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Here’s One Way to Get a Designer Aesthetic Without Hiring a Pro

Interior designer Carole Carr’s latest venture offers a rare direct line into her taste and access.

By Kelly Phillips Badal 

Designer Carole Carr’s globally-inspired aesthetic has made her a sought-after designer in Southern California for more than a decade. And she hasn’t exactly been resting on her laurels this year—in fact, her “pandemic project” may be one of the most fully realized launches yet. As an offshoot of her interior design business, Carr recently unveiled Le Marché, a new highly-curated online marketplace. Not only is it a beautiful collection of striking finds, custom pieces and to-the-trade showstoppers, it’s also a shoppable glimpse into Carr’s designer brain—a kind of meticulously edited Pinterest board sprung to life. There’s something for every type of home, and even as each item stands alone, they seamlessly, magically all work together. Which is exactly the idea, Carr says.

“Le Marché is a bit like a preset wardrobe for your home—here’s all your pants, all your tops, all your shoes,” says Carr. “You can pick anyone of these items and pair it with any others and you’ll have a new outfit, but it’ll all work together. You can’t go wrong.” 

There’s furniture, lighting, accessories and even gifts (including many worth bookmarking for the holidays), with pricing that ranges from less-than-$100 picture frames to furnishings that run into the thousands. Her inspiration for creating Le Marché came from two things: A genuine love of the hunt for unique items on behalf of her clients, and a dawning realization that marketplaces were quickly moving online. The pandemic has pushed the latter to an even greater degree, as showrooms, boutiques, auction houses and more have quickly pivoted online. “So much has moved online now that it can be really daunting--there’s this, there’s that, there’s Wayfair, there’s Amazon,” Carr notes. “But these items are all handpicked.” Carr had plans for Le Marché already in place before the beginning of this year, but credits COVID-19 for propelling the project forward. Early lockdown measures provided her with the time to make it a priority, and ultimately a reality.

There’s a third reason Carr wanted to bring Le Marché to life, and one that will be instantly familiar to any interior designer: That constant refrain of, Where did you get that? With her shop, Carr is not only able to answer that question, but also to offer up a way for anyone to directly purchase certain to-the-trade items only available to professional designers. “If people aren’t in a position to have a full-time designer on board, they can still get a designer’s taste, a designer’s take on furniture and a designer’s access,” says Carr. 

 Carr admittedly has mixed feelings about the limitations of to-the-trade accents and furnishings. “It's such a shame that people can’t just buy certain things, they have to hire an interior designer to buy it for them,” she remarks. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this.” But she’s not discounting what design experience and curation skills—or the skills of any interior designer, for that matter—add to the utilization of these to-the-trade pieces. “My value as an interior designer is not the fact that I can get ‘stuff,’ it’s my vision and how I put together a room to create a cohesive design,” she states. “Anyone can buy nice chairs, but will they look balanced with the table? Where does the artwork go? What size rug should you get?”  

To put it another way, by hiring an interior designer, you’re hiring an artist versed in proportion and size and color, educated in everything from the technology of textiles to the near-endless types of flooring. But Carr’s shop runs a much closer second to actually having the designer herself, thanks in part to her online lookbooks that demonstrate exactly how her boutique picks play off one another within a room. 

So what exactly is Carr’s aesthetic? The designer boasts a fluid portfolio of a wide range of projects, but there is a common theme of timeless elegance with a touch of glam. The designer grew up with antique-obsessed parents in Montreal, a city with an old world European vibe, which influenced her outlook from her earliest days. “That very traditional, very European city is in my blood, which I love, but since I’ve lived in SoCal for the last 12 years, I also love the idea of relaxed living and textures that are not too fussy,” she says. “I’ll mix linens with a marble coffee table and a sisal rug, or bring in something traditional and pair it with something very modern.” She’s into a high-low mix, into playing up contrasts, and decidedly committed to achieving balance. Her philosophy shines through the shop’s selections.

In addition to carving out time to launch Le Marché, she’s been busier than ever this year. And despite all the challenges, including balancing the changing needs and schooling of her 4- and 7-year-old, Carr has “felt her imagination coming back,” she says. “I think that for me and for my kids we were overscheduled and over-stimulated before. Now, I’ve edited down my life, and there’s a sense of boredom that I think is healthy. There’s something really good about the creativity we’re finding in the quietness.” For her, that’s meant taking more time to browse photos and products online, ranging out further for inspiration and making more of a point to each connecting with people, even if it’s just over social media rather than in-person. In one recent instance, she reached out to the maker of a beautiful chair she’d spotted in an interior photo online, started a relationship with the creatives involved and is now planning a collaboration on a new piece of furniture with them. “Certain doors have closed in the way we operate, but other doors are opening,” says Carr. “And I like to think that I’ve slowed down just enough to be more open.”

Follow Carole Carr’s work on Instagram at @carolecarrdesign


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