When it comes to styling a home, Joyce Lee has a definite advantage. As head designer at Madewell, the cool girl’s line of must-have basics (from a pink canvas jumpsuit to the new bandana-patched denim for fall), she takes an easy, unstudied approach to everything she touches.
“I go for a similar aesthetic in fashion and interiors—timeless, well designed, and utilitarian,” she explains, noting she’s obsessed with her couch for the same reason one might fall in love with the perfect jacket: “It’s all about the proportions.”
Lee and her husband, photographer James Ryang, moved into their Williamsburg apartment with their 2-year-old daughter, Poppy, and cat Panda last October. Lots of textiles, storied souvenirs, and a few classic pieces already give the modern space a warm, layered vibe—while keeping things streamlined.
In a “remove the last thing you put on”–meets–Marie Kondo sense of restraint, Lee is not afraid to edit. “At this point in our lives, if it doesn’t serve a purpose and doesn’t make us happy, it doesn’t make the cut,” she says, proving functionalism doesn’t have to mean stark minimalism. Here, she shares her top tips for decorating.
Make a Statement with Organization
Lee’s design background influences her take on artful display. The motivation is simple: “I like keeping my favorite things in sight.” In the bedroom, a circular mirror’s slim ledge acts as both graphic detail and an extra surface for holding tea-and-petitgrain–scented candles. Brass hooks made by a friend create a catchall for her necklaces.
[In this image: Denim Duster Coat, Madewell, $178; Solace Mirror with Shelf by Native Trails, Domino, $576; Pom-Pom Woven Hat by Indego Africa, Domino, $85; Round Moon Nail Hook, Rebel and Quill, $85; Lady Finger Vase, Bzippy & Company; Cleo Console Table by CB2, Domino, $399.]
“A lot of what I do comes from function, but I also love to make it part of the design,” says Lee. The living room bookshelves, curated by Ryang, who arranged books by size and color, is another way the couple organizes meaningful mementos.
[In this image: Red Pat Pot, Group Partner, $65.]
Create Your Material Girl
Lee and Ryang’s home thoughtfully showcases textiles and souvenirs picked up during their travels—handwoven pillows, indigo-dyed fabrics, and a hammock from a trip to Panama that hangs above their bed, providing “constant vacation vibes.”
Lee recommends starting with a clean base, like a neutral-colored sofa or bed, then piling on different patterns and colors—and making them your own. “Most of the vintage finds I’ve collected over the years reflect the fade and wear from my family,” says Lee, who also has a soft spot for pom-poms and tassels.
Layered rugs and soft textures, inspirations on display, and lounge-ready seating—these are just a few of Lee’s
[In this image: Print by Jason Nocito; Saddle Leather Round Chair, Garza Marfa, $1,400; Antigua Pillow by Archive New York, Domino, $165; Vintage Eames Chair, 1st Dibs; Rens Sheepskin, Ikea, $30; Hayley Textured Area Rug by Safavieh, Domino, from $178; Paper Coffee Table by GamFratesi, Gubi, $495.]
Play the Long Game
“Before buying something, I always try to imagine how a piece will evolve as Poppy gets older,” explains Lee. Whimsical and cozy, the toddler’s bedroom includes vintage locker baskets that have been repurposed into wall-mounted storage cubbies. Removable polka dot wall decals are a low-commitment way to incorporate pattern (and a great tip for renters of any age).
The idea is to grow your collection slowly and thoughtfully. “I like to start with a favorite piece and build around it over time,” says Lee. “It’s the best way for your personal style to come through.”
[In this image: Diamond Shag Rug by PBTeen, Domino, from $84; Recycled Denim Quilt by Lowieke Pauws, Etsy; A Teepee to Call Your Own by Land of Nod, Domino, $100. On Lee: Coverall Jumpsuit, Madewell, $148.]