beautiful collection. Given how rare and special they are, I started framing them and they now serve as art in my living space.

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On the flipside, my home has also really influenced Cienne. When I was redoing the living space with an interior designer, we had an idea to take vintage benches and stools and recover them with leftover fabric pieces from Cienne’s collections. The first one was a little mid-century modern bench that we recovered with a bright pink and red striped fabric from Ethiopia. I loved it so much, that it inspired me to create several more for Cienne’s Spring / Summer 2016 Lookbook. Everyone loved them and I started getting requests to sell them, so I now take custom orders. I also have art, textiles, and home goods from all over the world, and they often spark an idea or concept for Cienne.

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HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE WHEN YOUR HOME AND OFFICE ARE IN THE SAME PLACE?

I’m a really disciplined person by nature, so that helps. I also have a few rules that I try and stick to. I try to get out first thing in the morning, either to the gym or just to grab coffee. Then I do the same in the afternoon, and often attend work or cultural events in the evenings. 

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I spend so much time in the space that it’s really important that I also get out for air, even if it’s only for a short amount of time. I also work out of NeueHouse one day a week and on weekends, which is really helpful for productivity and a fresh perspective.

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WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH EVERYONE KNEW ABOUT YOUR BRAND?

The quality and uniqueness of our product – we put so much effort into fit, fabric, and the versatility of our pieces, and those things can be really hard to cut through online. That and how grateful I am for our artisans and community of customers – without them I wouldn’t be able to get up and do what I love everyday.

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KEEP UP WITH @CIENNENY ON INSTAGRAM!