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Introducing Ottawa’s ‘design guys’

Duo aims to make Ottawa more vibrant from the inside out

DESIGN BY 2. The magic starts as soon as business partners Jamie LeBlanc (left) and Luc Crawford are in the same room.

Luc Crawford walked into Jamie LeBlanc’s store last spring wearing a long fur coat and massive sunglasses, putting on a big show for his client. Jamie didn’t know what to think at first, but then again he didn’t know this guy was his design soul mate.

Today, they have the dynamic of a happily married couple that finish each other’s sentences, although both have completely different styles and are strictly business partners. “He’s not my style,” they each say.

They are Designs by 2, also known as the ‘Ottawa design guys.’

Jamie has carefully dishevelled, shaggy blonde hair and an eyebrow piercing, while Luc’s cut is as short as a mannequin’s. At first glance, you wouldn’t think they’d get along. But as soon as Luc sits down beside Jamie the magic starts. They are completely on the same page, whereas business partners often aren’t even in the same book. It’s Jamie according to Luc and Luc according to Jamie.

“Luc is our fabulous guy,” says Jamie.

“And Jamie handles the business aspects,” says Luc. “What he does I don’t want to do.”

They go together like vodka and vermouth, and are stirring up the design scene in Ottawa.

Their goal: To make Ottawa more vibrant from the inside out.

“Here, when people think of fashion, they think of what the prime minister’s wife is wearing,” says Luc. He has been living in the cutthroat climate of Toronto until he moved back to his hometown six months ago.

He figured out that the only way to survive in his business in Toronto was to be nasty and cocky, which isn’t his style either.

That stereotype scares people out of hiring a designer. “People think we’re going to criticize their taste.”

The truth is, Luc and Jamie are the friendliest boys you could ever imagine, so it’s no wonder they have 12 portfolios on the go at any given time with a 15-inch waiting list.

Jamie was born in Moncton, New Brunswick and has lived all over Canada. He opened Blue Oasis, which originated out east, on Rideau Street in April 2005. He’s the founder of Deco Design, recipient of the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and has found a niche for himself in both retail and residential design.

He’s quick to say that, despite what people might assume, there are some amazing designers and real innovation coming from the east coast.

So what is it about this duo that has people excited? Here are some basic rules they follow.

q White outlets have got to go. “Your eye goes right to them and it drives me crazy,” says LeBlanc. Even renters can paint them the wall colour and replace the 50 cent piece of plastic;

q Moldings should never be white. They say it just doesn’t make any sense. “It’s like putting a tight belt on a fat woman;”

q Any room should have a three-colour palette. There must be a primary colour, a secondary colour and a contrasting, accent colour. If you pick dark colours, compensate with more lighting;

q Everyone should use the basic tools when thinking about design, which are a ruler and a colour wheel;

q Bed sheets must match the duvet cover and be the accent colour of the room. “Fire trucks and lambs have got to go,” says LeBlanc.

Their style is very eclectic and can go anywhere, from cottage Americana to Victorian to Art Deco. “Whatever the client wants to live in,” says Luc. They give a vision of what would suit their client’s lifestyle and taste and keep them from making mistakes that they’ll have to live in, literally.

“Designers actually end up saving people money,” says Jamie. “If you paint a room the wrong colour, it will cost you $300 easily. A consultation with us is less.”

As for trends right now, they are seeing a lot of black and white. But according to Designs by 2, if you make a style work for you it will never go out. That’s their mantra. “A person needs to be able to use their space. If you have the breakfast bar that was in the model home and don’t use it, then change it! Nobody lives in the model home.”

They’re not afraid to get dirty either–they’ll paint or move furniture if they have to. They’ll also deal with contractors to ensure their client gets exactly what they want from the beginning.

Designs by 2 offers workshops about every three weeks called ‘A Touch of Colour,’ ‘Furniture that Fits,’ and ‘Space by Design.’ There is a small fee, but people walk away with a real education in design.