Cut from the Same Cloth
Related by marriage and bonded by style, Heidi Lachapelle and Katie Judkins are forging their own path in the world of interior design
Over the past ten years, Katie Judkins and Heidi Lachapelle have gone from college acquaintances to close friends to sisters-in-law and, finally, to business partners. They met at Bates College, where Judkins was studying art history and Lachapelle was studying fine art. Quickly, the two young students discovered that they had a lot in common. “From the beginning, we had complementary interests, histories, and skills,” says Judkins. She was a year older than Lachapelle, but their friendship deepened once she started to date Tyler Judkins (Heidi’s brother). They stayed close throughout the years. “For a long time, we were both on a corporate track, and we would daydream about starting a business together,” says Judkins. But the timing wasn’t quite right. Judkins wasn’t ready to leave her job at L.L.Bean, and Lachapelle was doing enjoyable work at Anthropologie. They both liked their work, and they were good at it.
And yet they had big plans. They both knew how they wanted their lives to look. “We wanted to be working moms,” says Lachapelle. “That was never something we questioned. But we wanted it to be on ourterms.” They batted ideas around, chatting on the phone and online. Maybe they could make children’s clothing. Or textiles. “We had all the skill sets, and we wanted to do it, so what was holding us back?” wondered Judkins. Turns out, they hadn’t landed on the right idea. In 2017 they did, and Heidi Lachapelle Interiors was born.
Interior design was a natural fit. “We both have personal experience renovating homes and a real passion for interiors,” says Judkins, who lives in a century-old Dutch colonial. “It’s cool and funky with lots of wood,” she says of her home. Judkins grew up visiting her grandmother’s house in New Jersey, which was filled with classic midcentury modern furnishings, which gave her a lifelong fondness for the sleek designs of this era. “Katie was rocking midcentury modern before it was cool,” says Lachapelle with some pride. Judkins has filled her house with antiques, tulip tables, and English-style upholstered chairs. Although the two women have a common aesthetic, they do differ in some ways. Judkins veers a bit more toward the “feminine” side of things and appreciates a good floral print. Lachapelle is a little more drawn to bold patterns and abstract paintings, and her apartment (located in Portland’s West End) is filled with bright art and soft gray marble.
They dress alike, too. “We often show up to meetings with clients wearing almost the same things,” says Lachapelle. “We’ve had clients call us out on it, and ask whether we planned our outfits before we came, which is embarrassing but also awesome.” They both favor leather and denim, practical shoes, and oversized wool coats. It’s a small thing, but it shows how in tune these business partners are. They spend a lot of time together, and it shows.
They’ve figured out how to make a design business work by playing to their complementary skills. Lachapelle is a self-described “anxious dreamer” who does much of the design work, while Judkins is the list maker, the planner, and the head of operations. Lachapelle brings an artistic flair to each project, and Judkins makes sure the process runs smoothly. Although they have worked on a wide range of projects, all reflecting the client’s style as well as their aesthetics (from an ultra-modern home on Peaks Island to a classic New England home in Cape Elizabeth), they do have a hallmark of sorts. They tend to bring in a lot of slate blues and dark teals, indigos and azures. They’re currently working to redesign Judkins’s bathroom, and they’re debating the pros and cons of two different blue and white wallpapers. One is a bold abstract design that looks almost like mountains (Lachapelle’s pick), and the other is made of painterly, curved lines that remind me of a blooming dahlia. “Blue’s the signature color,” says Judkins. “We love blue in all iterations. It shows up in our work often.”
They also have been known to pull inspiration from a variety of sources, from their college classes on modernism to their current movie selection. Just the other day, Judkins was up early and happened to watch Sense and Sensibility (the 1995 version starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet). “I saw so many parallels with the styles we’ve been loving right now,” she says. “We were talking about painting a room with trim and moulding one solid color, and I saw that in this movie about 1700s England—I took a lot of joy and pleasure from watching it.” Lachapelle gathers much of her inspiration from the world of fashion. She particularly admires indie designers, like Jesse Kamm and Apiece Apart. “Seeing people who are super passionate about their work—that gets me going,” she says.
Both Lachapelle and Judkins could also be described as “super passionate” about their careers. Even though it took years to get to this point, and even though the path was littered with discarded ideas and office-induced boredom, they’ve finally found their groove. Lachapelle believes there is something useful about meandering from job to job, place to place. In college, she says, she took art history classes and psychology classes and “astron- omy classes, too, where I learned how to measure the weight of the world.”
“I think I benefited a lot from a liberal arts back- ground, and from working at a few different places,” says Lachapelle. “I didn’t know where it would take me.” Judkins agrees: “I have younger siblings, and I tell them that there doesn’t need to be a direct path to get where you want to go. Sometimes the diagonal path is better.”