Styles and Spaces

From papier-mâché cacti to an impressive collection of "office shoes," Joyce Lee has designed her work space with as much of an eye for detail as she designs Madewell's clothing. Take note.

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As the creative director of Madewell, Joyce Lee is constantly surrounded by mounds of vintage fabric swatches and stacks of colorful inspiration boards—but not everything you find in the company's New York City headquarters will be iterated in next season's lookbook.

Step into Lee's sun-soaked office, and amongst her well-curated objects you'll find a sage smudge stick ( she thinks it's too pretty to burn), photos of her adorable one-year-old daughter, Poppy (named after the California state flower), and drawings of her black-and-white cat, Panda.

A light-up sign from a Madewell pop-up shop.
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Madewell is the more bohemian younger sister of American retailer J.Crew. The brand's website quotes the California-native in big, bold letters: "Madewell is for denim lovers—basically anyone who appreciates timeless designs that put you at ease." And chatting with Lee in her office, it's plain to see that putting people at ease is exactly what she, and her thoughtfully organized office space, does best.

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Here, she gives us the rundown.

Moving On Up

When I started this position, at the beginning of June last year, I was excited to bring in more textiles and layer of rugs and have a little bit more room to play with. I always work with the space I have, and I try to inject as much of myself into it. Thankfully, my plants also now have a place to live instead of being crammed!

You'll find no lack of plants and mood boards here!
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Home Sweet Office

My office is very similar to my house. There's a lot of indigo textiles, rugs in different textures, and vintage fabrics in my living room, too. Definitely lots of plants as well, but since I had my baby, I've been a little more nervous about all the cacti. At first we had them up on a ledge inside, but the cat would always jump up and I would find those tiny little prickly things around. They would get stuck, and it was the most painful. So we actually moved those outside—and then they died in the winter! 

Lee flipping through one of her design books.
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The Daily Grind

Sometimes I like to come back in my office because it's in a corner, and I think people assume I'm not here, because I'm really quiet. There's no door, so you aren't able to close anything, so there's no actual privacy, but that's OK. I kind of like it like that, because it feels open and collaborative, and not confined.

But it varies: Some days, I spend zero time in my office. I will literally get here, drop my stuff, and then run to meetings until the very end of the day, grab my stuff, and then go home. Other days, I'll have a little bit of time where I'm working in my office on my concept for the next season, looking at magazines, looking online, pulling from books, and pinning up swatches—just kind of figuring out what the direction is. 

The massive wall of inspirational images behind Lee's desk (spot her cat, Panda!).

The Power of Pinterest

The cacti and the mood boards are probably my favorite part of the office. Looking at those images makes me happy, and the colors capture different emotions for me. They're all from a mix of books, various blogs, and, obviously, Pinterest is such a great tool—I honestly don't know how I worked without it. I come across things in magazines as well, even though it almost feels obsolete to look through a magazine now. It's so weird. At the same time, there's something so amazing about flipping through the pages and tearing something out, and having a physical thing. And I just love plants. I feel like plants change spaces drastically.

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Taking a Breather

One of my favorite parts of the day is grabbing my coffee or juice on the way in, and just having that moment to myself to kind of decompress a little bit before I have to start checking my emails and the day starts. That's like the moment. 

An enviable collection of office shoes.

Killer Heels

Because I have run out of space at home, my shoe collection here is a nice extension of the closet (I changed my closet into my baby's room). As you can see, a lot of them are heels, because I don't really wear heels out of the office anymore. I literally get here in sneakers or flats, switch into heels, then back into the flats again when I leave. Now, when I look at girls wearing heels on the streets, I'm like, "Girl, you crazy. Why are you doing that to yourself?" I have no idea.

Cat Teepees

I'm so in love with the desert and the vibe of it. It's part of me, and I feel like I need it in every space I'm in—whether it's at home or in my baby's room, which is very much an extension of me. I basically thought, If I were a baby, what would I want my room to look like? I'd want a teepee! So she has a teepee. My cat has a teepee, too.

Travel Bug

I love going to Tokyo for work trips, because it feels like the furthest away that you can get. They have such great indigo and vintage kimonos, and their textiles are amazing—indigo and denim go hand in hand. And the food there is amazing...I'm always into eating well when I'm traveling. I also think the way the Japanese curate their collections is aesthetically pleasing, inspiring, and just the best of the best. 

I really want to go back to Morocco, too. We went once a couple of years ago, and it's just amazing. There's just so much to see, like the old Berber desert people. Their jewelry and the way they dress is so inspiring—when I see all their stuff in the museums, I'm like, "Oh my God. I would totally wear that." My mom tells me, "You were a desert person in your past life. You were one of those nomadic carpet people."

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