With five children between them, Lewis co-founders, Liz Libré and Lizzy Ott have plenty of daily inspiration for their line of nursery essentials. As an illustrator and interior architect respectively, the pair puts out soft organic cotton crib sheets, swaddle blankets, pajamas, and accessories that they feel are “childlike, not childish,” so parents can feel good about having the playful, nature-infused prints as a welcome part of their home décor—in any room of the house, not just the nursery.
Lewis was founded on friendship; the duo met in high school, went to the same small college in Maine, both landed in New York City after graduating, and went on to work in creative fields. Liz began her successful paper line Linda & Harriett, and Lizzy went off to RISD for a Masters in Interior Architecture. Years later, as designers and new moms, they found themselves lamenting on the nursery textiles available.
“Lizzy found herself searching European sites and thinking how ridiculous it was that there was no go-to domestic brand that didn’t feel cliché or syrupy sweet,” Liz says.
Together they began brainstorming a line of crib sheets that would involve Liz’s illustrations and both of their design sensibilities, focusing on loose and playful prints such as stingrays, snakes, and parsnips that are “mature and interesting for a parent, yet playful enough for a child.”
They wanted highly visual, beautiful yet practical items that would pique the imagination of both parent and child and make the day-to-day tasks of parenting a little more enjoyable. “We love utilitarian items that are as beautiful as they are functional,” Lizzy says. “A handmade Japanese broom, or a coffee cup in the perfect shade of pink are as thrilling to us as our burp cloths, meant to wipe up spit-up, in our soft colors and unique prints.”
Weekly creative meetings in the Village over giant sandwiches eventually launched their Brooklyn-based Lewis Studio (named after their college town of Lewiston, Maine) in 2016, selling directly on their website and in boutiques across the country. Their product categories have expanded quickly, introducing twin sheets, totes, and workbooks.
“We both love our burp cloths because we use them for everything—for kids starting at age zero and for us, like a mom handkerchief. You can always find one in our bags,” Lizzy says.
“The recent addition of PJs has also been super fun because we see our prints come to life on gorgeous little bodies! It’s so wonderful to get client photos of them snuggly indoors or running through fields or on the beach in the early mornings,” adds Liz.
Letting nature be the root of inspiration (along with their kids!) gives a universal element all ages can agree on. “We choose subject matter that a child will be engaged with and excited but that doesn’t necessarily fit in the traditional canon of baby goods such as teddy bears and hearts,” Lizzy says. “While these are fine subjects, we felt that there is a world of baby goods where the prints seem to be things adults have deemed right for children versus what children actually gravitate towards. If we let our children out in a park, they come back with snails, ants, and bouquets of weeds. To us, THIS is childlike.”
The co-founders have found these little moments and discoveries, be it a tree leaf or a root vegetable picked from the dirt, to be the ones that stop them in their tracks with awe. Natural objects from plants to animals, have provided endless textures, colors, and shapes that fascinate adults as much as they fascinate a two-year-old. Plus, the loose interpretations work even better for turning drawings of India ink and brushstrokes into prints of what they call “imperfect perfectness.”
“The lines are not perfect, as they’re not in nature, and overall this wonky individual drawing comes together in a print of multiples harmoniously,” adds Liz.
Working harmoniously together, the pair says they are 100 percent collaborative, discussing new designs and testing different scales, colors, and layouts. They constantly reevaluate the line and ask if the subject peaks both the curiosity of a child and fits seamlessly within an adult’s well-designed home. Each time they brainstorm a new product, they remember their goal to please both parties in the parent-baby team. “We take a hard look at what products we find most useful in our homes and for our kids, and also at what is lacking aesthetically in the baby and kids market,” Liz says.
“Our favorite clients are the ones who truly understand our mission,” Lizzy says. “We get emails from adults saying they wished they could wear our PJs or sleep in our sheets, or ones that say they have searched high and low for a changing pad cover they like as much as their living room throw pillows. This is why we started: To please both parties involved in a baby and child product.”