The Shop Owner: Michelle Varian
April 17, 2013
I wanted to know more the instant I fell down the rabbit hole and landed in the wonderful world of Michele Varian.
Her shop is curated to transport visitors to an Alice in Wonderland/Lord of the Rings fantasyland. I could spend hours examining all of the unique treasures, new and old, big and small, that are hand-plucked by Michele herself.
If only we could talk Michele into bottling her pixie dust…
where are you from?
I grew up in a historic neighborhood in downtown Detroit and my parents still live in the house I grew up in. It definitely made me appreciate the way things are made and craftsmanship. There are amazing homes and buildings in Detroit. It’s a shame so many of them are gone.
what did you want to be when you were a kid?
I think almost everyday it was something different: painter, fashion designer, writer, dancer, anthropologist, historian, architect. The only consistent thing is that I knew I wanted to live in NYC and travel and see as much of the world and different people as possible.
what do you do now?
Now I own a jewelry and home accessories store in Soho, NYC, called Michele Varian. I also design my own collection of home accessories, which has consisted of primarily decorative pillows and I’ve just recently launched my own line of wallpapers, which I’m very excited about. I also have a showroom and represent some of my favorite designers whom I sell at my store.
what was happening at the dinner table when you were a kid?
Firstly, you should know that I am one of triplets – all girls. It was mandatory to be home for dinner every night and we had a proper sit down dinner, which my Mom made. She never asked us to help cook. We had other chores, but she didn’t want us to help cook just because we were girls. She figured if we were interested, we could cook or do whatever we wanted. Every night we all talked al lot. My Dad is a great history buff, so he taught us a lot at dinner. It was often very animated. Whoever spoke loudest and fastest, was the one who was heard. Dinner usually lasted for a couple of hours.
what is one teaching technique or tradition you would like to pass on from your parents?
I feel really lucky to actually know and understand how most things are made. The only contractor we ever hired was a plumber (“Louie”) when we my parents were working on the house. We always helped and our parents taught us what they knew or what they figured out themselves. “Can’t” wasn’t a word used very often in our house. I hardly ever use the word now. I always figure if someone can make it, I should be able to figure out how.
if you could spend one day with anyone throughout history, who would it be and what would you do?
Einstein. Listen. I’m flummoxed by his theories, but I want to understand them. Also, quotes I’ve read from him, make him sound like a charming, wise and generous person.
what books do you like for design inspiration?
I’m still a mag girl for design inspiration: The World of Interiors, Elle Decoration UK & France, Vogue Living Australia. I often get inspiration from exhibits, old movies and literature.
what is your favorite new york eat for under $10?
Smile to Go – happily it’s across the street from the store on Howard Street.
what’s your other dream job?
Singer – but I’m not good. I have to leave that to my husband. He’s the guy from Crash Test Dummies.
what do you collect?
Ha ha. Everything, anything. I’m not about “collections”. There are just things I like for any of a dozen reasons: texture, color, good construction, irreverence, humor, shape, memories, but usually because I respect the way something is made or they tickle me.