It took just one peek into Lillian’s nursery and we immediately clamored to get to know more about how this space came together. Her mother, Courtney Marse, is no stranger to design as the principal designer behind MARSE, a specialty company offering micro-batch textiles and products for interiors. Courtney poured her heart into creating a sanctuary that adjusts to her one-year-old’s evolving needs, while maintaining a cohesive, warm space that reflects Lillian’s curiosity. Her signature hand-drawn illustrations were used on the custom textiles, from drapes and pillows to the ottoman, adding dimension and just the right amount of personality.
We are enamored by your designs and company Marse.co. Can you tell us more a little about your journey?
I am the principal designer behind MARSE, a specialty design company offering micro-batch textiles and products for interiors. Designs derive from my original hand-illustrations and are inspired by the literature, flora, and aesthetic resonance between my native Francophone Louisiana and France. After receiving my MFA, I spent several years designing textiles for apparel and teaching at the university level. Then I switched gears to run a textile start-up and was traveling heavily for the last three years. All of this has led me to MARSE and being back in New Orleans full-time.
Tell us about your first year of motherhood with Lillian! What’s her personality like and what have you learned from her?
First year: Lillian was born while I was working for the textile start-up, which meant balancing a heavy workload, a new baby, and tons of travel. Lillian assisted on her first photoshoot at 2 months old, then traveled with me on location when she was 4 months old. It was a bit crazy, but, at the same time, I’m so lucky to have had the support of an amazing team who helped make it work and am grateful for the memories.
Lil is our curious little observer. She’s always quietly taking in her surroundings, examining things, and getting into spaces. As of late, she’s become our dancer—laughing and wiggling to everything from Duke Ellington to the ABCs song.
Lil has taught me how to play outside of work. I love what I do, so it’s really easy to work after hours and on weekends. When I’m with her, I make it a point to focus and just be with her. Rocking her at night or cuddling before a nap is like meditation. Those are the sweetest moments.
How did you approach designing it for Lillian’s arrival? Any ideas for when she gets older?
I concepted several directions before landing where we are now. I think subconsciously I was waiting to meet her before deciding. A poster from the Orangerie Museum became the inspiration for the room. It’s set in an old mat and frame from my childhood bedroom, which I think embodies a lot of the inspiration—old and new, family ties, French, art. Our first purchase was the rocking chair. Then, the light fixture. I love the round forms within each of the pieces. Next, the crib—I wasn’t in love with most cribs on the market, so I went with Ikea, putting the savings toward other items. Last were the custom built-ins for storage. Many of the framed pieces in her room are either my artwork, pieces I collected while traveling, or photographs from The Historic New Orleans Collection. She’s accumulated quite a library, so books have become elements of color and decor in the room.
As a child, my room was my place to move furniture, build nooks, etc., so I wanted to keep the room flexible enough for her to play and make it her own. My hope is that her surroundings inspire her to ask questions about her family and the history of her city, and spark a curiosity for exploring the world.
I also wanted to include textiles from my own line, which I’m sort of “raising” simultaneously alongside Lillian. I designed iterations of the MARSE collection specifically for her room with a parchment pink tone, including the drapes, ottoman, and pillows. I wanted her to see and feel her mom’s work, to interact with and be surrounded by it, in fact, as a reminder of the beauty in pursuing our passions.
Any advice for new moms or learned lessons?
1. As someone who doesn’t like a lot of things, but wants just what I need, it can be overwhelming to create a registry. I found it helpful to ask friends for links to their registries as reference points to figure out what I liked and didn’t and sticking to a few brands rather than sifting through all the things out there. Those lists of “The Top 20 Baby items You Need” are so subjective. For example, baby changing table. While practical and traditional, the concept didn’t fit with our intentions (which were, first, to minimize the number of items that would need storing after they’ve run their time, and second,to maintain room for play). Instead, we opted for a ‘Gathre’ leather mat and have enjoyed having more mobility.
2. If you plan to nurse, consider finding a few things to help you make it through the middle-of-the-night feedings. I’ll preface by saying that I know what I did went against the bonding recommendations for nursing, but I took the advice that others gave me: “Do what is right for you!” I re-downloaded my language app and brushed up on my basic French. It helped me stay awake during feedings, reframe my frustrated feelings about being idle, and share something I care about with Lillian by saying the verbal lessons out loud.
Crib: Ikea Sundvik Crib Black Brown | Rocker: The Tot Nursery Works Compass Rocker Oatmeal | Chandelier: West Elm Pelle Chandelier Gooseneck | Artwork: MARSE original illustrations, THNC “Irma Thomas at Jazz Fest” by Michael P. Smith, original and found art from travels | Baskets/Storage: DUUMI Cotton Rope Baskets | Plants, Pots/Basket: Tiny Nest Botanicals |Cabinet: Restored Antique from Southern Heirs Auction | Books: Le Tres Grand Livres De Reves, Madeline, Everything is MAMA, Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA, Art For Baby | Play Table: Target Pillowfort Windsor Wooden Chairs and Activity Table | Ottoman: MARSE textile