We’re all spending a lot more time at home—but how are we really spending it? We’re asking a few particularly creative people how they are living during lockdown, how their talents are helping them keep cool, what they’re baking, what they’re binging, and what perspectives they hope they bring to the other side.
Byron and Dexter Peart are well known for their impeccable taste. Founders of the beloved brand WANT les Essentiels, in 2017 they decided to launch a new venture—a curated marketplace where good design and good purpose come together. GOODEE is a treasure trove of inspiring design—both in aesthetics and in creation, with each item crafted to make a strong social or environmental impact. While the twins are normally out on the hunt, they’ve been weathering quarantine in Montreal, Canada. Here’s how they are embracing the comforts of a thoughtful home.
Where are you? Who are you quarantining with?
Byron: We live in the same building in Montreal called Habitat 67. Keeping 47-year-old twins at bay is not the easiest thing to do, but we’re managing. We see each other from a distance.
Dexter: I’m with my wife and our two girls. The girls are doing a really good job handling everything—my 10-year-old is making lunch for her 7-year-old sister right now.
Dexter’s been keeping the kids entertained. Playing cards with a true card shark (LEFT). Dexter's daughters Kaya and Sierra wearing masks handmade by a close relative (RIGHT).
Byron: It’s just my husband and I, but tomorrow we are picking up the newest addition to our family, a 9-week old puppy. He’s a Beaglier–part Beagle, part Cavalier King Charles Spaniel—named Hugo. We’ve wanted a dog for so long but because of how much we travel and living between Montreal and NYC (we only recently relocated to Montreal full time), it was very difficult to consider. And then in this moment of us reimagining our lives, we said, “OK, this is the right time.”
Byron's Gallery Wall. Photo Credit: Richmond Lam Photography
What’s your typical day like? Have you added any new habits to make your routine more mindful?
Dexter: We were traveling like crazy before, and now it’s gotten to be quite predictable, which is surprisingly great. My 10-year-old found this great workout from a German fitness trainer Pamela Reif, so we wake up, exercise together (it’s just 10 minutes), and then afterward it’s right to work. I work in the solarium in my house, my wife works in the bedroom, and we all sort of go about our separate days. It’s been a lot more time at home and much less time in the airports, so we’re reveling in all the family time.
Byron: I have to give Dexter credit for introducing me to the Calm meditation app. I’ve been using it for almost 2 years. I thought I was doing a pretty good job because I’d go on 10-day streaks and then fall off. But now, I've been meditating every morning for 130-some-odd-days straight. I haven’t done the video Dexter does, but I did have this big idea to make an all-in-one-office-meets-guest-room-meets-gym and I did something wrong because now I have a bum shoulder.
Byron: The day-to-day becoming predictable has made work really efficient. Now being on a schedule, we talk to the same staff members at the same time every day and it’s helped me optimize my day-to-day.
Why did you decide to create GOODEE? Does the mission feel more relevant now?
Dexter: In a lot of ways we had a dream about what we were able to put together, and it’s turning out to come very close to true. More and more it’s the right time for the concept—we have an obligation to tell good stories about good people doing good things.
How have you been trying to make your homes feel more comfortable now?
Byron: We cleaned out our locker and it’s probably our biggest accomplishment so far. We brought some of the pieces we truly loved into our decor, and then passed the rest onto our friends. Before, we never felt that we had to make this apartment feel like home because the New York apartment was home, but now that we’re here in Montreal (and here so much), we wanted our personal and treasured effects on display.
Dexter: The room where I work was our daughter’s arts & craft/slime playroom, and before that it was a quiet space where my wife and I could have tea together or a glass of wine together. During this time, I reclaimed the space—a coup d’etat from our kids. I don’t think this is the time to completely renovate a room or the whole house, but finding a pocket of meditative space within our space for reading or writing or just channeling some new energy has been really great for us.
"I don’t think this is the time to completely renovate a room or the whole house, but finding a pocket of meditative space within our space for reading or writing or just channeling some new energy has been really great for us." - Dexter. Photo Credit: Richmond Lam Photography
Dexter: We never had a chance to watch any series really, but now that we’re home we binge-watched, I guess if that’s the word, Homeland Seasons 1-4 and then started The Last Dance. It’s an hour a night with my wife after the girls go to bed and it’s been a nice new addition to how we spend our time.
Byron: Fewer, Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects. It was recommended by someone we worked with at the Whitney. It’s about how much life and meaning are in objects, and how you really only should have objects around you that carry a story and continuously tell that story inside your everyday life.
Photo Credit: Richmond Lam Photography
Dexter: My elder daughter is the cook, so she spends a lot of time watching cooking shows. Our favorite is Be Our Chef on the Disney Channel, and then we bake banana bread together—healthy banana bread. I call her my sous chef, but she thinks she’s the chef and I’m the sous chef. Together we’ve made lots of good meals, done lots of baking, and eaten lots (OK loads) of chocolate chips.
Sidebar: Designed for Living
If you’re going to be spending so much time at home, make it meaningful. Here’s how to make the objects you have (and the objects you choose) more powerful.
1 - Small Changes, Big Impact
As Dexter said, now’s not the time for big changes. Instead of rehabbing a whole space, find areas where you can make small tweaks—paint an accent wall or stripe, change out just your bedding, rearrange your bookcase.
Byron: We’ve made so many simple changes that felt revolutionary, like painting. We just started painting random walls, and partial paint. We painted the wall above the doorway in the office yellow to give this burst of sun and light in the room. I think it can be as simple as seeking out those ways to add low cost, high impact design treatments.
Byron believes a productive workspace should be “flooded with natural light, spruced up with nourishing house plants (in GOODEE vases), and grounded by the most calming and comfortable office chair.” The pop of yellow was added as a quarantine project.
When a good design works, stick with it. "When my husband and I moved back to Montreal from New York City last year, we opted to reproduce the home office set up that we had become accustomed working in,” Byron says. “Now having already created a simple, yet effective workspace at home has made our unimaginable ‘work from home’ transition a lot easier.”
606 Shelving System by Dieter Rams for Vitsoe
Soft Pad High Back Chair by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller
Barro Pot II by Ames
Tapestry pillow 14 by Viso
Bassi Market Tote by Goodee
Babouche 223 Modern Emulsion paint by Farrow & Ball
2 - Bring Outside in
Not blessed with outdoor space? Get as close as you can, literally.
Dexter: Outdoor is key. Carve out that little space next to the window to grow plants, to give your room a sense of renewal. That’s something I’m concentrating on: providing light and newness to inspire me to tend to my garden—whether that’s emotional, physical, or spiritual.
Dexter has lived at Habitat 67 for 14 years now and the solarium’s expansive water views and constant natural light make a perfect backdrop for a home office (or a kids’ playroom). He reclaimed the space from his girls during quarantine and returned it to an adult space, featuring an eclectic mix of Scandinavian textiles, antique furniture, tropical plants, and art from his travels.
3 - Spark Joy
Now’s the time to get sentimental. If something makes you smile, set it where you can see it, and therefore smile often.
Byron: I used to dismiss the whole Marie Kondo moment, but I do think that now the things that make you happy or give you happy memories should all come to the forefront. We were having a Zoom call with a friend and he was going through photos and memories of us together over the last 23 years. And it’s the time to bring those out again. Take those photos and make a photo wall of all of your favorite friends or with your family. Now is the time to have what makes you happy where you can see it regularly.
Dexter: Even books—put the books out that you plan to read and you will want to read them. Put them on your bedside. You’re more likely to get excited about reading them than if they were stashed with the rest of your collection.
Byron: We want to create an environment where people can find things that will last and be meaningful to them. We want to make it much easier for people to find and discover things. Otherwise it’s an impossible exercise to expect people to find them on an Etsy or an Amazon or in a Google search. Our goal is to make it much easier—whether you are a consumer or maker who wants to find the customers who care.
Dexter: When we think about those places and spaces that are the most meaningful and most cherished, it’s where we are making memories and making meals. That everyday ritual of being in those spaces needs that extra attention. And that’s what GOODEE’s there for—for the makers that are paying attention to how we live and helping us make better choices and to provide that community a platform to tell their stories. We hadn’t found it and so we selfishly made it.
Byron: Every Friday, our whole team has a virtual cocktail from 4-5 pm, then from 5-6 pm Dexter and his wife and myself and my husband go and meet out on the landing. We keep a distance and come with our own bottles of wines and glasses and catch up. It’s Montreal after all, so it’s been freezing cold and we’ve been outside shivering, saying “we like the idea of this”. Our Friday Quarantini timing is not the best for Canadian spring, but last week it finally got to almost 100 degrees here.
Bring joy to every home with fresh cut flowers. We remained comforted and cheery over the lockdown by having unique arrangements home delivered bi-weekly from our favourite floral designer, Marc Sardi (Left). Both brothers are now living in Habitat 67, with it's expansive water views and constant natural light it "draws us to fall in love with our little oasis." (Right).
The do-it-all piece
Dexter: We’ve got a kids’ chair and table from a company called ecoBirdy. It’s just the most amazing brand and happens to be on GOODEE, but that’s not the point. The point is that this piece of furniture has become everything to my kids since quarantine started. It might be small, but it’s the place where they work, where they create, where they study. Every single day the morning ritual starts with my 7-year-old going to “her chair.” To see this chair and table that is crafted from upcycled plastic, that has become both her new schoolyard and her classroom is incredible. It has a huge, huge, huge functional benefit and happens to be beautiful at the same time. We couldn't live without it.
Dexter’s daughter Sierra (7) during the first week of homeschooling. Here EcoBirdy Charlie chair and Luisa table have become the kids’ “everything” during quarantine.
What do you wish you had known at the start of quarantine?
Byron: Our natural human instinct is to find the good in the things, to say “where’s the silver lining?” even in something like this. But no question having the time to reflect is changing the outcome of so many things right now. I do believe a lot of the moments that we have are heightened because we have more time to reflect—and that ultimately should be a net positive.
If we ever thought we were in control of our destiny, this showed us we are not. We can’t imagine what the world is going to be like in a month or two months. So, if you can, seek as much stability as possible. I tend to think that stability comes from family, friends, your belief, and the things you value—and in the home you make. That’s why we both remain optimistic. We’re fortunate to have each other as stabilizing forces. We’re fortunate to have this exciting team and group of people who are on the abnormal adventure of a business like GOODEE. It’s going to be interesting to see what feels relevant in the future.